What’s in a name?


I was at a baseball game with a friend this weekend and a former co-worker and his wife came down the same row to sit a few seats away.  He said hi, calling me by name and I said hi as well…but totally unable to recall his name.

This is a recurring problem for me, as I can recognize many faces but have trouble remembering the names to go with them.  On the other hand, people I don’t even know seem to recognize and remember me, which puts an added strain on my social inadequacy.

I’ve tried for years to figure out why I’m so forgetful about names (although many times I do remember them hours or even days later).  I could chalk it up to being self-absorbed, but I’m excellent at remembering friends’ birthdays and anniversaries, so that can’t be the whole answer.

It could be I have an “old” brain, maybe I’m only running on 250 MB in a 4 GB world.  There’s the theory that you can only hold so much information before the next piece forces out some other miscellaneous bit to make room.

The other possibility is that I simply select not to remember certain people I meet if my belief is that I will likely never interact with them again.  In this case, while I bumped into the person occasionally, I can only recall one actual conversation with him.  It’s a bit callous, but also fairly efficient, especially given my lack of storage space upstairs.

I have found, in the occasional situations like this, that the lack of the name is not a significant detraction to having a spirited conversation, as any two strangers might have who have never even exchanged names.  Thus I never let my faulty memory create a personal “embarrassment” from engaging anyone in a good dialog.

Hopefully, as I meet more people during my writing career, this characteristic will not cause me any difficulties with readers I meet and converse with.  Within the time and context, I am totally sincere in my interest in what you may have to say or think, I just can’t guarantee I’ll recall your name.

I think you will be okay with it.  After all, if the feeling is real and the conversation good, who needs names?  But, just to be sure, check your inscribed book before you leave me at a signing table!

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