Between the ages of eight and twelve the person who has never been seen in the same room as me lived in Washington, D.C. His family moved back to Charleston, South Carolina at that point, so he had to start seventh grade in a new school with people he didn’t know. Apparently he did in fact know a few of them, from when he’d lived there before, but he’d been seven, and he didn’t remember any of them by now. So it was with great apprehension that he sat down for homeroom in the fourth desk from the back in the far right row. He knew that his comportment over the next few weeks would determine his classmates’ opinion of him and that this opinion would be immutable for all time.
A girl leaned back from the row on his left, two seats from the front, and said, “What’s your name?”
“Joel,” he said.
“Oh, like Billy Joe?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered, “but with an L.”
Whereupon he realized instantly that what she had actually said was “Oh, like Billy Joel?” and that he had effectively ruined any chance he might have had at a social life for the next six years.
He still wonders, I’m told, what his life would be like now if he’d just been listening a little more carefully.