Lately, I’ve taken to peeping out of the front blinds, neighborhood gossip-style, before going outside. I have to make sure the coast is clear, you see.
On one too many occasions, I’ve been caught by surprise and had to have a delightful, friendly conversation with my next-door neighbor. Whose name I don’t remember. Maybe it’s Jillian?
This is the problem with summer, as I see it: People are out in their yards and meandering around the neighborhood a lot more, so it’s harder to avoid the people who inexplicably know my name, but I can’t remember theirs.
And it’s not like I’m super forgetful! I generally have a pretty decent memory. It’s just that every so often their name doesn’t stick but mine does, and then I’m doomed.
And yes, OK, I could just ask, but that’s always struck me as rude and selfish – they went to all the effort of remembering my name and I couldn’t be bothered to do the same? Not cool.
Instead, I go to absurd lengths and work-arounds, starting with extreme enthusiasm.
When I run into someone whose name I forgot but they remember mine, I practically collapse in spasms of joy: “Heyyyyyy!!! Oh, my gosh!! It’s so great to see you!!! It’s been forever!! How are you???”
The key is to speak first, so they can’t address me by name and get things off on the wrong foot. Unfortunately, this sometimes may require yelling across significant distances.
I do this with (possibly Jillian?) next door. It is always SO! GREAT! to see her. And it is, she’s really nice, as is her husband, Rick, and 6-year-old daughter, Riley (I also forgot the two younger children’s names).
Speaking of Riley, I once employed the name association ploy, as in, “Hey, Riley’s mom!” But that one’s tricky. The kids need to be outside and I need to be able to address Riley first, plus it needs to be done in a jokey, host-of-a-children’s-television-show mien, and then it’s very easy to come across as the creepy neighbor.
Plus, it’s fairly dehumanizing for (possibly Jillian?), like she has no other identity. Better to stick with extreme enthusiasm.
Another trick is to act like everyone on this planet is named You. Hey, You! YOUUUUUU!! Double pew-pew-pew finger guns to You!
I took a volleyball class in college and became friendly with one of my classmates, who told me her name and I forgot it, but she remembered mine. We would meet up in the locker room and change into our gym clothes together, walk to class together, occasionally be teammates in scrimmages, change back into our regular clothes together, and once we walked to the student center together and got sodas. I called her You the whole time.
I’ve also, on occasion and with different people, employed the slightly more personal Dude, Bro or Man, but generally struggle with the gal-pally Sweetie, Honey and Babe. One time, when I’d clearly lost my mind, I thought I could pull off Queen. I couldn’t, it turned out.
I also tried the ol’ Spelling Game gambit once in an attempt to learn a name, but it backfired wildly:
Me (acting like I’m about to inscribe his yearbook or something): So, just out of curiosity, because I’ve been wondering about this for a while, how do you spell your name?
Me: Oh! Ha ha! Ha! That’s so interesting! I was wondering because I have another friend named Dan who spells it D-H-A-N, except the H is silent, like in dharma. In fact, that’s what we call him: Dharma Dhan.
By the time I was done, Dharma Dhan and I had met in Mrs. Evers’ AP English class at Palisade High School and I was godmother to one of his three children. The dharma part came from his habit of saying “Are you for real?” so he clearly questioned the nature of reality.
On rare occasions, I’ve been extremely lucky to be nearby when the person whose name I can’t remember is addressed by someone who does remember it, and then I leap into Time-Share Salesperson mode: “Dan, it is so good to see you again, Dan. What was it you were telling me last time, Dan, about your name, which is Dan, being short for Daniel? Dan, let me introduce you, Dan, to my other good friend, You.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check if (possibly Jillian?) is in her yard, and sneak outside if she isn’t.
Rachel Sauer is at email@example.com and definitely remembers your name. Definitely. She just wonders how it’s spelled?