Friday, September 05, 2014

Is it me or is it he? Tales of my elusive doppelgänger

The mirror knows! Is there someone out there who looks like me? Photo by David Miller

My wife’s brother was talking to her recently. He said, “You know how [Postino] says people tell him they saw someone they thought was him? I met a guy who looked like him, had the beard, the voice...I told him, ‘You look just like my brother-in-law.’”

So my mysterious double, who has stayed tantalizingly out of my sight since he was first reported to me, has reappeared. During those days of the mid-sixties I was asked, more than once, “Are you Steve Jensen?” At the time I wondered what it was that made Steve (whom I had not met nor seen) look like me. In the eighties I met a UPS driver with that name. He was in my age group so I asked him if he had ever been called by my name. He couldn’t remember, but I did not think we looked much alike and his is a fairly common name. Perhaps another Steve Jensen is out there at this moment being mistaken for me.

Over thirty years ago, during my time driving a route for a large school district, I was approached by a school librarian who said, "Is that you in an ad in a tennis magazine? You are modeling underwear...?” I thought that was funny, but she said, “No, really, the guy looks just like you.” Not only did she tell me that but the school secretary chimed in with, “I saw it. The guy looks just like you.” I snorted. I thought I was being ribbed. Nobody who looks like me is going to get chosen for an underwear ad. Or mistaken for a tennis player, for that matter.

I asked to see the magazine. “I want to know what you think I look like in my underwear,” I said. No such luck. The librarian claimed she could not find the magazine, so I was left without seeing what my lookalike underwear model had that made a resemblance.

A few years later the bookkeeper in one of the junior high schools said she was at dinner with her husband and saw “me.” She was so convinced it was me she crossed the restaurant to talk to me, only I turned out not to be me. “Maybe you’re his brother?” she asked my dining doppelgänger. Nope.

Some time later a teacher at another junior high approached me and asked, “Aren’t you the guy in the Auto Zone poster?” I asked where he had seen a poster with someone who looked like me. He said it was on the side of a bus. He said, “I was in the car with my wife and kids and told them, “I know that guy! He comes to our school!’” Only I didn’t. Well, I mean I did, but my double who posed for auto parts store posters (and presumably underwear ads) did not. I never spotted the poster although I looked at every bus that passed me.

Since I retired I have dropped out of circulation, so I don’t have a lot of interaction with the same people on a day-to-day basis. I had not heard any additional stories of my double until a year or so ago. When my wife and I were taking an exercise walk in the neighborhood a man approached me. "Do you know Mel?" he asked, indicating a mutual neighbor. I did. Not only was Mel a neighbor, but I had known him from the school district. He was also retired, but he had worked in their paint department, and I often saw him in schools doing his job. Mel had died, the neighbor told me. Had a heart attack. I expressed my sympathy because the guy was closer than me to Mel, and broken up about the loss.  Then he asked me, “You worked with Mel at Sears, didn’t you?” I dimly remembered Mel had worked at Sears part-time. I told the neighbor about the school district connection, but I had not worked at Sears. He looked skeptical. “There was a guy at Sears. Looked just like you.” Aha. My double had re-surfaced.

A couple of months later at a family function I told them of my double, and of the Mel/Sears story. My nephew entered the conversation. “I've seen that guy. My friend and I were in Sears one time and he asked me, ‘Isn’t that your uncle?’”

So we return in a circular fashion to what caused my wife’s brother — father to the just mentioned nephew — to have the conversation he had with my wife in the first paragraph above.

Questions are launched in my mind every time I hear one of my double stories. Is there someone out there who looks that much like me? Or maybe a whole bunch of guys who are doubles? (I am thinking of the movie Multiplicity with Michael Keaton.) Clones?

Or despite my skepticism of anything supernatural perhaps during those times when I tend to zone out mentally is it because my astral body has departed and is off doing other activities? Like posing for underwear ads or Auto Zone posters, or working the night shift at Sears?

Applying Occam’s Razor to the phenomenon and finding a simpler solution, it could just be that someone generally resembles me, a bearded man in my age group, and because of tricks of the brain is mistaken for me. That would be my answer to so many sightings of a double over the years.

A couple of months ago I was in a restaurant with my wife and my other brother-in-law and his wife when I heard my name. One of the secretaries I worked with for years was sitting at the next table with her husband. I am happy to report that it was me who answered her and had a brief conversation, and not my mysterious dopplegänger.

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