Familiar faces, inner voices, and a fear of being wrong


You would think that at my age if, while on an out-of-town trip, I saw someone who looked familiar, I’d be past worrying about how stupid I’d look if I said something and I turned out to be wrong. But no. If there’s one thing age has not done, it has not freed me of my fear of misidentifying someone.

After all, there have been far too many of those times lately where I’ve approached a familiar face with a big smile on my own face only to realize that the blank stare looking back at me indicates my error. You know how that is. You smile and smile, but the other person looks as if you have escaped the nearest prison so you quickly mumble something and pretend to be smiling at the nonexistent person across the street. Or maybe that never happens to you. It does to me. Frequently.

One of my friends used to do that on purpose. We’d be cruising down Findlay’s main drag on a Friday night (in the ’70s Friday night was cruise night) in her mom’s boat-sized Lincoln Continental. She’d hang out the window and wave as hard as she could at some poor unsuspecting soul walking across the street. That person would slowly lift a hand and give a halfhearted wave. She’d turn to me with a big grin and say, “Now that person will spend the rest of the evening wondering who was waving at her.”

So…with that in mind…there we were sitting at a ’60s era diner table in “Melt” — a “quirky, restaurant, friendly to vegans and carnivores alike” (to quote the New York Times). We were patiently waiting for our Sunday brunch to be served, when in walked a young couple. She looked somewhat familiar and the more I stared (openly, I’ll admit) the more convinced I was that she was Pam Stemen, the sister of Joy, my favorite massage therapist and longtime friend of my oldest daughter. 

But come on. Why would she be in Melt in Northside? I knew she was in med school, but couldn’t remember where. But an inner voice stilled my comment. What if I was wrong? Why didn’t Anne or Fred say anything? Well, Fred did have his back to her, but since he can usually see about 360 degrees, I figured he’d seen her. Silly me. I listened to that inner voice, remembering my most recent erroneous identification. Didn’t say a word.

Returning home, I made a comment on Facebook (yes, I spend a lot of time on FB) that I’d eaten at Melt. The aforementioned massage therapist, who is vegan, casually commented that she often eats at Melt when visiting her sister, Pam, in Cincinnati. Bingo! For once, I had been right.

Turns out, Pam says she saw me but “I didn’t know why you’d be in Cincinnati so figured I was  wrong.” Anne later admitted she too had seen Pam and thought it was her, but since I didn’t say anything, she figured she was wrong too.

Moral of this story and my much-belated resolution for 2010: Get over my fear of being wrong. After all, I’ve passed 50. I’m allowed to make mistakes.

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2 responses to “Familiar faces, inner voices, and a fear of being wrong

  1. That is so funny. I’m sure we all do that. I always feel like I need to explain to the person that I thought they were someone else, like they’d really care. I love what your friend did, hanging out the window waving.

    I’m surprised neither you or Anne said, “doesn’t that look like Pam?”, especially since you were “openly staring”.

  2. I think Anne and Fred were talking so much and it’s hard to interrupt the two of them when they get going. Besides, I was in a sort of fog that day.

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