Very few people, when you get right down to it, like being mistaken for someone else. Sure, if the comparison is favorable, it might stroke the ego, but at the end of the day it can be a little disconcerting. I can’t imagine the complicated feelings faced by identical twins or siblings with a strong resemblance, since I am neither. But I am blind, and as such, I – and those like me – seem to be interchangeable, even though some of us look nothing alike.
I have been in stores, malls, or on the bus, and had people come up to me asking when I got my “new” dog (apparently my “old” dog last week was a Golden Retriever), or when I dyed my hair darker (never), or how they swore I took the #52 bus last Tuesday (which goes to a part of the city I’ve never been to). My friend Meagan, who I reference here often, used to get asked where her “sister” was, or people would just assume she was me and I was her (apparently we do resemble each other somewhat). Most of the time I just shrug it off, but it seems I am not alone in being confused for someone else.
Brandon told me about traveling to another city and frequently being called by the name of someone who lived there. Allison describes being called the name of every other local blind woman she knows. Kelly used to sing at church with another blind woman; they look nothing alike, but the pastor always called them by the wrong name. Michelle has a guide dog the same colour as someone else in her city, so sighted people constantly either get them confused or ask if they know each other; but the blind community in the same city can tell them apart just by voice. Steve thinks this “mistaken identity” happens with every blind person who’s ever taken a taxi, though chose not to provide personal anecdotes.
So, why does this happen? Perhaps because we are a very very small percentage of the population, or generally highly visible. Perhaps it’s because some of us have similar mannerisms, use a cane or guide dog, or have nifty cell phones that talk to us. Either way, it is by turns amusing and annoying, especially with how often it happens.
But what if you, like me, have a lookalike? For years I have heard the “I saw you there!” and put it down to the inevitable, common comparisons outlined above. But it wasn’t until about a year ago that I thought it might be true. A bus driver I know reasonably well told me the story. At that point, I had ridden his bus once or twice a week for several months, and we would have conversations on the road, so he recognized me on sight. One day, he saw me at the University campus with my guide dog. He took a detour out of his way, called my name, I turned around… and it wasn’t me! He told me about this a couple of days later, and how embarrassed he was by the whole incident. So anyone who knows someone who had this happen to them in Edmonton, you have my sympathies! And by the way, it’d be neat to meet you, because I’m sure you’ve got stories about where people tell you you’ve been. Who knows… it might have just been me!