Many people say they have trouble remembering peoples’ names after they’ve been introduced. That’s a common problem but once you’re aware of it there are tricks you can use to compensate (for example, make a mental image of something which you associate with their name – such as a banana for someone named Hannah, or use their name a few times within your first conversation). But what if you have a hard time recognizing faces? This is an affliction which affects me, and it become even more pronounced when I see people out of context. More specifically, when I see them in any context other than running.
I have some good friends who I still struggle to identify if I see them in casual clothes or even worse – business clothes! It’s not uncommon for me to be walking down the street and hear “Hi Seanna!” If the speaker is in running clothes I identify them immediately. If not, I start to panic. I usually smile and wave, but depending on who it is (it could be someone I run with at least twice a week) that could be perceived as a somewhat cool response. Who is it, who is it? I try to take in height and facial features. But they just look SO different when they’re not in running tights and their hair in a ponytail! I now have some friends who very kindly accommodate my disability. My friend Meagan for instance whenever she sees me while she is not in running clothes says “Hi Seanna! It’s Meagan.” As if we were on the phone, not standing face to face, having just run together that morning.
All of this is compounded in the winter. My running group meets once a week at 5:30 a.m. in every type of weather. A few winters ago it was quite a brutal one, and you had to bundle up immensely in order to brave the cold. We had some new members join our crew for those 5:30 a.m. pitch dark, bundled up workouts. These workouts are quite a bonding experience, so you become close with your fellow crew members. We encourage each other running up and down icy hills, or along windy stretches of path. We high-five and congratulate each other for completing tough workouts together. We even chat about non-running related things and know about each others’ families and work lives. But god help me if I had to recognize anyone who joined that winter without their signature blue jacket or red toque and face mask! Put us in business suits in an elevator together downtown and there would be absolutely no hope of any hint of recognition from me. And these are people I’d consider my good buddies!
I get the humour in my predicament, I really do. I just hope that no one takes it personally. I know there are many more awkward moments in my future, but I’m learning to roll with them. And my good friends are learning to understand that streetwear is a mystifying disguise for me – if they want to reveal their true identities they need to either spell it out, or wear their running jackets at all times.