By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer
I attend the closing on the sale of my mother’s house as executor of her estate. I sit on one side of a long table in the conference room of the buyer’s lawyer. My realtor sits on my left, my lawyer on my right. The buyer and his realtor will not attend, only his lawyer. We wait for the lawyer to appear.
I have never met this man.
He bustles in. He greets my realtor and my lawyer, who know him. I expect that next he will introduce himself to me.
So I expect (Plan B) that my realtor or my lawyer – I’ve been working with both of these women for months – will introduce us.
My instinct (Plan C) is to stand up, extend my hand across the table, and say, “Hi. I’m Janice. The seller.”
But by now this has become an interesting social experiment. I decide to say nothing, to watch and see what happens.
Attorney Stranger grabs papers off the table and leaves to get copies. My realtor and my lawyer converse about realty topics with no attempt to engage me in the conversation or even to acknowledge my existence. I could be a window screen, obscuring their vision of each other slightly but not enough to hamper their chat.
Attorney Stranger returns and tosses papers across the table for me to sign. My lawyer and realtor show me where to sign. I sign. I collect my check. I leave.
My realtor and lawyer know this is a Very Big Day for me. For months, I’ve worked with them and lots of others to make this sale happen. Yet now I have become invisible. My only importance is that my signing hand couldn’t attend without me.
I think of other times when I’ve been invisible.
I’m greeted warmly on the sidewalk by an acquaintance. As we chat, another acquaintance of hers, apparently more important than I am, walks up. That person is greeted even more warmly. They chat. I am forgotten. I drift away.
Or I’m standing with a few acquaintances when another person joins us. She and I know each other, and she also knows another member of the group. I see her first and greet her. But the other person ranks higher in her social hierarchy. She chats with him, leaves. I say good-bye. She doesn’t.
I’m reminded of occasional news items about nearly invisible women. In this hypothetical, though not unrealistic, example, an elderly woman, seen around town but of no particular prominence, dies, leaving $15 million. To her dog. People wonder why they didn’t know more about her.
Not that I have $15 million. Or a dog. But you know what I’m getting at. Wrapped up in our own concerns, we allow each other to become invisible.
I wonder how often I’ve allowed someone to feel invisible. I try to remember to introduce acquaintances to each other. I try not to exclude a nearby person I don’t know well from a conversation with a friend. I wonder how many times I’ve failed.
We can drift through each other’s lives like ghosts.
For several summers, when I did afternoon errands in our little downtown, I saw an elderly lady doing the same, always alone. She always wore a neatly ironed dress and a prim hat. I once saw her enter a small, older house at the edge of town, apparently her home. We would pass, say hello, drift apart.
We were ghosts to each other, nearly invisible, except that I remember her. Remembering seems better than not remembering, but it doesn’t seem like enough.