I think a lot of people sorta put on an appearance of being tangential/abstract/lateral thinkers because they think it makes them appear clever or something, when in fact it's just an act and often they're just parrotting things they've heard elsewhere. If you bounce off them and come back with something "out there", they fumble a bit for a response and look obviously out of their depth, where a true N wouldn't bat an eyelid and probably just come back with something equally bizarre.
I have sometimes pegged somebody as an N only to later find out there ain't much N going on there in reality, so it was just wishful thinking - like you say, wanting someone to relate to.
A lot of comedy and other TV shows seem at the moment to want to "look N"... there's a fashion atm for the deep and meaningful, but a lot of it's written by people who don't really think that way of their own accord and to me at least, it seems sort of 'superficially deep', maybe I'm just cynical but it looks to me like they're checking boxes of what's "expected" of an N-style plot or whatever... I dunno... but I think that fashion's had an influence on regular people, some of whom I suspect to be fake N-ing it up in a similarly box-checking way.