Thursday, June 19, 2014

At a certain point, everybody looks familiar

In the course of a typical day, I will wander back and forth through the City Hall and County Building on my way to and from the Daley Center or run to this bank or that one, there to pay a bill or (¡ojalá!) make an actual deposit.

Along the way I will see, and nod at, a great many men and women.

It wouldn't do to walk past someone with whom one is acquainted and ignore them entirely; that would be rude.

The problem is that in strolling quickly through City Hall or down LaSalle Street I really can't stop to scrutinize the faces of passers by and see if I really do know them. I would probably be arrested if I tried. Or slugged. So, rather than commit a serious social blunder, I nod courteously to anyone who looks familiar.

Problem is, these days, just about everyone looks familiar.

There are probably multiple reasons for this. Certainly, I have worked in downtown Chicago for well over 30 years at this point; one can't help but see many of the same people day in and day out when one works in the same place that long. And, of course, with the passage of so much time, I have become acquainted with more and more people each year. By this time, of course, many are dying off -- but there are more than enough new acquaintances to take their places.

Also, although the Irish are no longer dominant in most Chicago demographics, there are still a lot of us working in the Loop. Many of the Chicago Irish hail from a handful of villages in County Mayo, God help us, and we're pretty much all related somehow. And genetics is funny: Your good friend's fourth cousin twice removed may look an awful lot like your your good friend, at least at a distance, even if the two of them have never met. Baseball writer Peter Gammons -- Youngest Son watches the MLB channel a lot when he's home -- looks eerily like a guy I went to college with.

But the biggest single reason that so many people look familiar to me is that, with each passing year, my eyesight gets worse and worse. Everyone has started to look the same -- in a blurry sort of way -- even when I wear my glasses.

I remember when I first realized this. I was in a Costco a few years back and I saw someone that -- from a distance at least -- looked like someone I knew from court. I put on my best lodge brother face and strode forward to greet this person only to realize, as I closed in, that this wasn't who I thought it was at all.

"You don't have the first clue who I am, do you?" said my quarry.

"No. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

"It happens."

And it does -- to me at least -- more and more.

So, these days, I just nod and keep going, my purposeful stride discouraging any embarrassing conversations of the type I had that day in Costco.

But I notice, too, that, these days, a lot of people nod back. So I don't think I'm alone in this....

1 comment:

boomspeak said...

When I was a teenager, I would identify passer-bys for my father whose eyesight was deteriorating. Too bad I don't have a son to do the same thing for me.