Disclaimer: If it wasn’t for the fact that I had two classmates with me when this happened, I probably would’ve chosen not to tell you about it; it simply sounds too weird and unlikely.
Ever since I moved to New York, I’ve explored the city feeling comfortably invisible.
Walking down any street or avenue on Manhattan has had the same therapeutic effect on me as walking in the woods of Norway; I’m able dive into deep thoughts knowing that I won’t be interrupted by anyone I know. I can do whatever, be whoever and behave however.
One time I overestimated that luxury and wore my pyjamas to get pizza, and it did — to my big surprise — NOT go by unnoticed (READ MORE HERE), but other than that I’ve felt pretty anonymous.
A Norwegian Airport
In my hometown in Norway and on the Augustana Campus it’s a different story. There, I have extensive networks of friends and acquaintances, and I always meet somebody I know. It’s also not uncommon for people to walk over and say that they saw me on local TV or something.
That actually happened at the airport in Haugesund a couple weeks ago. My carry-on bag needed an extra scan and, and after the TSA officer had searched through my entire bag — tampons and all — he looked at me and realized that he recognized me. He introduced himself and we ended up having a nice conversation about filmmaking.
Anyway, in the metropolis of New York, those things never happen. Right?
Not to a Norwegian grad student, anyway.
Well, this is where the weird part of the story begins.
I was in a park on Manhattan with my two classmates, Kaili and Nay, when a guy passed us and said a loud “hello.” I instinctively looked at him and immediately regretted it because I assumed he wanted something from us.
(I’ve also told you before that guys never hit on me, so I quickly ruled out that option).
He looked rather surprised and said “I recognize you from somewhere.”
I looked at him and silently concluded I’d never ever seen him before.
He then says: “I know you!” … “Is your name Maria?”
I thought maybe I had lost my student ID-card in the park, and that he was trying to be charming by “knowing my name” before he’d give it back to me. But no, my card was in my hand.
Thoughts: **Maybe he is one of those mentalists making wild guesses about your identity and expecting you to pay him if he’s right? Maria is a common name, so … **
He stares at me again and smiles.
“Lav … Maria Lavelle, right?”
At that point my eyes almost rolled out of my head. Theories of hidden cameras, and my classmates paying a stranger to freak me out suddenly seemed reasonable.
Thoughts: **I don’t want to say that he’s right, because who knows what he’s up to, but if I say no, I’ll never know what this is all about.**
He then quickly added: “You’re a film director! … And you go to NYU.”
Very cold shivers ran down my spine. When he extended his arm towards me to introduce himself, I probably looked like a social illiterate — I didn’t know how to react.
He then said something about how nice it was to meet me, and how he knew me from the internet and how he had tried messaging me.
I was so shocked that I didn’t even ask where exactly he had tried sending these messages, but I knew for sure that I did not know him.
Kaili and Nay looked as surprised as I felt, and I stuttered something about it being nice meeting him too, before the three of us headed back to school, and he walked further into the park.
I’m sure this guy is a nice person; it just made me question what I’ve actually posted online, because even as much of a compliment it was, it was still unexpected and slightly uncomfortable.
After hours of thinking, I came to the conclusion that my online hygiene is good, despite the fact that I have 3.5 years worth of blog posts floating around the interweb.
‘Tis a small world, indeed.
In the lack of a recent photo, here’s one from the archives:
October 2016 — a month before I applied to NYU.