“Hey, how was the movie?”
I’d just stepped into the elevator and there was a woman already in there, slightly shorter than me with streaked hair and glasses with thick black plastic frames. There was something vaguely familiar about her but I work in a building where a lot of businesses and people come and go. And I’m sorry to say I don’t make a note of who’s coming and going unless I actually work with them.
So my brain was whirring with activity. Movie? What movie? There were a million little me’s running around pulling papers from filing cabinets screaming, “Everybody, boss needs information STAT!” Except over in one corner a group was arguing that I really should upgrade to a paperless system and another group was arguing that there’s no way my brain could be that organized and this was all an elaborate metaphor anyway. Oh yeah, I’d been to see a movie the previous Saturday.
“It was great,” I said, adding that it was at the Belcourt Theater.
“No,” she said, “about a month ago. When I saw you at the mall.”
More rushing around pulling files, except now the group that had been arguing for digitizing everything picked up a snack machine and threw it through a window. And that’s when I remembered where I’d seen this woman before. Or at least the last non-work place where I’d seen her. About a month earlier at the mall. And I didn’t remember her so much as the intense sense of awkwardness I’d felt.
At the time I still didn’t have a driver’s license. I didn’t get one until I was thirty-seven but that’s another long and complicated story. If I wanted to go see a movie my options were to hitch a ride with someone else or take the bus. Mostly I took the bus, but this meant a lot of planning. Most of the time it meant a trip all the way to the downtown bus depot for at least one transfer, all of which could take up to an hour. Because it was usually Saturday, a day when bus service is cut in half, I’d have to set out early and I’d arrive early for the movie, so I’d wander the mall or the various nearby stores. Going to see a movie would involve up to four hours of either riding or standing around waiting. It was while I was waiting that I ran into this woman who, for some reason, recognized me from the building where we both worked–on different floors and for completely different places.
“Hey, how’s it going?” she’d said. And while there was a large group in my brain that wanted me to say, “Who the hell are you?” but they were shouted down by the group that instead made me say, “Great! How are you?” I’m still half-convinced she didn’t really recognize me. A lot of people tell me I look like someone they know and we just happened to work in the same building because everybody in Nashville either has or will work in my building. But we still chatted politely although I was overwhelmed by an awkward feeling. I was embarrassed that I was dependent on riding the bus to get where I wanted to go. It hit me that riding the bus limited where I could go, what I could do. It made me dependent on someone else’s schedule.
I didn’t–and still don’t–look down on anyone who rides the bus. I still ride the bus regularly, although now it’s more a matter of choice than necessity. At that time though a lot of those me’s turned out to be right. An upgrade was needed.
Also I’m sure some of them escaped and that’s why strangers think they’ve met me before.