“Hi, this is Tom calling to say hello!” says a cheerful voice on the phone. I have as usual picked up my cell phone in an absent-minded manner while struggling to sort through my pile of papers on the desk.
“Er… Tom… who… what?” I babble, feeling like a deer in headlights. Who is this Tom? Did I borrow money from him? Is he the guy from the charity to which I, in a moment of weakness, had agreed to donate my entire assets?
“You don’t remember me? I am Tom, Timothy Little. We used to go to kindergarten together for a year. You always used to wear that funny pink t-shirt and oversized shoes.”
Realizing that the matter was becoming more and more serious, I seek an escape route and say, “Of course, Tom. How could I forget? By the way, I am in the middle of my open heart surgery. I will catch up with you as soon as I am out of the operating theater. Bye for now” – and quickly drop my cell into a glass of water.
This phenomenon of friends and well-wishers from yesteryears suddenly knocking on the doors of your memory, expecting, in fact demanding, to be recognized is a bit unnerving even for the strong willed. And these things always catch you at your weakest moment such as when you are trying to figure out the eligible deductions on your tax returns. Obviously, the other party has done its research into your whereabouts and other events in your life and is well prepared for a nostalgic, though one-sided, conversation.
When these encounters occur, you are usually not given much time to react or beat around the bush. You are straightaway presented with details about how you stole his/her ice cream, 40 years ago. Or, in the presence of your (current) family, who have no idea of who the stranger confronting you on the beach is, you are reminded about the real or imaginary crush you had on him/her.
For someone like me, who cannot keep names and past events straight, I am often unsure of the era in my adventurous life to which this person belongs – is she my friend from school, is this the person I worked with in my first job, or is she really my spouse’s best friend introduced to me when I got married 25 years ago. So the conversation could go somewhat like this:
“Hello Bob, what a surprise bumping into you like this”
“Hi, Er…. Betsy….”
“I am Liz – remember we met at your mom’s place in ……”
“Yes, yes, I remember that rainy day in Mumbai……”
“No, no…Bob. We were in London and remember those school plays we put together?”
“Um…. I don’t remember being in any school plays”
“Don’t be funny….your kids, they used to be in plays and talent shows along with my son……”
“Oh, really…… excuse me, I need to hit the restroom.”
I am seriously considering plastic surgery to alter my face and prevent being recognized by people from my past!