Brushing up on camouflage

By Bob Huber

This is a good day to brush up on your natural camouflage, otherwise called selective coloration by guys in white jackets who are picky about descriptive terms. My own invisibility is a case in point, but also a nuisance for my wife Marilyn who insists I could be arrested if I rely on it.
You see, I’m convinced that at times I have total anonymity or camouflage, whichever the case may be, and that no one would ever guess what happened if I walked nonchalantly into a bank and out the back door with gobs of money stuffed in my pockets.
I was in grade school when I first realized my teachers never saw me, especially Miss Hogstetter, sovereign of the fourth grade. One day I was suddenly in spasms when I had to go to the bathroom, posthaste, but Miss Hogstetter failed to see me even though I waved my arms and threw myself into what later came to be celebrated as the Crotch Boogie-woogie.
Finally, in desperation, I dashed from the room without permission, but Miss Hogstetter overlooked it. A few minutes later when I returned to the classroom and crept shame-facedly back to my desk, Miss Hogstetter still didn’t see me. I tell you, it was mind-boggling.
Armed with this new knowledge, I began experimenting. For several days I stood up in class, marched dramatically to Miss Hogstetter’s desk, and struck out my tongue. She didn’t notice. She didn’t raise a single eyebrow. When I returned to my desk, I even saw dust on the seat. Now that was camouflage.
As the years went on, my invisibility became even more apparent — or not, depending on your point of view. One time in high school our football team was on the 1-yard line, down by a point with less than a minute to play, held in check by a determined defensive line. Both of our pass receivers had been knocked bow-legged, and coach scanned the bench, looking for me, his perennial substitute.
Of course he didn’t see me. I was seated less than three feet away, but I had spent the first half of the game as the play spike for the linesmen and had numbers on my head instead of a helmet. Finally in desperation coach yelled, “Where’s that elbow, Huber?”
The upshot was I stepped forward, and coach slapped my shoulder pads, and said, “Get in there, Huber. Why do you have numbers painted on your head? Anyway, have Willy flip you a pass over the center.”
Well, you know what happened. The play developed as planned, and I dashed beyond the goal line and turned in the clear, because no one on the opposing team saw me. The problem was that our quarterback didn’t see me either, and he was swamped by an opposing lineman.
“Where did you go?” he asked later as they tried to get his nose off his forehead. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was standing in the open beyond the goal line. It was my natural camouflage working whether I wanted it to or not.
I could cite dozens of other instances, but I won’t labor the point. My camouflage, however, reached its zenith last winter when I was asked to speak to a local civic club.
It was a breakfast club in an adjoining town — I won’t name names, because they know who they are — but I drove 20 freezing miles at 6 am. to get there on time. But when I walked into the meeting place breaking ice cycles from my chin and asked a waitress where the club was holding forth, she just stared right through me.
“They invited me to speak to them here this morning,” I said.
Without a word, she shrugged and walked away, and a feeling of déjà vu swept over me. Obviously she hadn’t seen me.
I fought off the feeling as I stumbled back to my car. Maybe I had the wrong town. Maybe the wrong restaurant. Maybe the wrong civic club.
Then it struck me. “My God,” I cried, “it must be catching. An entire civic club has just disappeared.”
Needless to say, my wife Marilyn poo-pooed the notion. She said, “Some banker in that club probably heard you boast about pulling a Willy Suttin and called the whole thing off.”
“That’s probably true,” I said. “But at least you can see me, can’t you, Marilyn? Marilyn? MARILYN!”

Bob Huber is a retired journalist.