Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Second thoughts on doppelgangers

After reading this story about doppelgangers it reminded me of some uncanny incidents of my own. One April daybreak, a dozen years ago, while delivering newspapers in Gimlet, Idaho I saw a mountain lion wisp by the Big Wood River Bridge. This got me thinking about the small children, who would soon be waiting at bus stops and how they could be easy prey, for the fat cat. So I rang the Sheriff’s department. The dispatcher replied, “Oh, we get calls about Mountain Lions all the time." So I asked, “Then what about the kids, who will soon be playing at the bus stops? This momentarily stopped the dispatcher in her tracks, but it didn’t sound as if they would to send an officer to investigate the threat.

This made my blood boil, because I sensed that the danger was real. While wrapping up the news route, I thought of an acquaintance that lived in one of Gimlet's few ramshackle houses –she was a lot like me. Her kids would soon be scrambling around, waiting for the bus. For several minutes, I strongly considered tapping her door, as a precaution, even though it was only 5 am. Although I didn’t knock on her door, I focused deep within, questioning if I had made the right decision and hoped hard that her precious kids would arrive to school unharmed.

Two days later, I crossed my friend’s path, while I was lurking around a furniture shop. She approached me, remarking in a thankful tone, “Somebody tapped on my door the other morning to warn me about a Cougar. Was it you?” The startled look on my face must have made her think that I was I was lying, when I claimed, ‘It was not I.” -Although then I started wishing that I had been the one to awaken my friend, the sleeping beauty.

I’ve reflected about this incident now and again. In the seven years that I served morning papers in the Gimlet area, I seldom I saw anybody jogging about. Unless they worked out in such a stealthy manner that I did not notice them. The question remains, twelve years later: Who or what tapped on her door that early April morn?


This extract from “Jay’s” post is a prime example of a good Doppelganger mystery:

“Then after a while I was talking with my friends and I said, "Remember how you kept saying you had seen me in Ellsworth but I wasn't there, several times over the past year or so?" And my friend said, "What are you talking about?" I said, "You know, you kept saying you saw a guy who looked just like me in Ellsworth, in stores and stuff, and he always looked exactly like me down to the last detail." She said, "No, I don't remember seeing anyone who looked like you." I said, "What are you saying, don't you remember how you kept seeing me in Ellsworth and waving at me, and I always ignored you or acted like I didn't notice you at all?" And my friend said, "No, I never said that. I didn't see anyone who looked like you in Ellsworth."”


Shortly after I moved to Idaho, I experienced several cases of mistaken identity. Sometimes people would call me by somebody else’s name or say that there was another person in town who bore a striking resemblance to me. Sometimes I was mistaken for a utility worker, a ski patrolman, or another delivery person. This happened enough times that it began to feel eerie. The rational explanation, I thought, was that in Rocky Mountain ski resorts, there are probably numerous tall looking white males of European ancestry, bundled up in heavy clothing, who look much the same.

Nonetheless, the mistaken identities continued at a rate high enough, to tweak my curiosity. Never had I actually met one of the people that supposedly looked like me, although once somebody pointed “him” out at a medium distance as we drove by a lumber store. In my brief glimpse, I could see he was wearing construction overalls and yes he had a remarkably similar build to mine, but at the time, we were in too much of a hurry to investigate this double in depth.

Finally, as these circumstances continued, I vowed that whenever someone mentioned similar resemblances, I would instantly jot down all the peculiars to get to the bottom of this mystery. I would talk to whoever this person is, and compare our backgrounds and tendencies, etc. Indeed, three more times this was brought up, and though I fastidiously jotted down the known details, it was never enough information to go on. I began to wonder how my doppelganger could be so perpetually elusive.

Then one day, I was sitting in Hailey’s old hospital emergency room, to get some X-rays for a minor injury. A middle-aged woman waiting in the reception area recognized me with such warm aplomb, that I thought I should know her from around town. Not instantly recognizing her, I didn’t want to be rude, but figured that once we started conversing, I would be able to piece together from where I knew her. During the course of our long wait, she mentioned several people whose names sounded familiar and a couple of incidents around the valley that I might have known about. It was probably five minutes into our conversation that I realized that she must have been mistaking me for someone else. At this point she asked, “Remember that boat trip we all went on, down to C.J Strike Reservoir? You and Ted and Mary and me, and you said all those funny things?” Well, it sure sounded like me, but I had to deny remembering anything about this. She took a very close up inspection of me while saying, “You don’t remember that?” I simply repeated, “No, I cannot remember that.” Then, I will never forget the piercing look she gave me -as just then I was being called into the hospital examination room, which is well known for being a portal to the unknown. Her look held the thought that I was certainly the same person who traveled with her family on their boat and I must have been either drunk or insane not to remember…

1 comment:

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Paging Jim. Toumai has questions and observations! Nice post, by the way. Love the idea of doppelgangers.