I have one of those faces that people think they know me from somewhere. This is especially true with Australians but not limited to them. Perhaps they think they have seen me on television or film. Who is that guy, they wonder.
When I participated the other month in the XYZ magazine online conference I had the same reaction both from viewers and organisers. My reply is in general to make little of it. I have one of those faces, I tell them. This seems to alleviate the curiosity but not completely.
Truth be told, this can all be somewhat tedious. Yesterday I was in a hotel and I was walking towards the lift. There was a group of three men and a woman. The woman was tall, slim, striking and blonde. She caught a glimpse of me and then did an obvious double take. She stared at me. So I stared back as I continued to approach the small group. She stared with astonishment. Who is this guy, she was wondering. She had mere seconds to work out where she knew me from and then it was over and I was past.
Like I said, tedious.
My first distinct recollection of this happening was when I was about 19. I was walking in the Perth CBD and a man stopped me on the street to ask where he knew me from. He had no ulterior motive; he seemed genuinely confused as to how to place me. This was the first of many such encounters over my life. At first I was able to use it to my advantage. Approaching a nightclub with its requisite long line of punters eager to gain admittance, I would stroll past with bored indifference and then raise an eyebrow at the doorman. Most of the time they simply lifted the velvet barrier and I was through. It worked every time if I had a girl by my side. It never worked at all if I had a friend with me. Phantasmal fame only goes so far.
But my days of nightclubbing are far behind me and I wish now only to be left alone. I once calculated that over my rafting career I took around 40,000 people rafting. That’s a lot of social interaction; a lot of showing interest in the lives of others; a lot of telling them who I am and why I am in this part of the world doing this crazy job. It got old.
I assumed that these encounters would lessen as I got older. But the opposite has happened; they become even more numerous with each passing year. As I age I seem to be growing into my face. I have heard it said that at 50 you get the face that you deserve. Perhaps I have been deserving of much. It makes border travel at airports particularly excruciating. If a security individual cannot place you then they tend to pull you aside and ask questions. I know the drill, I know why they’ve stopped me. But I can’t simply tell them that I have one of those faces and that will be that. It doesn’t work that way.
You take the good with the bad.