Though I'm not very good with names, I remember faces fairly well. For some reason when I meet people I remember their facial features and even the conversations we had about their interests, and then when I see them again, they are usually surprised by how much I remember. I guess it's part of being a writer - listening and making observations.
This became especially handy when I went to the U of MN for my undergraduate program. I'd go to lecture hall classes with hundreds of people and I could at least identify the ones around me if I ran into them later on campus or later in life when I was working in retail software sales. Of course, it was much easier with smaller classes. "Oh, yes, you went to the U and majored in music," I said to one fellow who came in to buy a word processing program. He looked at me, amazed, and then I told him that I had remembered him from one of my composition classes.
There is also a variation on this idea of recognizing people. Back in high school I was in a summer theatre program with several hundred others from 7th-12th grade. I only knew one or two people going into the session, but as I met others, I realized they looked like or reminded me of other people. Maybe one girl was a shorter version of someone in my French class or someone else had jawline and mannerisms of a cousin I had just seen at a graduation party. I began to wonder if, after you meet a certain number of people, certain features start repeating themselves.
Then, of course, as you get older and have a myriad of relationships, memories and experiences in your brain, you start making mistakes. "Hey, aren't you Diane from my dance class?" I'd ask the woman at the grocery store. "No, my name is Lisa." "Sorry, you look like someone I know," I'd say.
Or, once I waved at a guy in a car at a stop light only to realize when he turned his head, he no longer looked like the guy I knew from church. Arrrrgggg!
Which brings me to my more recent face-identifying experience which has proven to be successful. Back in November, I went to a write-in for Nanowrimo and met a bunch of people that I knew I'd probably not see again after the month was over. A few months later I was visiting a coffee shop and I saw a woman that I thought had been at the write-in but I wasn't sure if it was her or someone who looked like her. Fortunately, we had traded e-mails before Nano was over and it actually turned out to be her. "You should have said hi," she told me. Ha! I didn't want to explain to her about all my embarrassing doppelganger experiences.
Anyway, long story short, I gained a new friend, and when that happens, living in the big Twin Cities becomes more and more like living in a small town.