Did you ever meet someone and no matter how hard you try their name just never sticks in your brain. One of my daughters knows a girl named Annette. Real pretty thing. This is not a person you can forget easily. I have met her a few times over the years and for some reason when I talk about her it always “What’s her name. The pretty one, You know.” There is a block there. She doesn’t strike me as an Annette. As a result I find I am always searching the commodore 64 I call a brain when I bring her name into a conversation. It is quite pathetic really.
When we were younger my husband was in marketing and we often went to schmoozy events. He could never remember anyone so we had a way of dealing with forgotten names. He would introduce me if he remembered the name. Otherwise I would jump in all junior high school girl and shout out my name. I felt ditzy. Whereas I was trying to portray the long maligned wife who is always forgotten by the husband so happy to see a long lost acquaintance. Nothing prevents him from jumping into the chitter chatter of two people meeting up at one of these events. My cue then to stop him with an eye roll and introduce myself. My I.Q. would plummet and my voice would raise an octave as I giggled. What a ditz.
Through the years I developed small ways of remembering people for my husband. He would introduce me to someone who would then present his wife. I would repeat her name over and over as I asked her questions about her life and family. I would excuse myself to go to the ladies room where I would sit in a stall and scribble madly in a notebook everything she said. The next time we would meet up with this couple I would give Rene’ the cliff notes as we approached them. That way he could say hello to both the man and woman, call them by name and ask questions about their kids or trip or new car. Whatever bits of info I had recorded on the prior meeting. People love to hear their name and the only thing they like more is when someone remembers boring details about their life. Especially their kids lives.
I find it strange when someone doesn’t remember me. Not because I am memorable, rather because I look the same as I did since I was five years old. My kids laugh at my hair styles and say they are going to make a video montage of my hair through the ages. They are correct. I have had long, short, medium. Blonde brunette, red and streaked. Curly, straight and wavy. And with all that I have had any combination of the previous. But my face. That hasn’t changed much. When someone I see on a regular basis doesn’t remember me, I assume they are trying to diss me in some way. It truly is the ultimate insult. It sends a message that you just aren’t worth the effort. There is a difference between not recognizing someone and pretending you don’t recognize someone. I am well aware of the difference. Years ago Rene reported directly to the President of the company where he worked. My first meeting with this man, Lloyd, was at a company Christmas party. Rene’ was leaving our coats with the coat check girl and I was standing in line at the bar. The bartender was freed up, I was next in line and all of a sudden Lloyd was in front of me. Of course I was quick to point out I was next and he could step aside. It was just then that Rene’ appeared and introduced me to Lloyd. The new President. With a smile Lloyd told Rene’ we had already met. Over the next few years Lloyd and I crossed paths many times at company functions as well as while wandering through the downtown core. He never failed to say “Hello Cindy.” Good, bad or otherwise I had made an impression.
Lloyd’s secretary on the other hand was quite adept at forgetting my name. For five years she would completely ignore me if she saw me somewhere alone outside of work. If she saw me with Rene’ she would only speak to him. Of course he would then introduce me, for the millionth time and she would then murmur some polite howdy do. I could never really understand what she was up to. I finally decided that it had to do with the company organizational chart. You’ve seen these. The top to bottom picture of everyone in the company with little lines indicating the pecking order. Lloyd the president was at the top and then of course a line straight down with branches for those reporting directly to him. Usually directors or Vice Presidents or whatever the flavour of the day was for naming higher up suits. Now technically the Presidents secretary reports to the President. Big “Duh” there. So there is a little off shoot line to her name. Now the way it looks it is obvious that she is not on Par with all of the big guys reporting to Lloyd. Yet I think her perception is that she is pretty high up giving her an inflated idea of her importance in the overall scheme of things. I was a lowly wife. Not worth her time. At least that is how I chose to explain away her snubs. I truly loved when we would see her and Lloyd together and he would chat like we were old friends. For obvious reasons Lloyds name has been changed. I didn’t mention the secretaries name because frankly I can’t remember it. How is that for the world of not giving a hoot.
Since retirement I haven’t tried too hard to remember people. Frankly now it seems too much work. I’m not keen on anything work related now. Through the years I have collected enough friends so there isn’t much room left for additions. Like the closets in the house or the garage there is a lot of clutter in the acquaintance department. as well. Some people are like old bathrobes. They are just comfortable. Others sit unnoticed at the back somewhere in a box and when you pull them out and blow off the dust you smile and put them right back. Unable to give them up even when they are seldom seen. My friend Bindy is that gal. There are those we like and reach out to only to never hear back. They pop up quickly when there is a lottery win or a tragedy. And we smile politely. Knowing full well we aren’t going to ever call them back. Too little too late. I find these days I love to chat with total strangers. I share my grief, they hug me and we part never to meet again. I feel better and they release my sadness because they aren’t personally touched. So I don’t bring them down. In the long run they help me the most. While I am able to save those closest to me from having to shoulder so much pain. I don’t remember them and they will forget me as well and names are never exchanged.
As I age I do notice it does take a moment or two longer the recall some familiar faces. That’s just normal. Its no longer the end all be all to remember a name. Now I remember the person and how they made me feel. The waitress who reached out in the early days after Rene’ left us. The cashier at my local organic market. Holding me and crying with me after I shared the fresh new diagnoses. The gal who offered me a tissue as we stood shoulder to shoulder in the refugee museum in Halifax. Tears quietly streaming down our faces as we read the words and looked at the pictures. The man at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert who lifted my young daughter onto his shoulders so she could see a little better. The fellow from New York City, living illegally in Amsterdam, who helped me find my way back to my hotel when I became separated from my group. At 3 a.m. In the red light district. Oh to be young and stupid. The grandmother who was watching her granddaughter play hockey against my daughter and we missed the entire game as we chatted like old friends. The young girl I met at a bridal shower/stagette in Edmonton 35 years ago. We missed it all as we spent the night in the kitchen talking. And the young fellow who was in my kitchen at one of my teen parties. Kjeld and Ditte were away. He was hitch hiking on the highway close to my house and someone picked him up and brought him to the party. He spent the night along with thirty or fourty others and in the morning we fed him and dropped him back at the highway. I have never forgotten these people although I never learned their names or saw them again. They left a mark on my life. They touched me in some way. I hope they think of me as well. These are my “what’s their name” people. I learned a long time ago we are all connected. As we weave in and out of each others lives there are some precious moments that we too often overlook. Some we learn from and some we don’t. When you reach out to strangers you often find a friend. It is magical.