Vol. 5, Issue 2, March 20, 2007
I Never Forget a Face, Except When I Do
I saw him approach me on the Five-thirteen to Stanton, as I sat comfortably ensconced in a Window-seat amusing myself by calculating the train's Speed by timing the passage of the Telegraph-poles with my Pocket-watch. He stood before me with an expectant look, a faintly apologetic Smile upon his face as he extended a hand in greeting. A most civil and appropriate Demeanor for an Acquaintance; and his face struck a very familiar Chord. The trouble was that I had Absolutely no idea who he was.
Now, when one has led such a long and Storied life as I, one meets all Manner of people; and though it is a universally Valued ability to file these names and faces away efficiently in the drawers of one's Mind, ready to call up again at a moment's Notice, it is not overly surprising when gray hairs chase some of these memories Away. But I confess that even in the bygone days of my Youth, I was never skilled with names and Faces. Well do I remember the Embarrassment, as a young Student, of encountering one of my Professors in the Hattery once, while I was shopping for a new straw Boater, and - failing to Recognize him at first - told him that my Hat size was Twenty-two inches, and could he please find me one with a Royal Blue band. My Latin grade that semester was not stellar, I can assure you.
So this pleasantly attired gentleman standing before me on the rattling and swaying Five-thirteen to Stanton is a genuine Conundrum. Where have I seen him before? He is surely not a legal Client of mine; for one thing, most of them tend to be a tad Incarcerated. He has a somewhat scholarly mien - perhaps I have seen him at the Editorial association? Or the Taurus club? Have we played Whist together? Zounds, I continue to draw a Blank. No matter: I can delay no Longer, but must instead extend my own hand in Greeting.
"Salutations," I say with a cheerful demeanor that Entirely belies the furious workings of my Mind. The stranger is fortunately Hatless and rather bereft of Hair, enabling me to clandestinely make good use of my Subscription to the American Phrenological Journal. Alas, of the twenty-seven Brain organs, I can see but Fifteen from my seated position, and they tell me only that his comparative Sagacity is somewhat above Average, and his appreciation for Colors is finely attuned. An art critic perhaps?
"Salutations," he says in turn. Confound it, where have I met this man before? On a Zeppelin-safari in the Yukon? A museum-tour in Florence? That time I spent five days hiking between distilleries in Islay? On one of my fabled jaunts to the remote Cornish village of Trepanning? I ponder furiously in the time Available to me. In mere Seconds, it will become Apparent that I have forgotten his Name; what a breach of Decorum! But as I hastily devise desperate and Subtle conversational ploys to conceal this fact just a few moments Longer, he breaks the silence and solves the Mystery at a stroke.
"You appear to be sitting upon my Hat, sir," he says with rueful grace. And so indeed I am! I stand to find a sadly crumpled Homburg beneath my posterior, which I dutifully dust off and hand back with all due Apologies.
"Do accept my pardon," I say with relief. "You looked very Familiar; I could have Sworn at first that we had met Before."
"But we have," he counters. "Right here on this very Train, as it happens. You sat on my hat Last week as well, do you not Recall?"
Well, now that he mentions it, perhaps I do recall the incident in Question. The mind is a Curious thing, is it not?