As is usually the case, this time of year, I am making my winter preparations. Much wood needs to be cut and split. Walks need to be taken in the timber. The splendor of fall needs to be caught with my camera lens. I was reminded of an unsettling situation I found myself in many years ago. I wrote about it in my column several years ago.
Some of you will recognize the title of the second album from Firesign Theater, released in 1969.
Firesign Theater had a cult following during the late 60s and early 70s. Not so long ago, they were "revived" and enjoyed a renaissance as regulars on Public Radio. While this second album wasn't their greatest in my estimation, the title has always stuck with me. For the attentive reader, my favorite was Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, which was released in 1970.
Once I found myself in a situation which now reminds me of the title of their 1969 album, and today becomes the title for this column.
On that particular day, I was on a mission. I was at a bank building, arriving for a meeting. I was early, so was milling around in the lobby burning some time. (Do you ever wish you could wish back all those minutes you "burned away?" I do.)
A well dressed middle aged woman walked up to me and said, "Hi Mike." I looked at her and said hello back. She just stood there for a minute studying me. I was getting nervous. I remember breaking eye contact with her during this time period and continued my mental preparedness for my meeting.
This woman moved in a little closer, intentionally invading my space, and asked in a more assertive manner, "You don't remember me, do you?"
I answered that I really didn't have a clue who she was, and that if I had ever met her, I was sorry, but didn't remember.
At this point I was getting a little more nervous. Here was this nice looking, well dressed woman, 25 or so years my senior, absolutely convinced I was somebody else, and seemed genuinely alarmed I was disrespecting her and denying I knew her.
I smiled at her and summoning my calmest demeanor tried my best to make her realize she was making a mistake and that while my name was Mike, I was not the Mike she thought I was.
She moved yet closer and put her arms out to embrace me. I put my arms up against my chest is a semi-defensive manner and allowed her to hug me, but did not hug her back. She put her hands on my shoulders and pushed me back in what I sensed was a maternal move. She held me firmly while continuing to admonish me for not acknowledging her.
"You spent every afternoon at my house every summer, and you really don't remember who I am, do you?"
Once again I attempted to assert that I really didn't have a clue who she was. I told her she seemed nice, but she most certainly had me confused for another Mike who must look like me.
Here I was, smack dab in the middle of one of the most unsettling situations I've ever found myself in. Apparently, the situation was quite unsettling for the well dressed woman too. She studied me up and down, and gazed into my eyes as if trying to spark that connection she just knew was there, but I was certain wasn't.
My mind was racing. I was beginning to question the veracity of my own memories. Was this really someone I should know, and for whatever reason wasn't recognizing?
I asked her name. She replied, but I don't remember what she told me. I then asked what she thought my last name was. Again she answered, and gave me a last name I don't remember, but which was different than mine.
I reached in my pocket and pulled out a business card. I handed it to her and told her my name was Mike Gilchrist, and told her she was confusing me with the other Mike.
She took the card, looked at me, looked back at the card and began shaking her head. No, she still wasn't convinced I wasn't the Mike she knew, and was wondering why I was developing this elaborate ruse to hide from my true identity.
At this point, it was close to the time for my appointment. I looked at her and smiled again. I told her I was sorry for the confusion, but that I had an appointment and didn't want to be late.
I walked down the hallway towards the office where I was to have my meeting. It was a fairly long hallway. I could feel a pair of eyes searing the back of my neck. I didn't look back until I turned to open the door to the office where I was expected. The well dressed woman was still standing in the same spot watching me as I walked down the hall. She was still gripping my business card at arms length where she could both study it and me as I walked away from her.
I don't think I convinced the well dressed woman I wasn't who she thought I was. She seemed quite hurt that I didn't recognize her. In her mind the business card I handed her was not proof I was who I claimed to be. Maybe she thought I was in the witness protection program, or for some other reason was denying I knew her.
My meeting didn't go as well as it should, because I was distracted. Afterwards, I cautiously opened the door of that office just hoping the well dressed woman wasn't still standing there waiting for me. She wasn't.
So, somewhere out there, either there is a person named Mike who looks remarkably like me, or there is a well dressed, deranged woman who in her own mind created this reality in which I was a part.
Or, there is a third possibility, which at the time didn't enter my mind. How can you be in two places at once and not be anywhere at all?
Until next time--
You can read past columns by visiting tamatoledonews.com and clicking on the "Local Columns" button.
In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.