Monday, July 13, 2015

A case of mistaken identity - my own

I’m helping with check in for a huge field trip.  100 high school students are all gathered in the school gym with backpacks, luggage, and pillows, getting ready to head to another state on a long-planned trip for a contest.  It's 7 am, and everyone is tired, but the kids are excited to be going.  Parents are there to see their kids off because I'm sure they can't even believe it's real - a whole week without my obnoxious teenager!  They probably all went to a bar after they dropped the kids off.

I’m not going on the field trip, but as a teacher who had a part in the trip planning, I have to help expedite the leaving process.  Each teacher handles checking in the students in his or her class.  Students must drag their stuff over to my table, which is marked with a big sign that says "MARLOWE."  Check in involves making sure each student has the required luggage, isn't toting around medication to share and has given the correct parent contact information.  Students are then given a bus assignment and a chaperone teacher to oversee them. 

All of my students are on the list, and I'm going through it, crossing out the last minute cancellations and no shows, checking off each student who arrived and making sure he or she is with the right chaperone.  I have 15 students on my list, most of who have already arrived and gone through the process.  There's a lull while I wait for the bus loading to begin.

A man comes up to my table.  "Bryan Hughes," he announces cheerfully.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Hughes?" I ask pleasantly.

"No, I'm looking for the bus assignment for Bryan Hughes," he says.

"I'm sorry, he's not one of my students," I say. 

"Oh yes, he's in your class."

Pause.  "No sir, he isn't."

"Can you check?"

I know who my students are, and I just said he’s not one of them.  Why would checking change this?

I smile with patience I don’t feel.  "Sir, he's not one of my students, so he's not on my list, see?"  I hold up my list to him.  He peruses it, blinking a lot.  I try to be helpful.  "Who's his teacher?"


I point to my sign.  "Unfortunately, that's not me."

He looks at the sign.  "This isn't Ms. Chatwick's station?"

I guess “MARLOWE” wasn’t the giveaway I thought it would be.  "No, sir, her station is over there."  I point to where Mrs. Chatwick, a tall black woman, is standing, and he begins wandering over.  I assume he’s wondering why I’m not tall or black like I should be. 

Does this only happen to me, or does it happen to you too?  And why does it happen?  Is there something about me that automatically makes someone distrust my answers?   Were my glasses askew, or were there leaves or sticks in my hair? 

I have this constantly happen when people call me and have a wrong number. 

"Is so and so there?" the caller asks.

"I'm sorry, you must have a wrong number," I reply.

"So Kevin isn't there?" 

"I don't know a Kevin.  You must have the wrong number."

"Is this 806-555-1212?"

I don't even care if he wants to double check the number if the caller would do it first.  But why do I have to justify myself to this stranger when he called me?

If anyone knows of some psychological testing that can give a reason, I'd love to hear it.  Or maybe I’m the one who needs the test.