John the barista knows me pretty darn well.
“Tall mocha with a double shot of raspberry,” he says every time I approach the counter at my local Starbucks. It never fails to impress me that he remembers my favorite drink, although I’ve been in and out of there enough to have exchanged pleasantries with John hundreds of times.
So when I saw him waiting in my daughter’s school pick-up line a few weeks ago, I smiled in surprise and gave him a little wave.
John stared back at me blankly and kept driving.
And that’s how it’s been ever since. Each time we pass each other in the pick-up line, I smile hopefully, looking more and more each time like a puppy who wonders if he’ll finally get that pat on the head. But whenever John’s eyes meet mine, he quickly looks away with an expression better suited for Mt. Rushmore.
Clearly, I’m on John’s Do Not Acknowledge list — outside of the coffee shop, anyway. I wonder if things would be different if he could carry that Starbucks tip jar around with him wherever he goes.
Not that I’m bitter.
I find myself trying to decipher the Do Not Acknowledge lists of those I know and used to know on a fairly regular basis. Not long ago, I was added to the D.N.A. list of some neighbors who moved to a pricier subdivision a mile down the road. I learned about it after they began to no longer recognize me when we saw each other around town.
And you can always tell a teacher’s true feelings about your child by whether she puts you on her D.N.A. list once the school year has ended. We tried everything to appease a certain difficult teacher one year, bringing her fruit baskets, donating to her causes and showering her with praise. She was civil enough when I’d see her out and about, but the real truth came out two days into summer vacation, after I ran into her at Kroger. As usual, I paused, smiled and said, “Hel-….”
The dame kept right on going. My mouth dropped open as I realized what had just happened.
Do. Not. Acknowledge.
“Freaking biddy,” I muttered under my breath, remembering the Snowbird Cookie Jar I went to great pains to deliver to her desk after she mentioned she was trying to win one on Channel 4. Briefly, I thought of marching into her classroom and demanding it back once school resumed. But I didn’t have the counter space for the thing, anyway.
For a while, I morosely thought the problem was me. Maybe I was just one of those people who others couldn’t stand to be around, and all the smiling and carpooling and volunteering-for-jobs-nobody-else-wanted couldn’t make up for it.
But a few weeks ago, I spent time with a friend who admitted that the same thing happened to her all the time. I talked to a few more people and realized that not only are we all on someone’s Do Not Acknowledge list, but we also all have D.N.A. lists of our own. I can think of a few people on mine right now, if I’m honest.
I’ve learned over the years, though, that it’s best to keep your Do Not Acknowledge list short and sweet if you live in Nashville. This city is small enough that people who leave your immediate circle are likely to cycle right back into it without warning.
In particular, I’m thinking of Edna Snoutgrood*, the woman who coached my stepdaughter in gymnastics for five straight years. Despite the parties we attended at her house and the many, many chats we had on everything from coupons to local restaurants, as soon as my stepdaughter left her studio, my name went straight onto Mrs. Snoutgrood’s Do Not Acknowledge list.
I didn’t find this out until Mrs. Snoutgrood began answering phones at my pediatrician’s office a year or so later. Each time I came in with my kids, she’d act as if she had no idea who we were, even correcting me once when I called her “Edna.”
“I prefer Mrs. Snoutgrood!” she said haughtily.
“Oh!” I said, wrinkling my brow in confusion. “Er. Sorry!”
Fast forward to a few months ago, when I showed up at a bookstore’s storytime with my son, only to find that Mrs. Snoutgrood had a new job heading up the event. There, the cloud of amnesia mysteriously lifted and Mrs. Snoutgrood knew me once again. She even asked about my children by name.
Of course, when that happened, I did what I’d hope any of you would have done.
“I’m sorry,” I said politely. “Do I know you?”
I think I’m finally figuring out this Do Not Acknowledge thing.
*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Read more at suburbanturmoil.com