As I walked out to the parking ramp after work today and headed toward the stairs, I saw a woman waiting for the elevator. Out of the corner of my eye, she looked familiar, like the woman in her late 30s/early 40s who plays on my summer softball team. I glanced over, but it wasn't her--I didn't recognize the woman, so I continued up the stairs and headed for the Malibu.
Just as I opened the back door to throw my bag inside, I heard a voice from behind me: "Hi, John!" I answered out of habit, more by reflex than anything, before I'd even turned around to see who it was: "Hi, how are you?"
When I turned around, it was the woman who had been waiting by the elevator. I got a better look at her face, but I still had absolutely no idea who she was. She must have thought I was someone else...someone who happened to have the same name and was also fortunate enough look like me from behind. A coincidence, but certainly possible...
"Where are you working now? Are you in the Meals division?" she asked me. What?! How did she know that? "Yeah, I'm in Meals." I continued to stare at her blankly, feeling more confused than George W. Bush at a knowledge bowl.
I'm not always the greatest with names, especially in large meetings when we have to do one of those annoying, useless spin-arounds where everyone introduces themselves. But I never forget faces--if I've met someone, seen them deliver a speech or presentation, or even just sat in the same meeting with them, I always remember what the person looks like and where I first saw them, even if I draw a blank on the name later.
I, however, am not always so memorable and I've found that I don't always make quite such a lasting impression on other people. I've had countless people walk up and (re)introduce themselves to me, and I have the pleasure of reminding them (or at least thinking to myself), "actually we met four years ago at..." So I feel 99.9% confident in saying that I have never met or seen this woman before. There was no chance that I had forgotten her and she had remembered me--there are better odds of lightning striking the same place fifity or sixty times.
The whole exchange lasted no more than fifteen seconds as she continued walking to her car and I climbed into the Malibu and drove off. This was one of those scenes straight out of a sitcom where two people know that they should know each other, but have no idea who they're talking to. Who knew that could actually happen in real life?
Now, hours later, I'm still trying to figure out who that woman was. Yes, I have a very common first name and work in a very large division; is it possible that the coincidence was even bigger than I could have ever imagined? Not only did this woman mistake my backside for someone else who happened to share my name, but does my doppelganger/namesake also work in the same division as me? When someone mistakenly thinks they recognize someone, you often hear the expression, "I guess you just have one of those faces." Maybe I just have one of those @sses?
Still, this whole thing has me just plain confused. I've considered every possible scenario, and right now "huge coincidence" is my front-running hypothesis. I can only assume that both of us found ourselves talking to each other and were already too far into the conversation and too confused and embarrassed to admit that we were having what felt like a friendly, familiar exchange with a complete stranger. My only hope is that I don't run into this woman in the office at some point in the future, less we face that inevitable, awkward conversation where we have to introduce ourselves and admit to our odd encounter.