I was shopping at Home Depot the other day, looking much as I do on any hot afternoon when I’ve been working in the yard and decide to take “just a moment” to run to the big orange box to pick something up: sunburnt, baseball cap on backwards, sleeveless black t-shirt (this one reading “Some Adult Assistance May Be Required”), workboots and shorts . . . yeah, I’m the very portrait of dashing, I know.
Anyway, I was standing in the hardware section, looking like a mess and fiddling with various thicknesses of chains, when a woman walked up to me with a very panicked look on her face. “Can you help me out here?” she begged, laying her hands on me. “My husband sent me down here for ‘2 standard screws’ and I don’t know what that means.”
Well, I’m hardly mechanically-inclined, but I do know what a standard screw looks like. So after a few moments of searching, I handed her an 85 cent bag containing exactly two screws.
“Thank you,” she said, beaming. “Now, can you tell me where I can find electrical outlets?”
I stammered something about how I thought they were over on the left side of the building, near the bugspray, but I wasn’t sure. She gave me a look first of confusion, then of surprise. “Oh!” she said, an almost visible light bulb coming on over her head. “I’m sorry, I thought you worked here.”
Now, as I mentioned at the outset, I looked nothing like a person who worked at Home Depot. In fact, I looked like a vagrant. But that happens to me a lot. I think I just have One of Those Faces.
I’m also the Guy Who Always Gets Asked For Directions. If you’ve been reading this blog even casually, you know what a laugh that is — I can get lost walking around the block. Yet, I can be standing in the middle of a crowded city block in a foreign city, and there’s a one hundred percent chance that a complete stranger will come marching up to me and ask for directions. Even when I explain that “I’m not from around here,” many will still take out a map, spread it out on the hood of a nearby car, and ask me to help them read it and figure out where they are. And like an oaf, I’ll lean over the map — which is not only usually in a foreign language, but also looks as if it’s been used to mop up Sunny D — and try to figure out where we are, and how they can get where they need to go. Usually I end up apologizing to them, feeling guilty that I was of no assistance whatsoever. I have no idea why they asked me for directions in the first place; I just have one of those faces.
I once exited an office building amidst a crowd of fifteen coworkers, all of us walking together in one large group to go to lunch two blocks away. With a committed group mentality, we stepped off the curb against the red light, jaywalking en masse across C Street, one great blob of humanity. Guess who was the only one to get pulled out of the crowd by a passing police officer and cited for jaywalking? Yup. The guy with One of Those Faces.
Perhaps the my finest hour was in a crowded McDonald’s, just north of D.C. My pal Mike and I were driving to New York one Memorial Day weekend, and had stopped at Mickey D’s for something to eat — along with, it turns out, a busload of people on their way to the District for the holiday weekend. As I stood patiently in line amid this enormous sea of people, a longhaired fellow in shredded clothes came staggering in the side door, wove his way through the crowd, steered past several crowded, overflowing tables, and planted himself squarely in front of me and began shouting directly into my face. This went on for perhaps two minutes, when he suddenly stopped and strode out of the restaurant, ignoring everyone.
Mike shook his head, laughing. “I know you say that happens all the time,” he said, ” but I’m not sure I would’ve believed that had I not seen it.”
But it does happen to me all the time. I just have One of Those Faces.