For a moment I was ready to turn around and head back to the Fred Meyer photo counter with an angry demand that I be given my digital camera printouts, not the ones belonging to some old geezer who seemed vaguely familiar, but clearly wasn't me.
Except, after the moment passed and my mind jumped back to aging reality, I realized that he was. Me.
This is a new experience – looking at a photo of myself, or seeing myself in a mirror, and thinking, "Who the hell is that?"
Previously, I've thought "That doesn't look like me." But now it takes me a while to even recognize myself as me, the disconnect between how I believe I look and how I really look being so great.
I suppose this is normal.
Eventually, as the years go by, we pass over a mental image dividing line of some sort. On one side is the psychological person who has barely aged a bit; on the other side is the physical person who looks disturbingly old.
Like most men, and more than a few women, in many respects I'm still 18. I'm still immature and irresponsible. I still look at girls a third my age with lust in my heart (and other bodily organs).
The only difference from my teenage years is, I'm 59. Aside from that minor detail, and a bunch of lifetime experiences, most of the time I feel as young inside my head in 2008 as I did back in 1968.
That's what makes looking at photos of myself such a disconcerting experience. I try to avoid looking in mirrors, but when I want to rekindle a memory of my granddaughter's visit, and I'm in a photo with her, it's tough to avoid seeing the camera-reflected me.
All this is giving me a better understanding of why people, men naturally included, embrace plastic surgery, hair coloring, and other cosmetic improvements on what nature has wrought.
When the inner person is way out of sync with the outer person, some adjustments could be in order.
I doubt I'll go that route, though. One reason is my compassionate Buddha nature. I figure that the older I look, the younger my wife will look when we're together.
Plus, there's the tiger thing. I just read about what some people do in a part of India where man-eating tigers are around.
Since tigers prefer to attack from the rear, they wear masks with a human face on the back of their head. That way, the tiger attacks from the front, thinking it's the person's other end.
Now, it could be argued that if you're going to be jumped by a massive man-eating tiger, it might be better not to know about it until you feel the jaws clamping around your neck. That way the terror time is minimized.
However, like those Indians, I'd rather see the tiger coming, even if I couldn't do much about it.
My gray hair, wrinkles, age spots, and what-not are my tiger. The beast of aging and, eventually, death. I'd prefer that he wasn't stalking me, but he is.
So, I might as well face him head-on. Or at least, out of the corner of my eye.