Walking down the street, I often run into people I know or get stopped by someone for directions. Every so often, I'll have a less-than-normal run in with someone (it is me, after all). I don't mind it, especially because I love it when someone adds a story to my repertoire.
One time, on a summer afternoon, I was rushing down Connecticut Avenue to meet WH for happy hour. A woman stopped me and said in a heavy accent, "Ezcuze me?" "Yes?" I replied. "Are you French?" she asked. Eyebrow raise, "Pardon me?" I thought maybe she wanted to know if I spoke French. No, she wanted to know if I was French, "I said, are you French." "No, sorry," I replied (though I'm not sure what I had to be sorry about). "Oh," she said. "Well you look French to me!" and with that she was off on her merry way. I still don't know what looking French means, exactly, but I choose to believe it means thin, chic, and only slightly pissed off.
Another time I was walking down Connecticut Avenue to happy hour (are you sensing a trend here?) at Timberlake's, when a rather crazy-looking middle-aged woman stopped me, "Hey, did anyone ever tell you that you look like Heidi Fleiss?" Eyebrow raise, "Huh?" "Heidi Fleiss, you know, the Hollywood Madam?" she said. "Yeah," I said. "I know who she is." "Well, you're the spitting image of her. Spitting image." "Uh, no. I've never heard that before." (Considering she's at least 10 years older than I am and rather homely, and also not French, this was pretty insulting to me. Not to mention, the crazy lady sort of looked like Steven Tyler, with a black fringed leather jacket. Of course, I chose not to break the bounds of social norms and tell her that.)
But the real kicker was something that at first I thought was an illusion or maybe a hallucination, but that has recurred enough times that I have decided that I just have to accept it. Have you ever run into someone completely out of context and not really been able to figure out where you know them from, even though you know you recognize who they are? This happened to me not too long ago, when I was . . . guess what . . . walking down Connecticut Avenue going to happy hour. I saw a woman in burgundy and gold Buddhist robes crossing the street. She sure was familiar, but I just couldn't place it. I don't usually run with the Buddhist crowd. She crossed the street and I went on to happy hour still puzzled.
A glass of red wine has the wonderful power to offer a little clarity, and I was about halfway through mine when it hit me who the woman in the robes was. My gynecologist. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks . . . what was she doing? Where was she going? How come I didn't know this about her? Why didn't her office have a more zen appearance to it? I'd been seeing her for the past eight years, sure only once a year or so, but still. I felt a little disappointed that she hadn't shared this part of her life with me, her loyal patient. I mean, realistically, she knew an awful lot about me. Isn't turnabout fair play?
Then I thought about it a little more. Maybe I had made a mistake. Sometimes you see someone and just think they're someone else. That had to be it. I was just seeing things. Except that that wasn't it. I have since seen her in her regalia at least four times since then -- including today. Each time I'm tempted to say something, but what do I say? "Hello Doctor! I didn't know you were a Buddhist?" or "Doctor! Remember me?" or "Hi Doctor! I have these terrible cramps?" I just can't seem to find the right segue from doctor's office to Buddhism. Besides, I often wonder if she'd actually recognize my face. So I let her go on about her Buddhist business, and I make my way to happy hour, secure in the knowledge that eventually I'll see something stranger than my gynecologist dressed as a Buddhist.