2018-08-31 / Commentary

Seeing things a different way

40–Something

In seventh grade, there was this kid I thought was a snob. He was some kind of tennis phenom already playing for the high school team, and he strutted around with the popular kids. And, unlike the rest of us, he got away with the middle school style at that time of wearing the Polo shirt with the collar pushed back to give the appearance of a ripped pecs (as ripped as they can be on a 13-year-old).

Athleticism and pecs aside, the one thing that made him a snob was the way he looked at you. He squinted and walked right on by without saying a thing.

This perception went on for a while until I ended up sitting behind him in a high school freshman English class. At first, I didn’t say anything to him for fear of being humiliated and shunned. My freshman psyche was already on the edge, so no need to send it over with rejection from Mr. Chesty Tennis Guy.

But something strange happened. He actually turned to talk to me, and by the end of the year, he was one of my best friends. He still is to this day.

Turns out he was as goofy and awkward as the rest of us with all the same insecurities and flaws that come with the hormones and acne of the early teenage years.

The squinting and ignoring wasn’t because of some superiority complex; it was quite the opposite.

Turns out the poor guy couldn’t see a thing. He wasn’t a snob, he was 20/ 70. He couldn’t say “Hello” because he wasn’t ever sure who he would be saying “Hello” to.

Well, it took a while, but I finally understand what my friend was going through. My parents always said my eyes would start going bad after I turned 40...and they have.

As a consequence, I have found myself staring intently at some folks trying to put together the blurred features of their faces so that my mind may recognize them. I’ve found this is not a comfortable situation for me or the person I’m staring at, and I’m pretty much become creepy stalker guy whether I know the person or not.

There’s the unfortunate alternative where I take a chance and go ahead and wave a friendly “Hello” hoping against hope this is indeed someone I know, but when it’s not, that leaves two options, neither of which is good.

I could just swallow the embarrassment and give the nod to the wavee that says, “Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” but that would be too easy.

Option two is to suddenly pretend I was waving to a person behind the wavee. This only works if the wavee gets embarrassed and slinks away without turning around to find there was actually no one behind him to wave to. If that happens, then I’m not only a doofus, but I’m a crazy doofus.

So, if you happen to see me and I don’t return a friendly glance, wave or “Hello,” please don’t think I’m a snob. For starters, I don’t have the credentials to be a snob, but more importantly, thanks to this wonderful aging process, I don’t have the eyes to make out your face.

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