Hello My Name Is…

I have a pathological inability to remember people’s names the first time I hear them.

It’s like my brain has installed a panic button that overwrites the spoken name with static, while the person is still speaking.

I have zero chance of hearing the name, let alone remembering.

if you are a horse, dog, cat, goldfish, lizard, turtle or hamster, I will never forget your name. if you are a horse, not only will I know your barn name, I’ll probably know your six-foot long registered name too. I’m cursed with a strictly human name memory  malfunction. Unless you introduce yourself like this:

With the exception of this name.  I would totally remember this one.
Then, I will totally remember.

Awkward doesn’t begin to describe it when I coo over Bug the Pug – I’ve only seen photos of him on Facebook – but can’t remember my newly born niece’s name, a FAMILY member, that I’ve met, held, and delightedly played with for six hours….yesterday.

I try the memory tricks: creating an association based on fascinatingly long ear lobes or a strange rhyme. This is a particularly bad idea, as I discovered, after addressing “Ginny” as “Voddy” because she had a red nose and I remembered just enough to get in trouble: her name was something alcoholic and off beat.

Because there really are people in the world named Vodka, right?

Sundays were a relief: I figure I’m in church, so people will be forced to forgive me. Sort of goes with the territory. I can explain as we introduce ourselves: “I have trouble with names. I may need to hear yours a few times before it sticks, but I won’t forget YOU.  Welcome to our church.”

This worked pretty well. Turns out people are slightly more indulgent after a sermon on cheek turning.

Here is how that stopped working for me, and may have made the pastor request I stop greeting people. Which then may have been followed by a suggestion to hide near the back pillar. Or not come back.

In the desperate hope that writing a name down would help me remember, I volunteered to work the Label Table near the entrance. I’m feeling intoxicated by the feelings of petty bureaucratic power (I’m in charge of Magic Markers! “Hello My Name Is” tags!) when a woman I’ve never seen walks up.

Gah! Mayday, Mayday! 

The woman waves off my attempt to helpfully slap a HELLO MY NAME IS…in front of her. Mildly worried, I give my “I’m terrible with names, but I will remember your very special self.” spiel.

The woman assures me I absolutely won’t forget her name. Too distinctive. Which not only  slams my panic button, I become completely deaf and unable to hear the next few sentences out of her mouth. But I do manage to laugh appropriately when she does. I assume we laughed at how absurd it would be for me to forget her name.

Whatever it was.

Oh God. (In church. So counting this as a prayer.) Unless her name is “Bug” we have a problem. Did she have a squashed nose? I can’t remember.

No Jane, NOOooooooooo
No Jane, NOOooooooooo…

After the service, she wanders over during the coffee hour. I elbow my memory for her name. It ignores me, completely clueless, and continues contemplating how Amazing Grace would sound if sung by Elvis Presley. Oh hey, what if Metallica performed it?

Wait. is her name Grace?

I’m not going to chance it. I politely invoke my pre-emptive: “I might forget your name, but never you”.

She laughs heartily, as though I’ve just told the best joke ever. EVer. It’s the first time my pre-emptive strike hasn’t worked. Susan? Jill? Tanessha? VODKA? Oh lord, it must be Ginny. What do I DO?

She stops laughing abruptly, and stares at my face.

“But we laughed about it, remember?”, she says, quite hurt.

Of course I remember laughing. I was covering up the fact I couldn’t hear what she was saying.

“I’m so sorry”, I say, miserably, “remind me, please?”

She looks at me for a long time, certain I’m messing with her.

Finally, she turns to toss her paper cup away, and says with utter disbelief and disgust,
“Jane. My name is Jane. NOW do you remember?”

Because I’m me, I think I’m off the hook. Why on earth should I be expected to remember THAT name above all others? It’s not like she’s named Jesus or anything. Shoot, why should her name be familiar…it’s so unfair to expect…uh…um…

If only John Jacob had come in with her! I would have remembered. I swear.
Right. That’s my name too…

The other Jane is making a bee-line for the pastor.

I mentally cross off church number six.

We live near Temple Beth Ami.  I wonder how hard it would be to convert?

24 thoughts on “Hello My Name Is…

  1. I came across a great word for you while wasting time looking at untranslatable foreign words – Tartle: A Scottish verb meaning to hesitate while introducing someone due to having forgotten his/her name.

    1. My new go-to word! Hopefully people I meet will be so startled they’ll be distracted and I can trick them into saying their names four or five times. Thanks, Liz!

  2. Ha! This is a great first post back. Welcome back to the blogosphere, I brought donuts to celebrate and we’re even going to let you pick first.

    I cannot remember anyone’s name. Unless when prompted with the: “You know, she has the chestnut with three white socks who won the hack 3 years ago at Middlesex?” OH right her. Got it. I think we just have our priorities in order. Would be terribly rude for me not to greet a dog by name. (HI CHRISTMAS!)

    1. DONUTS. Uh. I mean, “Hi, Marissa!, nice to see you too!” Lol. Yep guilty of the Identify Person by Decribing Horse and Event method. I think that’s normal for many of us horse-folk, you’re right. Priorities! 😉 Give Tucker a biggggg hug!

  3. Oh my gosh I wish you all were in Seattle, you could come to my church. I have *the same disability* and I am the f*ing pastor! I may or may not put post it notes with the deceased’s name in my prayer book when I do funerals (and the couple’s names for weddings) because I am *terrified* I will blank in the middle of the service. Seriously.

    1. I’m in Seattle! (well, an hour north, but if you live in Seattle you will understand about that…)

      But I spend Sundays with my horse, so the church thing is still your problem alone, Jo, sorry.

      Maybe Jane should just come live here, and we will all wear nametags all the time.

      1. Swampland! (Said, of course, with lots of affection.) My brother lives in Bellingham. I think thanks makes him practically Canadian? I know from his happy Facebook pictures that means a lot of sn*w. I have issues with sn*w. Mostly involving staying upright, or keeping vehicles away from guard rails. I am mystified and awed by the rest of the country’s ability to function in sn*w. You all have superpowers! (I know my cousin in Alaska is laughing at me right now.)
        Sorry got off track. Was thinking about moving.
        Name tags all the time! This works for me. We can even change our names randomly, which still works for me. That would be hysterical. my name tag would probably read “Choco Cakeious”. Hugs, scratches and kisses to your crew, Aarene!

        1. It doesn’t actually sn*w much in B’ham. Two or three days a year, most years. Sometimes there’s a “blizzard”, which means more than three inches that lasts more than 4 days (but mostly less than a week), having turned to ice on day 2. Those are a PITA. But thanks to climate change, fewer and fewer of those in recent years!

          So, pack up your raingear and come visit!

        2. Yeah we don’t get the evil white stuff here, except some powdered sugar sort as decoration in January. People tend to stand around and stare at it and shake their heads and then insist on shutting everything down. It’s cute. (I’m originally from Michigan, less than 2′ doesn’t count.)

          1. Michigan, where our kids now live! Lee Lee sent me a pic about a month ago. -34 (windchill and lake effect) in what looked to me like whiteout conditions. Brrrrrr

  4. So glad you’re back! I actually have the opposite problem. I remember everyone’s names. Even people who clearly have no clue who I am or where we met. Sometimes when faced with utter bewilderment, I pretend I mis-remembered. I have a Rolodex brain for people. When I was growing up, my father could never remember then names of my friends’ parents, so he would call them by their kids’ names — i.e., Mr. Jane.

    1. So Liz, how do you feel about going say, everywhere, with me?
      This is great, thanks guys! I now have two new tools in my uh-oh box:
      1. Call people by their horses name!
      2. Call people by their kids or family members names!

  5. welcome back. I totally get the life stuff. Been dealing with some of that myself.

    I am completely unable to remember names the first 5-6 times I hear them. I belong to a curling club and have been playing against many of the same people for years. No idea of their names. It’s more than a bit embarrassing.

    However, I do not forget the names of children I’ve worked with, dogs, cats or horses.
    (PS. I have a new horse. :D)

    1. Life stuff. Just makes me want to stomp my foot like a grown adult and shout at the sky, “You could Disney-fy it just a little. Would it kill you?”. (I call that praying.). May your life-stuff be resolved beautifully…
      And now I have to go ‘meet’ your new horse. Yay!

  6. I’m in the same boat as you. Can’t remember names either. I find it easier to just nod and smile like an idiot. “Hello, so nice to see you again” seems to work pretty well.

    1. Shaun and I have an “oh no” procedure. She will remember people’s names, but often hasn’t been introduced. I elbow her, laugh, and say “introduce yourself”, which is code for “HELP ME”, and she knows that. She will formally introduce herself, occasionally to colleagues she’s worked with for ten years, making everyone laugh, but it ALWAYS prompts the other person to reply with their name. And I do the same for her, much less often. Thank goodness for the Marriage Handbook of policies and procedures!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s