My facial recognition abilities have been put to the test. And failed! It’s those masks we wear in public places.
The other day in a grocery store, I was limping along the baking goods aisle, the wrong way. I finally realized my mistake and turned around, nearly crashing into a married couple that was also walking against the arrow.
“I guess we’re going the wrong way on a one-way street,” I chuckled. “I didn’t see the arrow on the floor either.” As they were turning their cart around, I asked, “How are you guys doing. Is the sheltering in place driving you nuts? How are the kids handling it?”
The husband mumbled a curt reply and sped away to the end of the aisle; I went right; they went left. I heard the wife ask, “Who was that guy? Do you know him?” “I have no idea,” he responded.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; I keep having conversations with people I think I know, but don’t. It’s those darn masks; they hide all our facial features except for our eyes. Oh yea, and those mops on top of our heads that need attention. But eyes often look familiar to me, and friendly. So, I do what comes naturally and engage in conversation.
It’s happening all too often, causing me to have an identity crisis. Not my identity, the identity of everyone else. Eyes alone don’t give enough information. I need more face, to make out who I’m looking at.
The reverse experience is going on too. A pair of eyes will say, “Hey Coot, how you making out?” I don’t know who it is. And I’m instinctively leery of someone wearing a mask. I developed the instinct when I was a kid, watching cowboy movies every Saturday at the Grand Theater on the south side of Binghamton. The bad guys wore masks when they held up a bank or robbed a stagecoach. So, I’m nervous when confronted by a person wearing a mask; I deal with the unease by talking, hoping they will think I’m harmless and not shoot me.
But the tide is turning. Now, it’s the people without a mask who are making me nervous. I haven’t made a full transition; I’m stuck being afraid of both masked and unmasked people. The thing that’s bringing me around is my memories of Lone Ranger movies, one of my favorite cowboy heroes. He was a good guy, yet wore a mask. I can’t wait until we’re all unmasked and I can recognize people again. I may not remember their name until later in the day, but I’ll know I know them.
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