I’ve been listening to a lot of true crime podcasts. Probably too many to be considered healthy even by Bundy standards. And after listening to soooo many eyewitness accounts of nefarious goings-on, I’ve come to realize something.
I would make a terrible witness.
Officer: Okay, check my understanding, I just got the following from officer fuzz-nuts over there. You say you heard a gunshot coming from over… there. Then a middle-aged man about average height ran out from behind that house, jumped into 1998 Tercel and headed east, correct?
Observant me: That’s right, I saw and heard everything! The shot came from over there… well, maybe there, now I think of it more… and I guess maybe it wasn’t really that loud, really. Kinda muted, if you can picture it. Like… like a hard closing of a garden gate maybe. And not even that hard really, kinda normal, you know? Like how you’d palm a door as you closed it, y’know? Yeah, not that loud, really. But the guy, maybe a woman, hard to tell… young though, like maybe 12? Really short, actually. Average height might have been generous, she, he, I dunno, couldn’t have been taller than three cats. And it wasn’t a 1998 Toyota now, I don’t think. It was more like, well, more like a little John Deere riding mower. Yeah, that’s probly more accurate. And not east. That sumbitch went right up into the sky like a space cadet, no kidding.
Disgruntled Officer: You know that if I do some creative paperwork I can just shoot you, right?
Them real-life murder case witnesses turned true crime podcast personas, they remember everything! Thirty years later and their recollection of events remains unchanged, unmarred by the effects of countless nights out drinking with pals, or the myriad late-night TV marathons trying to cram some semblance of a personal life after the kids have gone to bed.
And I can’t even remember someone day to day.
Maybe I’ve got a serious cognitive impairment I should have treated. Or at least diagnosed then completely ignored. At least I know what my problem is now. Meh. Or, much more likely, I’m just very lazy when it comes to social observation and retention.
Okay, he’s just told you his name. Now repeat it to yourself a few times so you won’t forget it…eh, too much work. I’ll remember it. “Oh, that is a great story, ….buckaroo… Gaddammit.
But I’m in my prime – and by prime I mean my worst – when faces are involved. Which, they usually are, as people tend to have faces and are very rarely just bloody, sinewy flesh monsters devoid of pleasant human features. Take for example interactions with a particular parent acquaintance. Let’s call her Sabine because that’s close enough to her name without risking libel. Besides, I think she’s too smart to waste her time reading this drivel. (But that’s nothing against you fine readers, of course! Thanks for reeeeadiiiiiiiing…)
My wife first met her through a community parent resource program, and I’d met her myself shortly afterwards. Delightful woman, mother to two wonderful young boys (here, I’m pretty sure two – don’t forget how lazy I am at social observation now, she might have fourteen of the silly things) who I’ve also met, at least two of them. And I met Sabine again at some other community event shortly after, which resulted in a no-need-for-follow-up-conversation-greeting like “Hey, good to see you!” before I scuttled off to whisper into my wife’s ear seeking clarification on who da heck that tall blonde lady was. “That’s Sabine, you’ve met her before.” Ahh, yes, I remember now. I totally didn’t remember.
And it wasn’t her fault. I don’t retain faces and people in general. But she does stand out. She’s tall, very athletic, she has a fairly strong Norwegian accent and distinguishable European facial features. Again, here I could be wrong. I once went to a health clinic and saw a particular doc exactly one time. Then I came back for a follow up. The secretary asked who I was there to see again. I couldn’t remember the name, but described the gentleman as east Indian. It didn’t ring a bell with her so she began to name the handful of physicians who worked there. “Yes, Dr. Reed, that’s the guy,” I said with certainty now that I’d heard the name. Yes, Dr. Reed had thick, dark hair parted on one side, which is mainly what I remembered about him, but he was as white as cream from an Oreo. All of a sudden I realized what that look shared between the secretary and a passing nurse was when I confirmed Dr. Reed as being my east Indian mystery doctor: pity for the clueless idiot talking to them.
So Sabine is plenty recognizable. We live in a small community in conservative Alberta. I mean, how many Nordic Olympic-pedigree athletes could be squirreled away out here? And yet I still wasn’t sure if it was the same woman I’d met up to 4 times previous when she haphazardly asked for help to fit her mountain bike into the back of her SUV at the bike park. It didn’t want to fit, despite it being the way the bike got out there to the bike park in the first place, so I volunteered to toss it into the back of my truck and follow her home to drop it off. Only then, at her house, when a neighbor called out to her as she walked over to my truck for her bike, did I catch her name and remembered it once more. Sabine. You can bet I laid it on reeeeeeal thick to show I knew her name the whole time. No problem, Sabine. My pleasure, Sabine. Enjoy your weekend, see you on the trails, Sabiiiiiiiiine! I had her fooled, most def.
But the crux was a few months ago, before Covid took over and people were no longer allowed to use the public pool as a convenient stand-in urinal. Sabine was in the viewing stands, one of dozens of parents watching their young ‘uns test the patience of their swim instructors. Our gazes locked on each other as I came into the viewing area to find a seat, but I looked away quickly, not because I was trying to avoid her or anything deliberate, but because I don’t like making eye contact with strangers, even though she WASN’T A STRANGER! My sorry excuse for a brain hadn’t fully processed who it was I had shared a glance with in the mere nanosecond I had given it, so all I knew was that I knew the person, but that I had inadvertently given the person the cold shoulder and thus my social awkwardness was on high alert. Sandy. Sandiny. Sabra – Sabine! At least I remembered her name for once. Eat shit, social ineptitude. I’m gonna win this time.
I was set to salvage what I had already, unintentionally, turned into an awkward game of “slight thy neighbour”. And I remembered one of the kids’ names! Sabine called to a young boy a couple benches down to stay close, obviously one of hers. Yes! That means Mathias is in the pool! I turn to scan the groups of kids in the pool apparently learning how best to avoid drowning. I turn to Sabine, ready to lay on some friendly charm. “Mathias is doing great!” A smile breaks across her face. “Yes, ‘ee is loving to swim.” Nailed it! I watch my kid do his lesson for five or so minutes, gritting my teeth whenever he paws at the water in sheer panic as soon as the instructor lets him go. I’ve got my little girl with me, and she signals she needs to pee. As I’m getting up to step outside, I muster up my courage for forced human interaction, a need to salvage my reputation as a fully functioning adult leading me on. Address her by name, claim this moral victory in honour of your socially superior wife who never seems to forget a soul. Sabine. Sabine. Sabine. I pass in front, making my way to the door.
“Kids and bladders, eh Sally?”