Don’t I know you from somewhere?

It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes someone will come up to me and say “Where do I know you from?”

I know that it is because of this blog, so I usually say “Do you read blogs?” and then I watch the penny drop.

Have you ever met someone, or saw someone and swear you know them from somewhere, but you just cannot put your finger on it? When you see a familiar face in an unfamiliar context. Like when you get into a shopping centre lift and your gynaecologist is standing there, and asks you which floor you need. And you stand there and think “I know you from somewhere….” but you don’t work it out until three days later with your feet in the air at the doctor’s surgery and she starts putting latex gloves on…

One of the most memorable unmemorable recognitions that happened to me was a few years ago. I was at the supermarket and had finished my hunting and gathering. I lined up at the checkout and standing in front of me was a woman. She was older, quite short and had a kind looking face which I recognised, but I was not sure where from. I looked in her basket and she had sensible items such as bananas, skim milk and tea bags. I am not sure why this is important to this story.

Anyway, there I stood wracking my brain about where I knew her from.

And then it hit me! She was my high school English teacher.

“Excuse me.” I said “I think you used to be my English teacher….” And then I went on to tell her that I ended up becoming a writer and I rabbitted on a LOT. She didn’t say much but was very polite, nodded and smiled at all the right places. When I eventually took a breath she told me that although she had trained as a teacher, she had not taught at the school that I was talking about.

This threw me! Where did I know this woman from?

She began to load her sensible groceries onto the conveyor belt when the thunderbolt hit me and I kind of died a little bit inside.

My new friend was Janette Howard, the wife of our past Prime Minister John.

I was embarrassed enough to keep my big trap shut. She paid for her groceries and gave me a cheery little wave goodbye and then I urged the floor to open up and swallow me.

Has something similar ever happened to you?

Who was it and where were you?

  • Barb Fisher

    Antonia Kidman, in the supermarket in Singapore. I gave her a hearty smile and greeting as I knew I knew her from somewhere. It dawned on me about 3 nanoseconds into my effusive greeting, that we didn’t know each other at all…and that I was just some random numpty to her ?

  • OH MY GAWD! It could only happen to you, well and me, but mainly you – xxxxx

    • Typical that this happened to me!

  • Heidi D

    I frequently see people while I’m out & think I know them from somewhere. I haven’t got any tales to tell because I am always too worried about opening my mouth. I don’t trust my terrible short term memory & it is more than likely to be someone that I saw in a lift the day before. I am always saying to my husband “who’s that lady over there ? I’m sure I know her from somewhere”

    • Oh my memory is shot to shit!

  • I do this all time. So many jobs and schools, particularly in Brisbane, that everyone looks familiar for some reason. I just ignore most of the time because it’s too hard to work it out!

    • So you don’t want to embarrass yourself? Well played Ness xx

  • Ruth D

    A few years ago I was walking through the local churchyard with my husband and greeted a blond woman coming towards us on the path. He didn’t recognise her so asked me how I knew her and I had to fess up that I didn’t really but that she was the new vicar and her name was Sarah. Unbeknownst to me, sometime previously she had replaced the old vicar – also blond and also named Sarah. By the time I realised they were two different people I felt I couldn’t go back so just proceeded as though I did actually know her, figuring that as she was new in town it must be happening a lot ??

  • A friend suggests the best question for this situation is “Did I go to school with you or are you someone famous?”

    • That is one that I will be using from now on.

      • Fiona Hamann

        see my comment above – don’t recommend that approach

  • CC

    I did this. I had moved to Sydney from a small city and worked in retail. This woman walked in whom I instantly recognised – and confidently told myself it was one of my aunts friends whose name had escaped me and whom I hadn’t seen in quite a few years. After saying an enthusiastic hello which was well received, I asked how she was and what an unexpected surprise to see her… bluffing the friendliness a bit to excuse the fact that I had forgotten her name. If I recall, I opened my arms slightly to give a hug hello, and it was then she stiffened slightly for me to realise she had no idea who I was. So I politely backed off and let her finish looking around and said goodbye as she left as I felt a little perplexed. I sat on it for a bit, then embarrassingly realised, she wasn’t one of my aunts friends, but a woman off E Street (TV show from the 80’s)!!!!!


  • Fiona Hamann

    I saw a guy in a lift years ago, with two other guys, and somehow swore I went to school with him…I chatted away and asked what he had got up to and regaled him with what I had done since school. Told him he looked great since we had last caught up (all the while scratching my head to remember his name and hoping any answers he provided would shed some light – He gave single word polite answers :-). When the lift finally got to the ground floor, the two guys hustled my mate out of the lift quick sticks – looking at me like I was crazy…it was only when people were snapping pics as he left the lift, that I released my “old school mate” was in fact Keanu Reeves.

    • You are kidding me! That is hilarious.

    • Kylie Johnson

      Oh Fee, you didn’t?! Love it.

    • GoddessMel

      My uncle and husband met him at Phillip Island last year when there for the motorcycle GP. They chatted about the new bike his company’s selling, racing in general, and got a photo. Apparently he’s a top bloke!

    • Donna

      That is so hilarious. He prob just thought you were a friendly australian.

  • GoddessMel

    Fantastic story! I always thought she appeared to be a polite and refined lady and I guess this proves it 🙂 I had this happen to me recently at an event for a university course I’ve recently enrolled in. I took the initiative to approach and introduce myself to a lady standing alone and looking a little left out (usually I’M that lady so I knew how she felt). As I said hello and introduced myself she said ‘I think we’ve met before’. As I was about to say I didn’t think, she said ‘Oh, you’re Mel! From [name of case]’. Instantly the penny dropped and we had a good old chat about work, her new baby, and the that we’re both enrolled in the same Masters course this year. We’re now going to be study buddies 🙂

  • Oh that is fan bloody tastic!!! I love you xoxo

  • Donna

    That is very funny. Janette was probably happy to meet someone friendly.

    I’m shocking at faces and names, and now live in my old home (rural) town. Everyone looks familiar. So I’m nice to everyone and let them take the lead in the conversation.

    I did once have a lengthy convo with a woman in Safeway, asking about each other’s families, until we realised we didn’t know each other at all.

  • mary_j_j

    Years ago I worked at a muffin shop in Darling Harbour of a Sunday. It was a busy little store. One Sunday I served a particularly familiar young man, and I swore he was giving me that look of recognition, he was very smiley and I was just about to ask him if I’d met him out somewhere in the eastern suburbs (he didn’t look inner city) – then I realised exactly who it was – Guy Pearce! Slap bang in the middle of the Neighbours hysteria, surrounded by Channel 10 minders! There was a store there and celebs used to make “appearances”! I’m glad I didn’t ask him if I’d met him at the rugby club!!

  • Sally Rose

    Years ago, at Spencer St. station, I called out a cheery greeting to Frank who waved back and smiled. Frank, from Homicide. Needless to say, …..

  • What a great story! What I found disconcerting as a teacher was when a kid (all grown up) would see me & say hi at the shops .. and I’d be “hi” .. how do I know you??!!

  • CC

    I bounded into a patient’s room (decorated with my football teams colour balloons and a poster of the players) and started ranting how robbed our football team was and I did not like that beady eyed CEO …it was the CEO, he’d had a heart attack, I was the charge nurse…he laughed and asked me not to hold back. I thought his name was familiar …

  • Literally LOLing here ( laughing out louding?)

    • Excellent! That makes me happy.

  • I married at 19 and was divorced at 30, so my 30s were pretty wild, with drunken encounters,. and mad dancing on tables. Now, if I see a bloke who looks familiar that I can’t place, I spend a milliesecond worrying if they ever carried me out of a pub.

    • Once upon a time I was a wild woman, so I totally know what you mean.

  • Christina

    I love that you share this stuff…I’m sitting in the school car park and just laughed out loud…AGAIN at something you have written!
    My story is a little bit different. Quite a few years ago I hopped on a bus that shuttles you from the little planes coming in to the big smoke airport, after flying from a little place out west.
    I’m finding my seat and see this lovely face I KNOW staring back at me. I say “hello, how are you going?” He nods and says “hello, good thanks.” A bit monotone but ok….
    Turns out that I watched him play cricket for Australia on the telly for years (while popping out babies!) and was my fave fave fave cricketer!
    …..I remember thinking how disappointed i was at his hello…
    I still love you Ian Healy! ???

  • Age 19, working in a pharmacy in Glen Eden (suburb in west Auckland, NZ). Last shopping ‘centre’ en route to popular west coast beaches – Piha (where 800 words is set) and Keri Keri. Both beaches are littered with ‘star’ homes – Crowded House, Kiwi actors, radio hosts etc… Managed to recognise Ilona Rogers, Billy T James and Kiri TeKanawa and was dutifully respectful without being overly fan struck.
    One fateful Friday afternoon a man came into the store. Purchased a variety of items indicating a reasonable good weekend might be ahead of him. Uttered the words ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ … His reply ‘It was a long time ago and we were both drunk’… Blushing to the brightest shade of scarlet known to mankind I handed him his change and retreated to the safety of the dispensary. One of the other girls said to me ‘don’t you know who that is….?’ clearly not! Actor Andy Anderson – was on the Sullivans and many a kiwi soap/sitcom. He was quite hot in the 80’s!! It has stuck with me for decades but still makes me smile as it was quite possibly not the first time he’d encountered the scenario.