Who is that masked man? That was a question that got asked towards the end of every Lone Ranger television show. It’s no news that it has new relevance these days.
People come up to me and expect instant recognition, and I ponder for five minutes trying to place the eyes and hair with someone I know. Voice is, of course, no aid; it’s muffled. It’s uncomfortable having an intimate conversation with someone you should know but don’t recognize. How does this stranger know such details of my life? Equally embarrassing is faking the knowledge of details of their life that you should know. You think you have it figured out, but don’t dare ask, “How is the divorce going?” for fear of being wrong.
Perhaps we all should spring for masks with our photos printed on them. You peer closely and see that it’s Carl, ” so sorry about the divorce Carl, did you get alimony?” It would be a bargain at any price to cut out the moments of piecing together clues – Carl, John, Mike, Claire? It might even be considered medicine. The medicinal value of friends not being alienated and feeling that your cognitive abilities have slipped into the senile would be huge.
This could be a great business opportunity. Is anyone interested in a sure-fire investment?
The pair of faces beamed at me from the monitor. Much older than the last time I had seen them. Still confident, projecting competence and concern; a total lie and fabrication. I hadn’t gone to the group reunion. I was “enjoying” it vicariously the next day on FaceBook while teaching a nautical carving class about six hundred miles away.
In the group shot, I noticed just a few of the technicians and unlicensed staff. It was mostly the licensed and professional staff who showed up for the reunion. Many of the faces were the aged reflections of people I admired and had loved as colleagues. And that was the issue. There was a rather distinct difference between the colleagues and the non-.
We all know that people wear masks to conceal or modify the image they project. It’s something we learn early on. We get told that “keep that face on, and it’ll freeze that way forever.” Or that we should conceal our real feelings about aunt Evelyn and smile, smile, smile. We eventually learn to hold the little domino mask in place automatically. We drop it only when we feel comfortable, are alone, or genuinely don’t care what the other person thinks or feels about us.
The pair in the photo had stood in front of my desk regularly with no mask. Their anger on full display because I was so lowly in the organizational hierarchy that no one would ever believe that the concerned, competent, and professional duo would ever strike out in such a brutal fashion.
It seemed to me that the photo was a sort of “Portrait of Dorian Gray.” Behind the eyes rested moral turpitude un-glimpsed by most and that you genuinely prefer not to encounter.