How to: Save Yourself When You’ve Mis-identified Someone
Masks may protect us against Covid-19, but they definitely do not protect us against awkward interactions. In fact, leave a lot of room for them. What do I mean? Imagine this: you’re walking out of the Science Center and you see someone that you are convinced you remember from a Zoom class. “Omg, it’s Anne!” Obviously, you wave and walk over. As you do so, they take off their masks, and low and behold, they are not who you thought they were. But there you are, standing in front of them. What do you do? Here are some ways you can handle the situation:
Continue the conversation as if you haven’t made a mistake
Admitting to yourself that you’ve messed up doesn’t mean that you have to admit it to the person you are talking to. Confidence despite your error may be key. Ask them about the class you thought you took together. If they look at you confusedly, try to convince them that you were in fact in the same class by, let’s say, mentioning a TF in a super generic way (e.g., “Do you remember her? She was so funny.”) By the end of the conversation that you have just hijacked, you will have convinced yourself that the person you are talking to is, in fact, Anne. If you choose this option, I’d recommend making a swift exit from the conversation as soon as you are done blabbering.
Ignore the fact that you just waved at the person and just walk straight past them. Avoid the interaction all together.
Apologize and re-introduce yourself
This is probably the best and most graceful way to go about this unfortunate turn of events. When you reach not-Anne, be honest and apologize; maybe blame the mask or your eyesight for the misidentification. Save your dignity and the poor person’s time by simply introducing yourself for real. Maybe you’ll make a new friend!
Stare blankly at them
This one needs no explanation.
Make sure to always have someone next to you to save you
This one takes a little bit more effort and planning, but always having a friend walking next to you is a solid safety net. Your friend can immediately introduce themselves to not-Anne and then at least you’ll have the actual name of the stranger you are about to talk to.
The shift from Zoom to in-person learning has been challenging in a lot of ways and dealing with misidentifying people has been especially hard to handle. But, cut yourself some slack, because it is HARD to identify someone based almost exclusively on their forehead. A sure-fire way to not misidentify someone in the first place is to make sure their mask is off before waving to them.