My Life as the Invisible Man

Have you ever been happy to see an old friend only to discover that they have no idea who you are? It’s happened to me five times! Talk about surreal: You feel like you’re in a weird Twilight Zone dream where you never really existed! Cue the music:

1) At my twentieth high school reunion, I ran into Larry, who had hung out semi-regularly with my buddies and me. “Hey, Larry!” I said! “Good to see you!” He looked at me as if he had never seen me before and asked who I was. I thought he was kidding. Nope, he had no recollection of me whatsoever. I tried jogging his memory, mentioning the special language a few of us spoke, bowling excursions, his friendship with another guy in the group . . . nothing worked. He just stared at me as if I was trying to trick him into believing I had ever existed. I have to admit, the whole thing felt a little creepy.

2) When my daughter was a baby, I belonged to an informal men’s group in St. Cloud (an hour from Minneapolis) that took turns meeting at each other’s homes. It lasted for about a year. The leader of the group was a guy named Norm, who lived around the corner from my parents’ house. About twenty years later, I was in a department store in Minneapolis when I looked up and saw Norm! I walked right over and greeted him warmly. He stared at me blankly. He had no idea who I was. I refreshed his memory about the other guys in the group and the time my daughter woke up from her nap and cried during the group meeting at my apartment. No luck. All traces of me had been wiped clean from his memory banks. Definitely a little unsettling.

3) The Granite Bowl in St. Cloud was a second home for my group of friends and me. I started bowling in the adult leagues at sixteen or so. Vic, one of the older guys in the City League at Granite Bowl, the elite league in St. Cloud, was one of the best bowlers in the city. I was very involved in the bowling subculture of St. Cloud and even had a bowling column in the St. Cloud Daily Times, the local newspaper. The point is, everyone who was serious about bowling in St. Cloud knew me and I knew them. I remember an epic match between my team and Vic’s team in which Vic and I were anchors (fifth and last in the team lineup) and he outdueled me something like 257 to 253. I moved away from St. Cloud when I was twenty-three but came back to visit often since my parents still lived there. Ten or fifteen years after moving, I stopped in at the Granite Bowl to say hi to old friends. Vic was there and I was happy to see him. I could not believe it when Vic said he didn’t remember ever seeing me before. How was this possible? No, he didn’t have dementia, he honestly had no clue who I was. Weird with a capital W.

4) Mike was part of our gang at the gym I belonged to. He was originally from Texas but had moved to Minnesota for his job. We talked and joked a lot pretty much every week for a couple of years until he got transferred again. I remember wishing him luck and saying it had been nice to get to know him. Fast-forward a few years. I was coming out of a shop at the Minneapolis airport and saw Mike striding by. “Mike Ferguson!” I called out, amazed at the split-second timing that allowed me to catch a glimpse of  him before he had rushed by. He whirled around and I gave him a big hello and a smile. He just stood there looking confused. I told him my name and that we had hung out at the gym just a few years back. No reaction. I started feeling a bit uncomfortable. I mean, c’mon, this wasn’t that long ago! I looked around for Rod Serling but he was nowhere to be found.

5) I had been looking forward to the thirty-year reunion of the high school in White Bear Lake that I would have attended had I not moved to St. Cloud before eighth grade. I couldn’t wait to see all the kids I had grown up with in grade school and the first year of junior high. My expectations were exceeded: It was a blast connecting and catching up with everyone again! Then I saw Jan, a cute girl I had been friends with and had occasionally thought about over the years. I happily walked up to her and introduced myself. You guessed it: blank stare, no idea who I was.  I told her I remembered being in a swimming class with her, about walking home with her from school. Nope, she remained oblivious. I felt like I was pounding against a two-way mirror that she couldn’t see through. I have to admit, I was a bit shaken. This was the most disappointing encounter of the five I listed here. After returning home, I mailed her a copy of a grade school class photo, in which all the kids (including the two of us) were shown individually. I never heard back from her. For all the good it did me, I guess I should have mailed it to the Twilight Zone.

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6 Responses to “My Life as the Invisible Man”

  1. Tsenre Seresac Says:

    Wow, that’s really weird Phil! Maybe there is some truth to that movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” after all!

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Either that or you can just call me Mr. Forgettable, Tsenre!

  3. Anil Bhatnagar Says:

    This happens with me often. People with very good long term memory face this often. Others are not bad, only their memory is bad. I remember the name of every kid in my photograph of first standard…and this good thing has a flip side too. You expect others to have that good a memory too…but God for a good reason does not give this gift to every one.
    Anil Bhatnagar

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only Mr. Forgettable, Anil! That’s comforting.

  5. LynnA Says:

    Phil, do you write a journal of experiences or is your memory so fantastic? I know I have good stories but for my memory

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Hi, Lynn! In this particular case, the experiences were so startling to me that I had no trouble remembering them. But yes, I tend to write details down as they happen so I don’t forget them. Because it’s SO easy to forget the details!

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