I went to the diner last weekend and right as I was sat, I saw this guy a few booths down, he looked really familiar, and it took me like thirty seconds or so before I realized that we went to high school together. The last thing I wanted to do was get into a fake “Hey, how’s it going, so good to see you, how’s life,” type of conversation, but I didn’t want to be a dick either, and so I avoided eye contact, hoping that he didn’t see me sort of staring at him while my brain tried to figure out who he was.
But was he looking my way? I couldn’t remember for sure, and as I was about halfway done with my burger, and I know this sounds totally crazy, but I started to get a little upset. I mean, if I saw him, he probably saw me, so why wouldn’t he want to come over and say hi? Right, I know, totally crazy, like I just said, I didn’t want to say hi to him either, and so, whatever, neither one of us wanted to get into it. I tried to let it go, hoping that he wasn’t feeling what I was feeling, surprisingly annoyed about having been stiffed out of one of those awkward, “What are you up to these days,” back-and-forths.
But after a while I made up my mind to force the situation, I’d get up and be like, “Is that you?” although, just as I went about to actually put my plan into action, I realized I couldn’t even remember this guy’s name. Sophomore year, we definitely sat across from each other in at least three classes, but I don’t know why, I was drawing a blank. Was it Tom? Pete? It was something like that, Billy maybe?”
“Mike!” I heard another voice say coming at me. Only, it wasn’t coming at me. It was coming at Mike, his name was Mike, I can’t believe I couldn’t think of it. Here was another guy I went to high school with, I’m pretty sure his name was Brian, he must have been meeting Mike for lunch. And as Brian passed by my booth, we definitely made eye contact, it was only for like two seconds, but a solid two seconds, like two beats of definite eye contact. I went to make a subtle kind of head nod, like a, “What’s up,” but I think it might have been too subtle, because he just ignored me, and I tried to play it off like I had an itch on my nose or something.
“Charlie!” Mike said. So this guy’s name was Charlie, not Brian, and then they started talking, but the diner was busy, and even though I tried to hear if one of them said something like, “Did you see that guy a few booths down? Was that Rob?” there was no way I was able to make anything out. I did glance that way occasionally, but I didn’t want to come off as too creepy, and so, it was getting weird for me, I just wanted to finish up and leave.
I mean, this is why people feel self-conscious about going to a restaurant by themselves. Because, what if that guy did say hi? Or what if my nod was slightly more than imperceptible? I’d say hi, these guys would say hi, and, and then what, they’d say, “Great, see ya later?” Would they feel maybe pressured to invite me to join their table? I’d have to say yes, right, I mean that’s polite, so we’d have to grab a waiter or a busboy and they’d have to move everything over. I’d be eating whereas these guys would have just been ordering, and so the timing would be off, there’d be the question of separate checks, or maybe even separate waiters.
I just wanted to leave, seriously, I was in my head now and I wanted out. But just before I had the chance to ask for the bill, guess who walked in? It was David Wright of the New York Mets. I couldn’t believe it, because this was just my regular diner, I mean, I guess celebrities go out for regular food once in a while, but this was just unreal, David Wright, walking right past me.
“There he is!” Mike said to David Wright. Man, he was there to see Mike and Charlie? Now I was kicking myself, because if I hadn’t tried so hard to avoid that bullshit conversation, if I’d only thrown in a, “Man, can you believe how long it’s been since high school,” or a, “How’s your family, everybody doing OK,” I could have been standing there at the table just as David Wright walked in. They’d have had to introduce me, maybe invite me to sit down with them, man, that would have been awesome.
Was it too late? It was probably too late. But I really needed to try. At the very least I could have endured an awkward two seconds or so to grab a selfie with David Wright, after which I’d bow out gracefully, and that would be that. So I walked over and I tried way too hard to play it cool. In my head, I wanted to pull off a natural double take, like it would’ve looked like I wasn’t going out of my way to bump into them, but then I’d be all, “Whoa! Mike? Charlie?”
It came off too forced. Because, and I always forget that when I’m playing out these scenarios in my head, I’m thinking that people are paying attention to me pretending not to pay attention to them, when in reality, nobody’s paying attention to anybody, certainly not to me, not really. So from these guys’ perspectives, it must have just been, them sitting down at the table, and then all of the sudden I’m there, interrupting whatever it was they were doing with me, “Whoa! Mike? Charlie?”
“Yeah?” Mike said.
“It’s me. Rob.” Now all three of them were looking at me, but nobody said anything. “From high school.” I added.
“You’re from Ohio?” Mike said? “You went to Franklin?”
“No, I went to high school here on Long Island. You guys aren’t from Long Island?”
And they just shook their heads back and forth, which would have been fine I guess, an honest mistake. Only, it was definitely a little strange that I had called them out by their names, Mike and Charlie, names that, yeah, I guess I only knew because I overheard them talking to each other when they sat down. So I don’t know if they made that connection or not, but all I could think about was how obvious it was that I’d been spying on them.
“Oh really? That’s crazy. You look just like some of my friends from high school. Sorry for the confusion guys,” I didn’t even bother addressing the fact that I said hi by name, but whatever, I just needed a picture with David Wright, and then I could make my graceful exit.
“Sorry to bother you, but if I could just ask a favor,” and now I turned to David Wright, “Do you think I could get a photo?”
And it was even more awkward than I could have imagined. Everyone kept looking back and forth at each other with confused faces. Finally I just kind of leaned in a little closer, and nobody actively objected, so I sort of just went for it, I took the selfie of David Wright and me, said, “Thanks guys!” and then I left.
It was like half an hour later, I was back at my house and I’d already posted the photo to Facebook and Instagram, “Look who I met at the diner today!” was the caption.
One of my friends commented, “Who?” And I just typed back, “Haha.” But then another friend wrote, “Seriously, who is that?”
So I wrote, “David Wright from the Mets.”
And then like ten people shot back, “No, that’s not David Wright.” Some of them even posted pictures of David Wright from the Internet, with comments like, “This is David Wright. Who is that guy?”
And yeah, seeing them side-by-side like that, it definitely wasn’t David Wright. I’m telling you, in person, I don’t know if it was the light, but in the diner the resemblance was uncanny. But now, I mean, they kind of looked alike, like if you told me they were cousins, I’d totally believe you. But whatever, now it all made sense, the confusion, the awkward moment at the diner. I just kept the photo up on my wall, hoping everyone would think it was some sort of an inside joke that they didn’t get, because if I took it down, it would look like I had no idea what I was doing, like I’d have to admit to the Internet that I’d asked a random stranger to join me in a really weird selfie.