#33 Finally remembering where you recognize someone from after staring at them forever

We’re all bad at names but some faces just stick in our brains.

Yes, when you see Familiar Brown-Haired Man walk by the bus stop or Curly Redhead Lady eating fries in the food court you suddenly do a double-take and think “Wait … I know them from somewhere.”

That’s when you stop chewing your gum, stop talking to your friends, and stop sending blood to non-vital organs. That’s when all the tiny men in your head wake up, put on their boots, and fire pole down to your brain’s dusty archives. Suddenly they’re fishing through files, scanning databases, and booting up old hard drives to comb every nook and neuron you’ve got for trace clue of who you’re looking at.

Photos flash of high school dances, first jobs, and college parties. You try putting facial hair on them in your head. You think about old friend’s girlfriends, people who owe you money, and friend’s friends or cousin’s cousins who you might have met just once.

Maybe you don’t recognize them for a while simply because they’re out of context. Yes, it’s your old grade school teacher squeezing melons at the grocery store, your barber in a jumpsuit jogging in the park, or the secretary from your old job sweating buckets on the treadmill.

Sometimes it seems like they’re looking at you the exact same way too. You sort of wonder if their little brain men are combing through databases or you wonder if they recognize you but just aren’t saying anything.

Yes, you wonder and you wonder, you think and you think, you stare and you stare, until!

It clicks!

And that’s a beautiful moment of sweet relief. Little brain men cheer, smoke comes out your ears, and a slow and satisfied smile curls onto your face as you finally place the mystery person.

Then maybe you say hi or something.


Photos from: here, here, and here

50 thoughts on “#33 Finally remembering where you recognize someone from after staring at them forever

  1. The older I get the more I realize I need the whole fire brigade and perhaps the chief to slide down the pole too;)

      1. If they take up pole dancing, I’m hooped! Speaking of which, I will always remember the Quintessentially Canadian young man who triumphed over adversity through Hoop Dancing, and is now on Canada’s got talent! Impressively imbedded~ Awesome!!!

        1. Sorry, did you just mention firefighters pole-dancing!!?? There goes my day’s productivity….

          I haven’t been following Canada’s got talent, but that kids sounds awesome.

            1. OK. I totally thought his thing was wrapping itself and then just caught on but have no idea how this happened, actually?!* I meant to show you the hoop dancer but now maybe you’ve seen him since they just re-ran or you can on you tube. Tonight they showed a woman from Tibet who is a hoop dancer too…Aygul Memet~INCREDIBLE!
              Apologies for whatever went wrong here. All good intention, Sincerely:)

  2. I DO love this! In the world of smart phones and instant gratification when acquiring info (like when you forget the name of the song that’s playing or the name of the person singing it [Shazam it!], when you can’t remember who was in that movie [IMDb it!], or basically anything else [Internet it!]), this is one time we get to let our brains do all the dirty work. Sure, you can appeal to the people around you: “Hey, do we know her? Where do I know her from?” … but for the most part, it’s all your brain. And that makes it so much better when you do remember! :D

    1. I am constantly on google on my phone trying to figure out where I know that actor from. I really hate seeing that person and knowing I’ve seen them in something, but I can’t place it. Names of songs… I quit remembering those a long time ago, back when CD’s were the thing to buy. I always knew the song as #4 or some other random number.

      1. Lol I’m like that too Bekah, I make it into a game though and try to name the person/song/band before the movie, etc. ends!

  3. That feeling of recognition is a big relief. I use to be pretty good at keeping faces with names, but the more people I met, it was like my brain was pushing some of the info out. And ya know, most times I don’t feel bad telling them I don’t know who they are. A lot of times when someone looks familiar and I can’t figure out their name or how/why I might possibly know them… I just assume I know them from when I worked in a convenience store for 3 years. I saw a BUNCH of people and never got to know most of their names.

  4. Friend of mine talked to a woman for ages at a party because she was sure she knew her. A week later she was watching TV and realised the woman was on Neighbours (Aus TV show).

  5. I look like a meaner version of Danny Trejo, so if I stare for more than a few seconds security guards usually show up and ask me if there’s a problem here. As a result I’m HORRIBLE at recognizing people unless I’ve met them several times. So remember people, if a scary looking dude is scoping you out, he might just be trying to put a name to a face, he’s not ALWAYS a serial killer!

  6. I meet more and more young children with this strruggle these days. For me I believe the many moves I’ve made, diverse jobs I’ve had, environmental changes in nature, societies expectations, pace, media, foods and health+++ play a role in forgetfulness!
    “Friend or Foe?” is the question repeatedly arises out from the cobwebs and dust bunnies flying along side a banner which reads
    *Treat everyone you meet with kindness, they just might be an angel*
    “Not helping right now,” I shout, (hopefully not aloud), as I hold a stupid smerk, smile stance and smoke bellowing out my ears begins to burn my eyes…over-head sprinklers or skies, (depending where I am), are about to open a rath of rain over me and I start defending that *they* weren’t nice to me! It’s getting more common-place, both admit memory has evaded and even if later the total recall is *foe*, now we’re friends again anyway and the world is righted again…and that is Awesome too:)

  7. It’s so true about the “out of context” issue.

    I love the ending of this post: “Then maybe you say hi or something.”
    So great.

  8. I talked to a guy for a really long time at school once, I can’t imagine what because I couldn’t remember anything about him except he went to my old school. I finally had a sudden realization that he was a guy from my ethics class that I talked to all the time.

  9. Oh ya, I love the dress up game images you painted to play in the mind… reminds me of the sears catalogue cut outs/dress up dolls we had as children and is a helpful tool to add to the hand-bag, for sure …thanks Neil:)

    1. Here’s what I also learned today- bigger boots! Those of us who have memory difficulties need Bigger Boots to re-boot those neurons but good! First pair of boots I ever had came from my dad along with this single…so cool! I still LOVE boots and now I’ve a good excuse to go buy me some new and improved boots! Thanks Neil…you are SO awesome!

  10. This happened to me yesterday in fact. We both looked at one another for a good minute and finally it came to me! She was my neighbors kid from many years ago!

  11. This happens to me a lot. I moved out of town, then came back years later. I was amazed at how much everyone had aged in the interim (except of course, me). So now I find myself staring at lot, trying to remember the names of former acquaintances and how I might have known them. The light bulb never goes off until hours later, when I get back home. Of course, it’s wonderful, but it doesn’t help during that awkward moment when we’re passing in the grocery isle.

    1. Same here @ moved out of town, returned 20 years later. What happened to everyone?! Geez, how am I supposed to recognize these greying middle-agers?! Fortunately, my boyfriend has lived here his entire life and knows everyone, so he fills me in. Really, it would be helpful if we all wore shirts with our names emblazened on them. Hey, that’s a great idea! I thik I’m onto something! Well, there’s my contribution to humanity/posterity! Increased recognition of people thanks to named shirts! You’re welcome. :)

      1. And if numbum and I can add the idea we’ve had, for age group sake, the back would read, I survived the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s…whichever decade! Good assist, don’t you think?!* (hands out for royalty;)

  12. This happens to me a lot. I feel really bad when they catch me staring because I’m sure my face looks more constipated when I’m trying to figure out who the hell they are, rather than curious. xD

    It’s the worst when you remember them for something that isn’t so nice! I attended a battle of the bands event at a church to support some Christian friends of mine and their youth band. As we were waiting for my friend’s group to perform, the Christian act before them had about three brothers. My friend sitting beside me pulled a face and said “I remember one of those guys from somewhere…”. Now, my friend works at the cinemas and she catches people doing things they shouldn’t be doing in the cinema with their pants down. This guy and his girlfriend happened to be those type of people. She could not stop giggling and when she told me I nearly burst out laughing during their performance.

    Who’d’ve thought? In that place at that time they met again. She was wearing her work uniform too as she had to rush in after work… When we were heading out towards the exit, he was right near her and when she came into view, he recognised her instantly. Once he recognised her and put two and two together, the look on his face was absolutely priceless.

    Good times.

  13. It’s really hard when you see someone out of context – like seeing an office worker you sort-of know, taking their kids to the swimming pool.

    Thank goodness for Google though, my go-to source of information for “I recognise that actor but I just can’t remember what I’ve seen them in!”

  14. This happens to me all the time. But the most interesting one was when i was out with some friends at a diner and the guy at the table kitty corner to us looked extremely familiar. At my table we were discussing it for a while and then I had to go find out. So we discussed each of our pasts for a few moments when he blurted out “sorry, I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.” Then it all came back to me… He was in the same nudist group as me… We all had a great laugh and at least one of us turned a shade of red (neither of us nudists) and is a story we will always have!

  15. I also feel this way when I see someone that looks like an actor, but I don’t which. The worst part is that when I see someone I know and don’t recognize the person, I’ll keep staring without noticing with a frown and when I come back to reality I see them looking back at me like I’m some crazy person.

  16. This is so me. My mother was a very successful sales lady and she had tons and tons of friends. I also did a lot of extra-curricular activities in both middle and high school. So when I see someone I think I know, the little Bea’s in my head start to go over every event in my head where I could have seen this person. I tend not to stare for its rude but every now and then I have to look again to make sure I’m going thru the right memories. When I finally realize they are my mother’s old friend or a friend from school, it is only proper to go up to them and say hello and how have you been. This is a very Awesome moment for me.

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