What's In A Name ... That You Can't Remember?

Janet's World

January 24, 2010|By Janet Gilbert | Janet Gilbert,Special to The Baltimore Sun

If someone I don't immediately recognize greets me with a big "hello," I always respond enthusiastically, figuring it's just a matter of time before I make some sort of association and remember that person's first name. Usually, this method works out quite well. But a few weeks ago, it worked out in such a way that it inspired this week's column.

I was sitting at a high school winter concert with my husband, enjoying the choral music as best I could without falling into a deep, snoring sleep. It's not that my son's high school repertoire was a dozer; it was that I had been up until the wee hours the evening before wrapping gifts - just a few of the things that make December the most slumberful time of the year. Suddenly, an attractive woman approached me and gave me the big "hello."

I felt certain I had seen her face before, but I just couldn't place her. We began exchanging pleasantries, but all the while I was working hard to figure out how I knew this woman. Was her student in the chorus, band or orchestra? Did we attend a party together? Did I volunteer with her recently?

This is how our conversation went, but for your entertainment, I have provided italic subtitles that indicate exactly what I was really thinking throughout our exchange - as well as parenthetical stage directions so you can get a mental picture of the drama that ensued.

Unidentified Woman: Hello!

Janet: Hello! Who are you?

Unidentified Woman: It's so good to see you!

Janet: You look great! But who are you?

Unidentified Woman: Are you enjoying the concert?

Janet: I certainly am! How about you? And who are you?

Unidentified Woman: Oh, yes! The music is wonderful!

Janet: I could close my eyes and imagine I'm at the Kennedy Center! I could close my eyes and take a nice 50-minute nap.

Unidentified Woman: (Laughs politely) So, is my son behaving himself in your class?

Janet: My class? Excuse me? What? I'm a teacher now?

(Janet's expression is one of bemused bewilderment. Should she take on the role of the Unidentified High School Teacher and try to figure out who SHE is now?)

Janet: I'm sorry, you must have mistaken me for someone else, I'm just a parent of a student here - I'm not a teacher.

Unidentified Woman: I'm so sorry!

(Janet and the Unidentified Woman introduce themselves, and it is awkward for a moment, but Janet cannot stop smiling because she knows this is a future column and that she will never forget Rehtse Mik, whose name has been spelled backward for privacy. Likewise, she imagines Rehtse Mik will not soon forget her.)

Rehtse and I enjoyed a good laugh about how we truly believed we knew each other when in fact we had never formally met. She asked if I am commonly mistaken for the teacher she thought I was, and I said no, I was pretty sure this was a first.

In the car ride home after the concert, I told my son about the identity mix-up. And to my surprise, he revealed that I am frequently mistaken for this particular teacher, Yllas Notsgnivil, whose privacy has also been protected through advanced backward spelling. Why, according to him, Yllas and I are practically twins. In fact, she might as well answer the e-mail on my column this week and write next week's piece. And I might as well let you all know about the fabulous musical I, as her twin the director, will be putting on at Marriotts Ridge High School in March - "Oklahoma!"

Yes, I greet this news of our twinship with excitement and anticipation. I'm going to have double the fun. Because who knows how many new people I will be able to meet when I am not myself?

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