In college I knew a lot of people. Or, rather, a lot of people knew who I was. I was heavily involved on campus and also renowned for my fast walking. People would tell me they saw me running every day, i.e. strangers came up to me at parties.
Me: “Well, that’s impossible, because I only run twice a week. It’s called walking with purpose. Everyone should try it.”
The point is, people knew my name. I’m trying not to sound cocky when I write that. I’m pretty sure my friends will agree with the statement.
However, I suck at remembering names. I used to deny this. If someone says hi to me, I can hold the conversation and recall a few details of previous encounters to keep the discussion going. My roommate eventually made me admit, though: I’m actually just really good at faking it and don't remember anyone.
Apparently, “countless times” – my roommate’s measurement, not mine – we would be on campus and someone would approach me and we would have a five-minute conversation full of laughter and grandmotherly insights and then the person would walk away and I would say, “I have no idea who that was.”
Or I’d try introducing the person to my roommate: “This is my roommate, Ally. Have you all met? And this is, this is, oh my Gabriel, look, a squirrel! Well, we have to run!”
I used to pride myself on knowing every one of my Facebook friends – or at least who they were and how I know them. That pride has given way to insecurity in more recent years. Who are they? I don’t even recognize them in their profile picture from five years ago.
Because I’m an advocate of self-awareness, I’ve started asking people to tell me their names again, which works until it’s the tenth meeting and I'm like, “What is your name again? I swear I don’t have dementia.” Or worse, I have no idea we’ve met ten times until my friend interjects, “You’ve met him multiple times before!”
Me: “Why are you going to be rude and say that out loud?”
It’s also uncomfortable when I say, “Hi, I’m Cazey, nice to meet you,” and they deadpan you: “We’ve met before.”
My newest trick to get people to tell me their names again is to ask for their phone number or email address.
“We see each other so often, we need to exchange numbers. Here’s my number. Why don’t you send me a text with your name spelled out? Last name, too, please.”
This backfires when they say they’ll just put their name in your phone, so then they add it and X out of your contacts before you can see what name they added. Guess I won’t be texting you….
Or they hand you back your phone with the name field left blank.
Uhhhh. What do I put here? Who are you?
Or the b**** replies, “I gave you my email last time.” *insert perky smile*
Me: “I think I lost that sheet of paper.”
The other issue is when you have the wrong name for the person. Now I don’t do this myself – because that would require some sort of memory, which apparently I lack – but let me tell how many people think my name is Kevin. If you call me “Casey,” whatever. But Kevin? Who is Kevin? Where is he? Wait, you mean me?
It takes one or two mistakes before I even realize they’ve misnamed me. Last week I attended two meetings on back-to-back days. On the first day I introduced myself as Cazey because, you know, that’s who I am. The next day, the meeting organizer shook my hand and said, “Kellan, thanks for coming.”
It was only after I picked up the agenda and the organizer added, “Kellan, grab some lunch, too,” that I realized I was Kellan.
I faced a fork (beside the fork I needed for lunch): Do I inform him my name is not Kellan, or do I just ignore it? I quickly deduced I would not see this man for at least another six months and he would probably realize in an email exchange my real name, so why endure the embarrassing “My name is actually Cazey” / “Oh, I’m so sorry”?
Cut to me chowing on this lunch. The organizer resumes the meeting: “And I just wanted to mention, Kellan slipped in while we were grabbing lunch. Let’s all say hi to Kellan.”
Kellan: “Hi, everyone.”