It’s a rare thing, my not being a chatty sort. Sometimes while living overseas, I knew so few people that the risk of running into anyone was next to impossible…which I sometimes lamented. Now, admittedly, I kind of miss it, anonymity in the city. But sometimes it’s a great thing to live where you have a history. Recently I popped into Starbucks for a solitary latte, and lo and behold, I bumped into a childhood friend. I sat at her table and we shared a spontaneous catch up, and it was fantastic. On the other hand, this past summer, while waitressing in my home town after three years of world travel, I saw a high school friend and absolutely avoided that side of the restaurant. I couldn’t bear the thought of saddling up to the table, with my ‘Hello, My name is…’name tag, and face whatever back handed compliment or snide joke could possibly be coming to me. Yes, it was cowardly, but haven’t we all done that? Ducked behind a giant ficus plant and slip out the back door? No? That’s just me? Okay then, good on you. I learned my lesson after bumping into an old flame at a hotel I was working in my early twenties—he was there for a Paramedic seminar, and was dressed in a crisp uniform. I, on the other hand, was wearing my housekeeping uniform: turquoise walking shorts and a pastel floral smock. He looked me up and down and said with a smirk, “Well, you look like you’re doing well”—oh, to die a thousand deaths would not be as worse as that moment: self consciously smoothing my hands over the pink and mint polyester, without a stitch of make up and smelling like toilet cleaner while he could save a life at the drop of a hat and look dapper doing it. How I wished for a enormous ficus plant. Or a better uniform. Or a better avoidance tactic.
My friend’s husband told me he once saw Kevin Spacey smoking a cigarette outside of a restaurant. After recognizing the Oscar-winning actor, he took a step towards him; being a gregarious type, he had no qualms about politely approaching someone of that stature. Spacey, with a dead pan expression, shook his head and mouthed the word “No”, slowly and deliberately, which obviously stopped him from coming any closer. I prefer this story than to if he had actually met him. Is he being rude? It’s certainly ballsy, and assertive as hell. That would frustrating, trying to have a cheeky post dinner smoke, and strangers wanting to take pictures and say hello. I once saw Courtney Love renting videos at a Blockbuster, and I casually hung nearby, pretended to read the back of a VHS in the foreign film section before “Oh, hey Courtney Love, I just wanted to say hello, I’m a big fan”. (And from what one could deduce with the video cassettes and the location, and choice of idol, this was a bloody long time ago). She was totally annoyed that I approached her, and only begrudging signed the back of the receipt for my sister-in-law after she had made her video selections. I’ve seen a famous person since, I was standing behind Renee Zellweger at the airport, no big deal, and while I did get my snoopy stalk on, I did not say anything to her. Others did, and she of course, looked bugged. I didn’t want to bother her, though I kind of really wanted to. But alas, I’ve grown up from the days of lurking outside of video outlets, hoping for an autograph.
My friend Monica, who thought nothing of approaching the occasional celeb, had particularly bad eye-sight, especially at night. Once at dusk, I saw her stepping off the city bus. I was across the street, and shouted out her name. She heard her name being called, but obviously couldn’t identify the whereabouts of the voice. Instead, she broke out into a dazzling, movie star smile and did a little spin, waving in all directions, and just kept walking. It was so peculiar. I guess she was happy to be recognized, but not enough to stick around to identify the voice and have a chat. That was good enough for me. I have never forgotten that image, so pleasant, yet so dismissive. One day, I’d have to borrow that move. The other night my husband and I went to a show. He and I had a wee quarrel in the parking lot— mostly because I like to be places at least a half hour early and he thinks I’m ridiculous when I rush him out the door, to then linger in a lobby for a rather long stretch of time. (Regardless of my levels of ludicrousness, which escalate now and again, I do like to be early for events, and there’s no shame in that husband of mine!) Anyhow, we got our tickets and ventured forward to find our seats. Further down the lobby I spot an acquaintance from university that I had not seen since graduation. Oh shit. I’m a bit tense and I just want to sit, and I know my husband, not the chattiest guy on the planet, also wants to sit. I don’t want to hurt or offend, but I do not crave a superficial chat. (How are you? Oh I’m good, are you good? Oh yes, I’m really good. Oh well… that’s good.) I realize that I have been spotted, I see the spark of recognition, the raising of arms for a hug. Without breaking my gait I offer: “Hello, it’s nice to see you”, waving my hand, smiling graciously and not pausing for even a nano second. I just kept moving. Was that rude? Possibly. Was it necessary? Absolutely. Surely it’s nicer than mouthing the word “No”, with an icy expression. Then again I am no Kevin Spacey. It was only in my peripherals that I saw their jaw and arms drop in unison, and I tried not to feel guilty for not wanting to be recognized.