November 11th, 2018

Elle looks up

Aging messes with my facial recognition

Having partial face blindness can create some very weird situations and feelings for me. My mom posted a photo of herself on Facebook recently. I haven't seen her in person for 11 years. She posted a photo of herself a few months ago, too. The first time she did, I was struck by the weirdness of the fact that she had aged so much that before seeing that photo of her, she could have walked right past me on the street and I never would have recognized her.

Even weirder is that she's changed enough since that photo, that I had the same issue with the new photo. In just a few months, she again could have walked right up to me and I wouldn't have recognized her until she began to talk.

I haven't seen any recent photos of Dad yet. He never much cared to have his photo taken, a bit of an odd attitude for someone who loves taking photos so much that he could be a professional photographer if he chose to. But I'm betting I'd have the same problem with him. I'm betting he's changed enough that I wouldn't recognize him.

Of course, the thing is that once I knew those photos were of Mom, a few seconds later I had my mental image of her updated, more or less. In dreams, when I see her, she still looks like she did 11 years ago. And every time I see either of the updated photos of her, my brain doesn't immediately recognize her; it takes a few seconds still. It's like the part of my brain that holds the image of Mom doesn't quite accept it when the other part says "hey, that's not what she looks like anymore. She looks like this now."

This was cross-posted from
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Elle looks up

Scary moment


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New issue:

Occasionally over the years, I've experienced moments where my brain's navigation software goes buggy for a bit before rebooting. Most of the time, it's just a few seconds of getting turned around. I've never been great at north/south/east/west, I usually navigate by left/right/forward/back. Whenever I need to tell where north is, I have to figure out where I am in relation to something I know is in a northerly direction.

Anyway, so that's bad enough. But the last week I've experienced two extended bouts of nav system glitches. The first was on the 71, about a week ago. It was a crowded bus, and I had to stand up facing the back. I go that route all the time, but being in that position, when the bus turned at one spot that's usually familiar, I had about 30 seconds where I thought the bus had turned onto a different road, one that it would never turn down, and I was so confused I said aloud "what the fucking hell?" But then I realized what had happened and it was okay.

The real scary moment, though:

A few days ago, I was going from Hawthorne to the Hong Phat store on 82nd. To get there, I had to take the 75 north, get off at Burnside, and then take the line 20 east. I got off the 75 at the right place and went over to the right stop for the 20 without a problem. But then for an entire five minutes, the intersection I was at looked as unfamiliar to me as though I had never seen it before in my life. One second, I had no doubt where I was or where I needed to go, and the next second, the same visual image was completely unfamiliar to me. It didn't even look like Portland to me anymore; I didn't even recognize the city it was in. The image was exactly the same as before, but the usual "I know where I am" map hadn't loaded, so it was like being somewhere for the first time.

I knew, intellectually, that it was Portland. I knew, intellectually, that the streets were 39th and Burnside, and I knew that I was at the right stop, but only because I had known that information a moment ago and I trusted my previous perception, even if that information was now gone. But at the same time, my brain didn't recognize any of it, and wasn't at all sure which way was which or that I was even at the right stop or the right bus line. Hell, I couldn't even tell which way the hills were going at the time; I remember looking at the incline on 39th going up from Burnside and being certain that no such incline existed on 39th in that spot. Truth be told, I'm *still* pretty sure there's not supposed to be a hill there, but given that I recognized the place again once the bus stopped for me, I have to assume I just forgot about that hill somehow.

It's like in a computer where the recognition data (maps, images, etc) for the area had been in RAM one moment, then something glitched and the files blinked out of existence in the RAM, and my brain spent the next five minutes trying to find the files on the hard drive to reload them, all the while reading a normally familiar place as somewhere entirely new.

So yeah, that was scary, in an unnerving sort of way. Getting turned around for 30 seconds to a minute is one thing, but spending five whole minutes trying to figure out why a place that's usually familiar suddenly looks like I've never seen it before in my life was very unnerving.

This was cross-posted from
You can comment either here or there.