Oh My God, It’s.. A Case of Mistaken Identity.

Doppelganger  1: a ghostly counterpart of a living person.  2: a double 3: an alter ego

For years now, since I was a teenager in fact, I have regularly been mistaken for other people. Not in the way that someone says ‘hi’, thinking you’re a pal but immediately realizes their mistake, says ‘oh sorry’, and walks away a bit embarrassed. More in the way that they’re absolutely convinced its you, or rather not me, and then blown away by the likeness. Sometimes its famous people, someone the mistaken has never met. Sometimes it’s a relative, friend or acquaintance but the reaction is always the same, either shock or incredulity.

This first time it happened, someone I knew fairly well told me I’d been really drunk the pervious evening and hadn’t even bothered to say hi to them. When I said I hadn’t been out last night, they simply didn’t belive me. They thought I was just being a dick, trying to be funny and failing because clearly it had been me. A few similar incidents occurred and I realized it must be one guy and I wondered if he was aware of me in the way that I was aware of him and also, how he felt about his looks.

    I finally spotted him after a year or so of second-hand sightings. He was on the opposite side of the street going in the other direction. He stopped & I stopped. We looked. Yeah, I had to admit he looked a lot like me, not like looking in the mirror but close enough so that a friend could be fooled at a distance. I felt a bit hostile to him naturally, this guy could not hold his liquor (but then neither could I really) and he had a stupid haircut, (admittedly quite similar to my own stupid haircut). I walked on and so did he. I felt that, of the two of us, I carried ‘our’ look better than he did. I hoped he’d managed to pick up a few fashion pointers. I never saw him again and nether did anyone else that I knew. So, strange, whatever. I thought no more of it and then a few years later I was in a smallish Tescos in Bispham, doing some shopping with my Mum. An explosion of sound in the frozen food aisle, “Oh my God! It’s him!” this lady was pointing at me, late middle age, specs, blue mac. I looked behind me, nothing but vinegar and baking soda. Now she had lunged across the tops of the freezers, with a package of Soreen clenched in one hand, she was trying to get closer. She loved me, I was the first TV star she had seen in the flesh. She wanted to touch me. Looking around at the few other shoppers on her side of the freezer barrier she yelled ecstatically, “It’s him! From Knott’s Landing!” And I found myself saying, “No no, it’s not him. I live around here, I’m not on TV. I’ve never seen Knott’s Landing. As if I might have been watched the show slavishly and was consciously modelling myself on the actor in question.” Hey but why exactly would a TV ‘star’ be contemplating the purchase of a Frey Bentos frozen lasagna in a Bispham Tescos? Well maybe in her mind he might be Les Dawson’s house guest. A friend of Ena Sharples perhaps, everyone knows she lives in Cleveleys. She was convinced, she didn’t believe me at first but in the end she moved off, understandably disappointed. “Why didn’t you give her your autograph?” said my Mum, “She’s have been none-the-wiser, it would’ve made her happy.”

    Skip another few years and I’m walking into a bar with a mate of mine, not a bar I’d ever been into before. Immediately I was hailed by a bunch of fairly tasty looking (handy with fists, good in a fight) guys. Bloody hell, it’s Soandso Soandso, how are yer mate? Great fight last month! You put Rodriquez away ay?! Have a drink.” This time I was a welterweight, not the champ yet but well on my way to the title. What was I doing in The Grapes? “No, no. It’s not me.” Silence. Umbridge. Oh! Not good enough for the likes of us are ya? They were annoyed but they knew I could fight, they’d seen me fight and just by the play of my shoulders and my alert, coiled readiness, they understood that they could only push me only so far without getting a slap. They could see I wanted to be left alone to have a quiet drink, but they gently persisted and finally I relented, “Go on then, I’ll have a pint of bitter.” But then I was in a mess because I knew absolutely nothing about boxing. How did I beat Rodriguez? They wanted to know. ‘I just kept swinging and exploited his weaknesses’. My chances against Kenton next month? “Well I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. That’s all I’m going to say,” PAUSE  “I’m taking him down lads! Alright fellas. Take care now. Cheers, so long.” That was strange.” said my friend when we got outside.”Yeah but I got a free pint out of it.” “You could have had more than one, could have had a few.”  “Yeah, but I have to fight Kenton next month, remember?”

  After that it started happening more often. When I was working in pubs, families would gape and tell me how much I looked like an uncle or a brother, they’d pull me out from behind the bar and have me join them for a group photo, me filling in for the missing relative or friend who’d be so amazed when he (thankfully, never a she) saw the snap. I’d get stopped all the time by strangers who just had to tell me how much I looked like… Then I was skateboarding down Broadway once and a small gaggle of heavyset, female tourists pointed at me and screamed, clutching at each other – they thought I was a famous comedian turned game show host.  It went on and on and in the end I just accepted it. It’s happening again, I’d say to myself and just go with it & try not to appear blaze` & spoil their fun and amazement. My theory is that I just have one of those faces, a certain hard type of face that isn’t all that common but when you do occasionally see it, it’s distinctive and readily identifiable, like the Sharpia.

 I could see a labrador bumping into a sherpai and at first glance saying, “Oh yes! I know you. Distinctive face.” But then a bit of a sniff around the bum and,  “Ah but no! Different sharpai!”

The last time it happened was a few months ago. “Oh my! You look just like _____. You know who I’m talking about right? You know who he is, right? The boxing manager? Wow you wouldn’t belive it.” ‘No, yeah. I believe it.’ Ay-yi-yi, too old and too fat to make it as a fake welterweight these days now its the guy managing the welterweight. As I age, so do my doubles of course but I’ve never been told I look like someone who died. When that starts happening, when they’re seeing ghosts, I’ll be able to add Terror to the reactions of shock and incredulity and my experience as a doppelgänger will be complete.

Next Week – Bikes in NYC

About dorian thornley

bookseller, dad, manhattan
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