Sunday, November 27, 2011
We Meet Again
I feel like I’m living in an American Express commercial.
The massive financial services outfit used to run ads featuring various celebrities who asked the musical question “do you know me?”
I was more partial to the Traveler’s Cheques spots where Karl Malden sternly declared, “don’t leave home without them.” He said it with such intensity that I was afraid to leave my house--and I wasn't traveling anywhere.
I could’ve used Karl Malden’s help last week when I ran into a series of people whom I vaguely recognized but couldn’t initially identify.
You look at them for a few seconds, they look at you, and you search your mind to find a name to go with the kisser—like Karl and Michael Douglas chasing down a perp in “The Streets of San Francisco."
It started one night when I was coming from work and I followed this older gentleman into my local grocery store. I know that guy, I thought, I’ve seen him someplace before…
It wasn’t until I was paying off the cashier—and this old timer was right behind me—that I realized he was my ex-boss’s ex-husband.
I hadn’t seen him since I left that job, nearly 24 years ago. He was a nice guy and we always got along, but we never had that much to do with each other.
I think I might have seen a flash of recognition in his eyes, but I didn’t say anything to him and now I wish I had.
To be honest, we probably wouldn’t have had much to talk about after “hello,” but I think that’s better than pretending to be strangers.
The very next day I’m walking by the same grocery store—what is it with this place?—when I saw a man with white hair and glasses walking toward me.
It took a few seconds to withdraw the name from my memory bank, but then I remembered that it was Brother Myles, my eighth grade math teacher.
I used to greet him in the schoolyard with the “be seeing you” salute from “The Prisoner,” my favorite TV show of all time. Brother Myles always returned the gesture, though I don’t think he was a fan of Number Six.
I also used to tell him the lamest jokes I could find—bad puns, hideous one-liners, the whole shtick. I can’t recall a single one of them now and for that you should consider yourself very lucky. These bits were the toxic waste of comedy.
Before the Beginning
I had actually run into Brother Myles years ago while working at a local weekly newspaper—the same place where the ex-boss’s ex-husband would occasionally turn up. (See above.) Brother Myles had some business with the editor and I introduced myself. He had trouble recognizing me, but then I made a clunky pun and he winced.
"Oh,” he said, “it’s all coming back to me.”
See that—and I didn’t even need an American Express card.
I’m not sure if Brother Myles recognized me during our most recent encounter, but I didn’t say hello. It’s been so long since we’ve had any kind of contact and I didn’t have any bad jokes to tell him.
I had one more repeater two days later and this time it wasn’t anywhere near the grocery store. I was walking along 75th Street when I passed this woman on Seventh Avenue.
“It’s a beautiful day,” she said.
“Yes, it is,” I replied, thinking to myself, gee, what a nice lady.
We reached the corner and while we waited for the light, I thought I’d keep the conversation going, which turned out to be a huge mistake.
“My only complaint is the cold weather,” I said. “I really hate the winter.”
“Yes, you hate the winter,” she said, “but do you love God?”
Oh, for the love of God, not another religious psychopath. I hate them more than I hate winter.
And what a brilliant segue. Here I am talking about the weather and she brings the Almighty into the act. Life is so simple when you’re a mindless fanatic.
“Yes, I do,” I said and promptly set a speed-walking record for getting the hell out of a tight situation. I nearly got hit by a car while making my escape, but I’d gladly risk a fender to the keester than deal with that freak.
I tried to put her out of my mind, but something was gnawing at me about this woman and it was beyond the initial annoyance at her idiotic behavior. No…I had seen her someplace before…
Do you know me?
Oh, it’s all coming back to me. This was the same nutbag who had harassed me on the subway back in June. And she had used the same sneaky approach where she pretended to be sane before launching into her sermon.
Unlike our last meeting, however, I wasn’t jammed into a two-seater on the R train trying to be polite. This time I was able to escape.
But I don’t like running into the same loony more than once in a lifetime. It’s bad medicine. I thought this woman was out of my life, but here she was again, turning up like a bad penny or a good boomerang. Either way I want nothing to do with her.
So I’m had these three reunions in less than a week. I don’t know if that’s a sign of cosmic forces beyond my comprehension or just a series of coincidences.
What would Karl Malden say?