I visited Bogota, Colombia, last week. When I was introduced to my translator, he told me how good it was to see me again.
I complimented him on having a great memory (my last visit to Colombia was almost a decade ago) and made the usual sorts of excuses I make when I can’t remember someone I should clearly remember. (By now I have a great deal of practice with this particular line of conversation.)
A few hours later, he says to me, “You got a haircut since the last time I saw you.” Of course I had gotten a haircut in the intervening ten years, but it seemed a strange thing to say.
He went on: “Your hair used to be … bushier.”
No doubt my hair is a little thinner than it was ten years ago, but I hadn’t realized the situation was that bad. So I pursued the issue further, telling him I thought it was remarkable he remembered what my hair looked like ten years ago.
“No, not ten years ago,” he said. “On your visit a few years ago.”
Now I realized he was mistaking me for someone else. Obviously, it could be any one of a million people, but I figured out who he was confusing me with on my very first guess.
“You aren’t confusing me with Malcolm Gladwell, are you?”
His response: “Oh, yes, of course. I was thinking of Malcolm Gladwell! I got confused and thought you were the same person!”
This is not the first time that Malcolm and I have been viewed as interchangeable.
And given Malcolm’s many talents, hopefully not the last.