It wasn’t pouring with rain, the sky was a flooded bathroom floor and I was directly under the drain pipe.
At least I had been until I’d grabbed a spot under one of the store’s eaves, and jostled for space between the drips that trickled down through holes in the cloth awning, with other refugees from the weather. In the crowd of Thai faces there were only two white ones, mine and another backpacker’s. I assumed she was from Europe until she turned to me and said in perfect Kiwi twang –
“I know you!”
As if. I’d been in Banglampu for a week and the number of times I had heard English spoken could be counted on one hand, let alone by a fellow Kiwi. I raised an eyebrow in response.
“I do. I’m sure I know you.”
But that’s what they all say! My cynicism was borne from hearing this same accusation everywhere I travelled. Everyone knew me, everyone had seen me before. Either there was a whole heap of Vix doppelgangers around or I’d been really busy. What with schooling in Sydney, and Perth and Brisbane and Cairns. Not to mention Singapore, and here in Thailand. It was surprising I’d managed to fit in so many places in the short 21 years on the planet!
Fast forward another twenty or so years, and I still come across the same suggestion irrespective of where I travel. Everyone has met me before. Do I just have a common looking face? The woman at Gatwick airport, a couple of weeks ago, thought she’d met me before, and was so insistent that in the end I had to offer up the suggestion that she’d seen me on Twitter or on this blog. Whilst I don’t have a Stephen Fry-esque largesse of followers on Twitter or on this blog, I guess it is possible that she could have come across me online.
Is social media the new star-maker creating more new E grade mini slebs each day than Big Brother does in a series?
Or is it just typical to see people you used to know in others around you, particularly when you travel? I know when I first moved to the UK I’d often stop dead in the supermarket thinking I’d spied a friend from Kohi eying up the meatballs, or that another acquaintance from Parnell had pulled alongside me in their car at the traffic lights. Of course, it was neither, but the occurence became so common I started to wonder whether this was a form of homesickness. Was I searching for the familiar in the unfamiliar to somehow ease myself through the change?
Those who are grieving often report that they see their lost loved one, only to discover, brutally once again, that they are not them, they are still dead. Was I somehow doing the same thing, as moving home can be akin to grief? It definately moves in stages, not linear progression, but stages of shock, grief, and acceptance. Or maybe there is some kind of ‘Island’ style human body manufacturer making doppel gangers to scare the bejesus out of us.
It’s happened so often to me in all the moves and the traveling I’ve done that I’ve recently had to have a little talk with myself. A little ‘settle down petal’ talk. You see, if I write off people as being similar looking to all those someones I used to know, then it isn’t all that surprising that I would start assuming that everyone is a version of a personality I’ve met before. I’d start making assumptions about their behaviour, their attitudes, their prejudices and foibles and perhaps in doing so, would be completely denying them their individuality. Isn’t that as dehumanising as relegating someone you were once intimate with to being ‘somebody that I used to know’?
It makes you think doesn’t it! Am I prepared to not simply take people at face-value, to really meet and get to know them, not the projection of someone I used to know?
As for the girl in Thailand all those years ago, she did know me. Her sister was in my class at school. I suppose Kiwis being the avid travellers they are I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Do you believe in doppelgangers? Is Elvis alive and well and living just out of Sydney? And have you had experience of thinking you recognise someone ‘from home’ only to find that your mind is playing tricks on you? Would love to hear your stories in the comments below.
Oh and listen to this brilliant music made by an Aussie and a Kiwi. Love it. Can’t get it out of my head. I’m definately going to buy and download their music.
Image: flickr CC
zebble - http://www.flickr.com/photos/zebble/