Oh, come on now.
Look, I know I’ll never be mistaken for Brad Pitt, but I can’t possibly be as ugly as this temporary office ID photo makes me out to be.
I left my ID badge at home the other day and was forced to go through the ritual of posing for a temporary badge like a purse-snatcher being booked at a police station.
This was the second time in six months that I've done this and I’m not sure if it’s a subconscious statement about my job, a sign of creeping dementia, or both.
Whatever the reason, I can assure you that it’s a swift pain in the caboose.
I think I handled things better this time around, or at least I was handling them better until I looked down at the ID photo and came face-to-face with an absolute freak of nature.
Are you kidding me? I looked like an extra from The Walking Dead, for God’s sake.
My head sits on my shoulders like a rotting pumpkin and for some reason I’m looking up to the ceiling as if the roof is about to come crashing down on me.
If I could make a mask out of this face I’d sell it at Halloween and retire to the Cayman Islands.
Parents could scare their kids into eating their veggies by showing them this photo and saying “finish your greens or you’ll look like this!”
The funny thing is that I had just recently found someone else’s ID photo on a utility box in the Fulton Street subway station.
I Was Here, But Now I'm Gone...
Willbaldo—I’ll keep his last name to myself—had apparently been working as something called a “default receptionist” at a bank in the World Financial Center. And, through no default of his own, he got stuck with a terrible photo.
He appears to be in his twenties. He’s standing in the lobby of an office building with his eyes closed as the camera captures him in mid-blink and he looks like he’s sleepwalking or waiting for the Rapture.
I have this fascination with discarded photographs. They’re frozen moments in a stranger’s life, a small sign that we really are individuals with unique stories even though most days we may feel like ants in a massive colony.
I wonder what Willbaldo’s story is.
Is he married with children or does he live alone in some barren apartment? Is he happy?
Wouldn’t be something if I could just slap on Willbaldo’s ID sticker and immediately know everything about him?
Imagine if we could all switch identities so easily, instantly know everyone else’s joys, secrets, and fears. The ID photo could be a kind of spiritual flash drive that allows us to walk a mile in another man's soul.
We might finally stop killing each other.
Willbaldo probably didn’t want to wear that awful picture any longer than he had to and got tired of being somebody else’s property. Perhaps that’s why I left ID badge home.
My mom always scolded me whenever I picked up stuff from the street, but it didn’t seem right to leave Willbaldo’s picture just sitting there. So I slipped a New York Times newspaper bag over my hand like a CSI, scooped it up, and brought it home.
I’ll probably keep Willbaldo’s photo for a while and get used to seeing it around my desk. Then one day I’ll pick the thing up as if I’ve never seen it before and ask “what the hell am I doing with this?”
And Willbaldo’s cut-rate portrait will go into the trash like it was meant to all along. But until then I’m going to hold onto this fragment of his life and imagine what I might see if I could look at the world through his eyes.