I used to have trouble recognizing casual acquaintances away from the context in which I usually saw them.
For example, when I was still in college I went to a restaurant with the band I was in at the time. A guy came up to me to say "hi," and I knew he was someone I knew. I wracked my brain for the rest of the meal, wondering who he could be. The mystery was solved on Monday: he sat next to me in one of my classes three days a week.
Then there was the time I was selling t-shirts for a boyfriend's band when a girl came up and asked, "Are you [Average Jane's Real Name] and did you go to Alpha Preschool?"
I wanted to say, "Yes, but you're a complete freak for remembering someone from preschool."
Seriously, who looks at a spandex-clad nineteen-year-old with huge, blonde '80s hair and recognizes her as the shy, straight-haired preschooler who favored granny dresses? She actually seemed to expect me to remember her, too. Uh, no.
My out-of-context recognition was put to the test at the video store the other day. There was a younger couple in front of us and the wife turned around and said, "Hey, funny running into you guys here!"
"I know!" I said, trying desperately to think of who they were.
My mind raced. My husband showed no signs of recognition at all, so they couldn't be his friends, band members or co-workers. I didn't think either one of them looked familiar from my new job, even though there are an awful lot of people there. I seized on the most logical explanation and was ready when they reached the counter and my husband gave me a quizzical look.
"They're our next door neighbors," I told him, under my breath.
We really need to get more involved in our neighborhood, but that's another story.