Let me set the stage. I’m walking down a crowded New York City street, minding my own business. I look up to see where I am, and a very nice looking older woman waves at me. I think, “hey, I must know this woman.” So, I wrack my brain for the slightest memory of who this may be as I return the wave (who am I to be mean just because I can’t remember who she is?). She continues waving, so I continue. At the moment I begin the second wave, a man scoots around from behind me and walks up to the woman and hugs her…..the wave wasn’t meant for me!
Another scene…..I’m in a crowded mall this time. A younger, teenage, girl gives me a wave. As a teacher for 18 years, I think she must be one of my former students, and I return the wave back. As I prepare to get an excited greeting from a former student, I’m treated to a shocked and scowling face. She had not been waving to me, but to her friend behind me and was now confused and overwhelmed with disgust at the fact that I had waved at her. I was now the lecherous old man who waves at teenage girls. How embarrassing!
This happens to me a lot. I know a lot of people. You don’t teach high school for 18 years and not know a lot of people. I have 18 years of former students and colleagues that might remember me, even if I can’t remember them. Sometimes (very rarely) the waves ARE for me and I’m treated to stories about their lives and their families. Sometimes I’m introduced to their children or their spouse. It’s nice. But, more often than not, the wave is NOT meant for me and I look like some lunatic with a smile on waving at people I don’t know. How creepy is that?!?! What’s worse is that most of the people I know (being former students) are still fairly young….so the creepiness factor increases exponentially when I randomly wave at young people!
Another thing that always gets me is Bluetooth, or hands-free mobile phones. I always think they’re talking to me!! Someone could walk past me talking, and I turn and ask them to repeat because I didn’t get it. ALWAYS, it turns out, they are talking on a hands-free mobile device. Now I look like the idiot, instead of the person walking down the street talking to himself! Or, when they are laughing, and it looks like they are laughing alone, and to themselves. That’s creepy for all other reasons. So I stare for a few seconds just to make sure they’re not a serial killer and I haven’t seen them on the TV or the wall of the post office. When they catch me staring, and I finally see the earpiece or the white wire dangling in front of their mouth, they give me a dirty look like I interrupted their conversation. Excuse me, YOU were the freak laughing to yourself in a crowd of people!
Am I just too friendly? Do I just want everyone to know me and talk to me? I’m trying to analyze why I constantly fall for the random wave or the Bluetooth conversation…..I don’t get it. It’s like when someone constantly puts a “kick me” sign on your back…..you eventually learn to check your back…..I never learn. The next time a random stranger waves in my direction, I know I’m still going to wave back. I should look around first to make sure I’m the target of their wave, but I won’t. This is just a product of my moronic thinking. Will I say “pardon me” to the next person on a hands-free call that walks past me? You bet I will! I should stop and think first, but I know I won’t. I’ll just talk to them as if I know them. I didn’t believe my father fully when he said your memory starts to go as you get older. My memory is not fading fast, but it’s having trouble keeping track of the thousands of ex-students I know and the hundreds of former colleagues. Who knows….maybe the next one will actually be waving at me!