föstudagur, september 15, 2006

personal recognizance

Something that happened maybe once a millennium in my Boston days seems to happen just about twice a week in Iceland. That thing is: I see someone I recognize but can't place. Because even living in Reykjavík, center of Icelandic life that it is, I keep seeing the same people. But often in a totally different context. Most likely, they're just someone I've seen walking towards me in Kringlan, then again at Háskólabíó, and am now seeing for the third time downtown at the Te & Kaffi months later. Which would be all well and good, because I am not expected to know them.

More frightening, though, is the second, sinister possibility: they could be someone I am supposed to know and can't place. Someone's sister who I met a year and a half ago at a birthday party and who is now in line next to me at Landsbankinn, til dæmis. Because I am the foreigner and because I don't look Icelandic, I am (I think) more memorable and thus at a disadvantage to the locals when it comes to these situations. It makes sense: everybody here is gonna remember the guy from Boston who moved here for reasons they can't quite figure out, whereas I have spent the last 24 months scrambling to assimilate tens or hundreds of new people and thousands of new faces into my overloaded memory banks. At this point it's all one big jumble of Sigrúns and Gunnars up there and the identity of that girl browsing the sale table at Skífan is a rabbit I'm never going to pull out of the ole Sox hat.

Sometimes, late on a weekend night on Laugavegur, I have a conversation eerily reminiscent of the party-in-the-Hills scene from Swingers:

[approaching person]: "Hey Jared how are you doing man? Great to see you!"

me (pidgin Icelandic): "Yeah, hey man, great times, what have you been up to?"

[a.p.]: "Great days, great to see you, we should hang out."

me: "Yeah, endilega! OK, bye captain."

[friend walking alongside me]: "Who was that?"

me: "I don't know, man."


Blogger AS said...

I love it!

Reminds me of the time you were talking to that weirdo at the pool.

Blogger Unknown said...

This happens to me a lot -- happened a lot more in college. There's another variation where people I don't know approach me and begin a conversation thinking that I'm my sister. Usually I don't realize this one until they start calling me "Meghan."

Blogger JB said...

AS: Yeah, I know you want me to write about that. Maybe one day.

Kristen: Yeah you're right, this also happened to me in college. And the fraternity-party aspect of Friday nights in RVK also reminds me of those hallowed years. So maybe that's why I like it here so much.


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