Tuesday, April 6, 2010

No, I Didn't Recognize You

If you’ve ever experienced my driving skills from the passenger-seat side of my world, you’ll be glad to know that I’m a person who prefers to walk. My distinctive style of veering, wandering and sometimes just pulling off to one side to ponder life’s little mysteries is much more effective – and less life-threatening – when my feet are working the sidewalk instead of the gas pedals. “Whoopsie,” my most frequent comment when on the move, is not something you want to hear from either a surgeon or from someone operating heavy machinery.

For me,  walking represents the chance to spend even more time in my head, a place best described as a smoking stew of worries, show tunes and occasional snatches of words I’d like to write down, if I don’t forget them in the next 30 seconds. The footage is black and white, the soundtrack is by Cole Porter, and the whole business requires a lot of energy to keep in motion.

With so much to think about, I tend to lose track of where I am, sometimes even of who I am. The reason I walk the same route every day is so I won’t get lost, and if you think that’s a joke, thank you.

So is it any wonder that I don’t notice passersby, even if they are hooting, shouting and hollering my name with gusto? It seems to be profoundly annoying to those who know me, and I’m at a loss for how to respond when they catch up with me in my more conscious moments. A friend’s husband went into a tirade last spring. “I was riding my bike right past you,” he fumed, “I called and waved and you just walked by!”

In a straight line, I wondered? Hope so. But then I noticed that he was indignant, and I was perplexed. Did the occasion call for an apology? There are several hundred files open in my brain at any one time, all of them clicking away on topics ranging from the deadline for the article I’m supposed to be writing instead of taking this walk, to whether the toilet is truly broken or if I’m just not flushing it correctly, as my husband insists. Am I supposed to add one more file, that of how my friend’s husband looks while wearing a bike helmet and whizzing past me? He overestimates the RAM my system is carrying, I must say. I apologized, but I wasn’t sure why, or for what. “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you,” I said, as sincerely as possible, just barely adding but managing not to, “and do you really believe that the world owes you constant recognition?”

I was so spooked by his wrath that I began to wave frantically at the slightest provocation, even if the honk turned out to be a stern warning to a sex-crazed squirrel or a heads-up that I’d drifted into oncoming traffic. I added a big, toothy and insincere smile for a bit of extra business. But even this attempt proved unsuccessful. A woman I’d worked with briefly looked me up at a colleague happy hour, clearly miffed. “I was at the stoplight and waved and honked,” she began, “and you waved back but I could tell You Didn’t Even Know Who I Was!” This time, I apologized for insincere waving, agreeing that her countenance deserved 100% acknowledgment at all times. I swore to remain on 24-hour alert for her visage in the future.

When I got home, I began to wonder, was it my fault? Since my life credo has become, “Everything is My Fault,” I guess so. But then, last Friday, I was in the car with my husband (he was driving, smart fellow) and we were exiting a parking garage. He began to veer about to a degree that even I noticed, barking, “They’ve painted the exit signs wrong, it’s badly designed, and now I can’t get out.” I was amazed. I am often stuck in parking garages, baffled by the exit signs, but I take this situation as a sign of my impending dementia. I sometimes pull over to an open space and wonder when I should stick the vacuum tube on the tail pipe and start inhaling, so my daughters don’t end up having to change my diapers. I’ve often contemplated suicide while stuck in parking garages, which is just one more reason that no one should ever give me a handgun license. But here he was, blaming the garage architect and feeling clever when he finally escaped. I’ll bet he recognizes everyone when he takes a walk, too.

I, in the meantime, am considering an invention that will prevent me from further harangues. Perhaps I’ve been going about this all wrong. My acquaintances seek recognition, but what I really need is anonymity. Perhaps a simple ski mask, matched smartly with my sneakers, would disguise me enough so that no one knows it’s me in the first place, and never bothers to get my attention. Even with a hot summer looming ahead, I really think I’m on to something. So if you see someone walking on Minnehaha Parkway this July, wearing a ski mask, whatever you do, DON’T WAVE.

No comments:

Post a Comment