We have all been there. Walking down the street and seeing that familiar face but for the life of you, you just can't remember where you met or interacted with the person. Inevitably the other person has the same reaction as they are sure they know you too but they too ponder from where. Like a computer program you scroll down the menu trying to find the files that match. Without thinking you list of your asociations, was it primary or secondary school, choir, band, athletics, church? You rapidly go down your list hoping to find a match. You get that shake of the head with all the misses until that magical moment where it clicks.
Yesterday I had the first of those kind of meetings since becoming an atheist. I ran into a lady who looked , so so familiar; as I went through the scrolling I said to her, " Were you at that a.... ?" I stopped mid sentence as I caught myself. I was going to ask her if we had met at an atheist lecture about two months ago. Suddenly, I realised I had to change from the regular program. Suppose it was not there that we met, she could easily take offence to that question. She realised my hesitancy and looked a bit bewildered. I then rephrased the question and simply asked if she had been to any lectures recently at the university; keeping it nice and generic. She replied in the negative and unfortunately we never made that connection, but I was still relieved to leave the conversation without any awkwardness.
I realised from this interaction that I really have to watch myself now. I never thought that I could upset a person by just asking them if there are part of a group I belong to, but that is reality. How often I have heard people say they were "accused" of being an atheist, as if it was a jailable offence. I remember all too well that Elizabeth Dole advertisement leading up to the US election. On the other hand, no one seems to be offended if you thought you knew them from church,school or rotary club.
I started to reflect on how it must be for the homosexual community. Imagine scrolling through the possible associations and finally blurting in exasperation,
"Are you gay ?" I suppose in some utopian world the answer along with a nonchalant shrug could be," No I'm sorry, I think you must be mistaking me for someone else." But we all know, especially in the Caribbean, this ain't happening. A quick jump backwards and two eyes opening in horror would tell you all you need to know, even if you had really hit the nail on the head. Of course it's all hypothetical since that question quite simply would never be posed.
But why should the question; Are you gay? or Are you an atheist? be any different from, are you an anglican? did you go to Prince Charles Primary School? or are you a microbiologist? It is strange to have an association as tainted as being a member of the Klu Klux clan, just by being part of a segment of society that wants their beliefs to actually make sense. Go figure!
Well, that is the world we live in. For the time being it means that I have to make a special effort to remember names and faces when I go to atheist meetings. If not I could easily end up unknowingly walking pass a partner in non belief with a mere smile and a nod ,as he asks himself that age old question. "Now where do I know you from?"