Sometimes you hear something as a kid that sets a barbed hook in your mind, like when my mom told me she once fell asleep wearing hard contacts back in the 80s, and they had to use a suction device to free it from her eyeballs. As a kid, I heard this and pictured the eye moving in the socket at unnatural angles with each tug and each time I've unpacked that memory in front of people, inevitable questions have lead to details morphing as the story becomes more and more a crystal clear fabrication. The story morphed somewhere in art school to a lightly droning vacuum sucking the lens gingerly away from her eye, but after watching this video I'm pretty sure that made up story was me turning a molehill into a mountain.
After scrolling down too far into Freight Train's TikTok page, I googled suction and eye and found that those eye thingies are commonly called a "Contact Lens Applicator", and instantly I knew my made up "this really happened to my mom" story was wrong like Radiolab co-founder Robert Krulwich stealing his wife Tamar Lewin's story about waving back to Jackie Kennedy Onassis, after mistaking Jackie O's cab hailing waive for a greeting on This American Life.
The first thing you need to know about this story is that I am totally celebrity blind, just completely. So much of my life with Robert has been wandering around New York and him saying, oh, look you were sitting next to Candice Bergen. And I'd say, no I wasn't. And he's always right, and I'm always wrong. So I'm really pleased one day. I'm out all by myself in the world, and I'm on the East Side, and I'm walking down Madison Avenue. And I see someone, and I know– me the celebrity blind person– I know absolutely for sure, for sure that this person across the street is Jackie Kennedy. And not only is it Jackie Kennedy, but she's looking at me. And she has her hand up when I smile at her.
OK, let's stop that right there. Before she gets too far, here is Robert's interpretation of the same event. Their interviews were recorded separately.
It's a beautiful, beautiful fall day. And we're walking down Fifth Avenue. The Central Park is on our right. I just picture this very, very precisely. And we're walking along, and Tamar is distracted. She looks over her left shoulder, and she goes [SOUND OF SURPISE]. There I see, across the street, Jackie Onassis, President Kennedy's wife, and she's waving, very modestly, at Tamar.
You've probably noticed the key differences already. He says that they're together. She says that she's alone. He says, next to Central Park. She says, Madison Avenue. But once she spots Jackie O, the stories fly in tandem for a while.
She has her hand when I smile at her, and she waves at me.
And I thought, oh my God. I didn't know that they knew each other, whatever. And I'm looking at Tamar, and Tamar's looking at Jackie Onassis.
And I'm so excited. And I wave back sort of tentatively, but beaming, beaming, beaming. And she waves back more so. I then wave back with my whole, whole heart.
So I'm just staring at this in wonder. And then Jackie raises her hand even more excitedly and starts sort of moving it back and forth and back and forth.
And I'm waving, and beaming, and I'm so happy and proud.
And in that moment, a cab pulls up alongside Jackie Onassis. And what Jackie Onassis had actually been doing is just waving for a cab. And my wife, by mistake, somehow thought that Jackie was waving at her and is feeling really stupid.
And so I'm really, pretty humiliated.
Robert Krulwich:Ep 226: Reruns – Act Two Marriage As Rerun | This American Life
As am I.
Oh well, it was a cooler story when hard contacts were still around and someone would inevitably yell out about how uncomfortable the damned things were.