Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

I find it comfortable to be in the presence of strangers.  I enjoy the opportunity to meet new people. I thrive on the opportunity to learn about different places and different cultures.  I rarely find myself lonely when in company of people whom I am not familiar with.  Generally, it is easy for me to start a conversation with nearly anyone.  Rarely do I feel lonely.  The airport though is one place I most often feel the loneliest.

Even at the airport I feel the ease of conversing with people.  I am captured by stories of where an individual may be going or what adventures await them at their destination.  The first part of the trip is always easy, relaxing.  These are strangers all around me.  It is the layover and the second plane that usually causes stress to develop.  Take for instance a recent experience that I had flying from the west coast to Minneapolis.  After that, I boarded a small plane to take me to my final destination in a smaller community.

During the first flight, the lady on my left was rather chatty and very kind.  She said that she would be on the next flight I was taking along with her sister.  The man to my right was a business man dressed nicely and cautiously quiet.  I enjoyed sharing conversation and quietness with these two individuals for the four-hour ride.  Upon departing the plane, I knew I would see them both again soon.  The man was expecting to board a plane only a few gates from mine.  Due to a thunderstorm, all flights were delayed.  I looked forward to finishing a conversation I was having with each of these individuals.

That anticipation to finish our friendly chat ended abruptly when I found an empty seat at the gate.  I was lost in the sea of new faces.  All of these individuals looked familiar, but no one looked like a person I had spent extended time talking to only moments before.  In my haste of the flying rituals, I had not taken time to observe what the lady was wearing.  There were several women sitting around in groups of two or more, so I could not effectively determine who might be sisters.  The man was wearing khaki pants and a blue button-up shirt but so were a few other men.  My traveling companions were now lost; I was once again surrounded by complete strangers.

However, being surrounded by complete strangers is different when you know you are familiar with people in the room.  Due to conversations minutes before, you know they expect you to remember them.  With prosopagnosia, seeking out faces of people I have just spent hours talking to becomes extremely difficult.  Once we have stepped apart from each other, I cannot recognize these individuals.  Nor can I meet a fellow passenger and say, “When we step off the plane say hello again because I suffer face blindness.”  No, this would not be understood in a general conversation.  Yet, it is still intimidating sitting near someone and beginning a conversation without knowing if you have just talked to that individual for hours.

“Where are you heading to?”  This question can be answered with a look of concern and dread if it is the same lady that just spent two hours telling you about the anniversary celebration she has been so eagerly anticipating for this trip.  “How are you?” This is a difficult question in case this was the man who just explained to you how he suffered a mild case of food poisoning when he was at his last meeting in Tokyo.

Yes, traveling is a fun activity I wish I could experience more regularly.  However, with prosopagnosia the flight alone can create difficulties and loneliness.  For, as I realize my enjoyment of turning strangers into friends, I realize it also can make me feel more lost and alone than ever.  Maybe I will be lucky enough to meet you on the plane.  Maybe you will be kind enough to share your stories with me.  Please, if we are lucky enough to sit together, please do not be offended if I ask you where you are headed twice in one trip.


Comments on: "Flying with Loneliness and Face Blindness" (10)

  1. I really appreciate how you point out the complexities of your face blindness in everyday situations. So much of what you experience as issues (or “inconveniences”) are things I don’t give any thought to. I appreciate your perspective and POV; you certainly do have a take on the world tha most of us simply don’t have.

    On a completely different note, what brought you to/thru MN? If you ever have a stay here, I’d love to say “hi”. I’d even tell you what I was wearing, so you could find me easily, 🙂

    • Stef,

      My family is mainly in Iowa, so most of our plane trips take us through O’Hare or MSP. I have a great friend who lives in Minneapolis, but I rarely get up to see her. When I do, I will be sure to let you know!

      If I make it over your way, just make sure that you wear something that is not common. I don’t care for people telling me they are in a red top and blue jeans only to find so are two dozen other people!! 🙂


  2. Reblogged this on FindingStrengthToStandAgain's Blog and commented:

    I am taking a short vacation from blogging as we enjoy the end to our summer break.

    Thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoy some various posts. I will look forward to catching up with you upon my return.

  3. “Nor can I meet a fellow passenger and say, “When we step off the plane say hello again because I suffer face blindness.””
    If you’re enjoying a conversation with someone who says s/he’s continuing on so you’ll meet on the second plane —- why can’t you say exactly that? They’d probably be really interested, and look forward to meeting you again.
    Hey, have a great time visiting “Home”!

    • It usually takes awhile to explain the extent of this. Most people think it is just a random comment in passing.

      When I prepare to leave a short flight with a dog in his carrier and two young children, I generally am rushed and thinking more about the connection flights. Thankfully this time all flights went smoothly! I love it when this happens. 🙂

  4. I feel your pain. I have trouble, especially since the stroke, with names and, often, backgrounds. People do not usually understand; you are correct. However, I think you need to find a way to let people know early on in a new conversation about your problem with facial recognition. I know that I would want to know so that, if I saw you a bit later, I would come up and introduce myself. Anyone who would, actually, take offense at you telling them, in my opinion, isn’t worth finding again, anyway.

    • I completely agree with you. Most people are not rude when I explain this. Rather, they take it as I am not great with faces. People can generally relate to this assumption. What is hard to comprehend, while in passing, is my complete lack of ability to recognize faces.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave your comment. If we ever have the chance to meet, I will be happy to provide you my with name every time we meet.


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