People generally complain about their inability to remember names or being unable to associate names to known faces. I think I suffer from the reverse. Names are not a problem but I don’t seem to remember faces! Or the other explanation can be that people find my face very memorable ;) while I dont find their’s so :P. Often it happens, that I am walking (mostly around the university), not really lost in my musings, and I find someone coming towards me and staring at me. Just as our eyes meet, the person lets out a “hi” or simply that ‘smile of recognition’. And no, I am not confusing it with that ‘smile of courtesy’ that strangers may occasionally deign to bestow upon each other. Anyone slightly familiar with the British politeness can easily tell them apart :P. Anyway, even if I am caught unawares, I tend to instinctively respond with the ‘hi’ or smile respectively. And we cross each other and continue on our paths.
Having assured them falsely that I do reciprocate their recognition, my mind immediately embarks upon the challenging journey into the recess of its memory to uncover the facts. Did I actually meet this person before? If I did, when? where? Who is this person? And so on. More often than not, after the tough mental expedition, I manage to remember the details.
Like that one occasion when I realised that the girl who smiled and hi’ed as she walked past had met me only once before, that too almost a year ago! Or that other guy, who I come across often, waving, hello’ing or just smiling, to which I respond of course. Evidently, we knew each other. But I couldn’t remember how. After 4-5 such incidents, in which I also acted as if I was in a hurry lest he attempted to make conversation too (oh the horror! :P), I realised that I had indeed met him a couple of times, 3 years ago in my first few months at Southampton, during induction sessions etc. But not always do I manage to recollect. There was this other girl a few weeks ago, whose face first registered recognition, then transformed into a smile. Just before we crossed each other, she even let out a “hey”. I was very certain I didn’t see her before. I actually contemplated turning around and enquiring how she knew me, even at the risk of appearing rude. However, my bus arrived and I chose the conservative option and got in instead. Despite racking my brains over and over, I haven’t been able to place her. But then, her’s wasn’t an easily forgettable face either-- lip piercings are not that common still. Or maybe, the piercing was a new addition, thus making recognition tougher ... who knows! :)