The older we get the more common the experience of meeting people that you have met before and then having the same conversation with them that you had last time you met them. One, or both of you, cannot remember that you have ever met.
I once delivered a training course in the Europa Hotel, Belfast, with a super friendly participant. At the end of the day he asked me if I remembered him. I did not. It turned out that fifteen years earlier we had enjoyed a kiss at one of those wild South Belfast parties I used to go to in the early eighties. Funnily enough I don’t recall what we talked about but I do remember the kiss.
Parties are a challenge if you can’t see much. These days I often find I can’t tell the difference between furniture and people let alone men and women, but I have a technique: I slowly circle round the room until I settle on the vibe that says I can join in. This is a tried and tested approach that has served me well.
Recently I went to a party which seemed to me to be populated by people of my parents generation in bad wigs, some of who played tuneless guitar so loudly it made my ears itch and rendered speech impossible. It was also dark with only the odd flashing light to illuminate frenzied middle aged dancing. I had to revert to plan B. I stood still and tried to look relaxed and happy, as if the cacophony were my idea of heaven.
During the course of a very long evening, a lot of people came to say hello and weirdly seemed to know who I was, even if I had no idea who they were. I always advise that it’s a good idea to say who you are. But they never proffered their identity, and feeling that it would be rude to enquire, I never asked.
On the up side it’s a huge game; a bit like Twenty Questions. They say “Hello, how nice to see you” or “Hello, you look really well’. No one has ever says I look awful. I set myself the goal of asking enough of the right sort of questions to work out who I’m talking to and award myself points for the speed with which I can do this.
On the down side, I didn’t manage to guess them all. I don’t know who it was who said I had the best dye job she’s ever seem. My hair isn’t dyed. A forgettable exchange I think.
Midnight seemed a descent enough hour to retreat to my hosts’ guest room. Luckily I knew the way. Unluckily I got it wrong and ended up on my hands and knees crawling over a rockery and through the shrubbery. God knows if anyone saw me or what they must have thought if they did. More likely I will have been labelled blind drunk than plain old blind.
That might have been alright when I was young because everyone got drunk at parties. It was the eighties. There were people to kiss. Nowadays I’d rather be thought blind than blind drunk and I’m saving my kisses for the dog. Apart from anything else, too much crawling about at parties won’t do my reputation any good.
Twenty Questions may have come to the end of it’s useful life. I might just go for “I can’t see you. Who are you?”.