I live in my hometown. I’ve been here for about 25 of my 35 years, even though I moved away when I was 17. Most of my neighbors are my parents’ age, which makes for a quiet street. Except for those punk kids who live down the hill, but that’s another story.
I refute the Grosse Point Blank mindset pretty well. Even though I was a hyperliterate misfit in my formative years (as opposed to, y’know, now), I have a fondness for this place, with the Revolutionary War manor houses, the gorgeous gardens, the fantastic pizza, the strange shadow race of orange people who live on the edge of town (that’s a story for another post).
Tonight, I was confronted with the one aspect of living in one’s hometown that I’ve avoided for years: bumping into an old schoolmate.
Now, I’ve seen some of them over the years, but never gotten into a conversation. The last time was in 1997, when I walked into the local barbershop (The Shear Shop). I was going out for a job interview the next day (at the office where I now work), looked like the Unabomer’s little brother, and needed to clean up. The stylist at the counter took one look at me and said, “Gil?”
I replied, “Ericka?” It was she. We talked while she cut my hair, reminiscing over our barely shared high school experiences. But that encounter was almost a decade ago. I’ve bumped into almost no one since.
It’s not that I’m averse to talking to people from my youth; I have plenty of friends from that stage of my life. I’m just averse to getting into conversations in supermarkets or convenience stores, which is where these little recognitions take place. I’m usually pretty tired by the end of the day, and I tend to have many excuses in my arsenal to keep from talking to people.
But There I Was, standing on the deli line at the supermarket, while Amy was getting some other fixings for dinner. The guy working behind the counter looked a lot like someone I met in kindergarten or thereabouts, and his nametag pretty much sealed the deal.
But did I say anything? Oh, no. I figured it was fine just recognizing the guy. There was no need to actually start talking to him. I could just tell Amy that I saw a guy from grade school at the deli counter.
He turned to take my order, paused a second, and said, “Gil Roth?”
“Wow! I thought it was you! How you doing?”
“Living in Ringwood,” I told him. “You too, huh?”
“Been around a lot, but I ended up back here,” he said.
“Not a bad place to be,” I said. I introduced Amy to him, and he mentioned that his wife had just stopped by to see him.
Fortunately, he avoided the awkward, “So what are you doing?” question, which would’ve been fine in theory but would’ve contrasted with his, “I’m working behind the deli counter, cutting a half-pound of cheddar for you” response.
But I don’t want to address any class-oriented issues in this post. No, I’m more concerned with a very basic question:
How the heck did someone who hasn’t seen me since 1989 identify me at a goddamn glance?!
Seriously! You’ve seen what I looked like around then! (masochistally speaking, I love breaking out this picture)
I’m 40-50 lbs. heavier, I don’t wear glasses, and my hair is a bunch shorter. Moreover, it’s been almost 20 years! I mean godDAMN!