While I’m away at college, I attend a sweet little church on a semi-regular basis. After the service, there’s a meal hour, where we can gather to eat and chat. During one of these meals, I’d just grabbed some food from the buffet and settled down at a mostly-empty table, not far from a man I hadn’t talked to before. There was something about his face that was naggingly familiar, but I knew he was the husband of the Reverend, so I figured that was it.
We made small talk for a few minutes, and I mentioned I was a student at the local college.
Me: “Where do you work?”
Him: “Up at the college.”
Me: “Oh, cool! What do you teach?”
Him, trying not to smile: “Your class.”
And I finally realized what it was about his face that I recognized. I’d been listening to him lecture three days a week for the past month.
Me: “Oh. Oh, my gosh, I am so sorry.”
Him, now trying not to laugh: “It’s fine.”
Me: “I—I really like your class.”
Although the statement was true, I think it made the situation worse, and I discovered there’s not a whole lot you can say to explain away the fact that you didn’t recognize someone you’d spent roughly twelve hours giving your supposedly undivided attention to.
Me, recounting this story to friends later: “…and so I can never talk to him again.”
My friend, not even trying to not laugh: “How did you not recognize him?! You’ve been in his class for a month!”
Me: “It was out of context! He looks really different outside of class! Or—not standing thirty feet away.”
My friend: “Uh-huh.”
Me: “It’s fine. You know, he was really nice about it, he’s a lovely person, and it’s over now.”
My friend: “But, what if you have a question about the class?”
Me: “I will suffer in silence. Confused, regretful silence.”
My friend: “Good luck with that.”
I have no idea what I'm doing.