Saturday, November 8, 2014

Life's Game Show…What's That Person's Name?

Join me and others as we write Slices of Life. On Tuesdays I'll be sharing my SOL at the Two  Writing Teachers blog. This week, I'm posting early because my class is slicing and linking up as well at and the assignment is due Monday. 

“Max Maclay!” The last vowel sound is drawn out with some extra emphasis and I knew I might be in trouble. Not because it was unfriendly sounding, just the opposite, but what if I didn't remember her name? 

I have a problem with names. I’m great with faces but horrible at remembering names. If everyone in the world went around with name tags, I would be a happier and more confident person. Being part of a lot of large and disparate groups, I “know” a lot of faces but unless I write their name down for some reason or hand them homework back, names tend to escape me.

The fact that she knew my name and said it like she hadn’t seen me in quite while was my first hint. But I had just stepped into the Starbucks and was blinking into the relative dimness and she was backlit by the window so making a positive ID was difficult. I actually was pretty sure who it was even though I had not seen her for seven or eight years but it always pays to be sure before blurting out the wrong name and watching a friendly face fall.

Unexpectedly seeing someone I know goes something like this in my head:  "I know that person…what’s his name? Oh oh…they see me. Think Think THINK!"  
“Hi Max!”
Crap! They remember my name. Why is Max so darned easy to remember?
'Hey…Buddy! How are you?' 
Is he a disc golfer? A former student? Parent of a student? Another teacher perhaps? Think Think THINK!

We should all just wear these 24/7!
And so it goes. I usually remember enough to ask about family, things we’re connected to and the weather is always a safer topic. I hate faking it though because I’m not fully part of the interaction. Part of me is still running through names, or berating myself for considering this person a friend and not knowing their name.

I have a lot of strategies for surreptitiously finding out a name. Playing disc golf, I’ll hand the disc (Frisbee to some) back after they putt out, taking a cheating glance to see if their name is on the back. The danger is that disc golfers do a lot of trading and selling of discs so the name is not always associated with the current owner. Sometimes I just ask someone else but I always have to include some self-depreciating comment and I don’t like doing that too often. I hate when I know it’s a former student, especially if I remember a lot about them. I can sometimes pull the, “You should call me Max instead of Mr. Maclay, and I should call you Mr…um(Please fill in your last name),” trick. My best strategy is when I’m with my wife and often savior. I can introduce her and that usually elicits the correct monkier from my nameless friends. Susan of course just gives me that look that says, “I know what you’re doing but I’ll take pity on you…again.

But today, I’m on my own. The voice steps from in front of the window and I am relieved to be 100% sure of it’s owner; a former student from Olathe, who graduated in 2007, my last year there. Her senior picture is among the many that still grace the filing cabinet in my classroom. I’m genuinely happy to see her and to have the chance to catch up, without worrying about her name.

photo credit: <a href="">jason_one</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>


  1. I totally feel your pain. Sometimes I remember in the right moment to really focus and try and come up with some clever way to remember a name, but otherwise I just lose names too quickly. I wish the stigma of forgetting a name would go away!

  2. I'm terrible at names, too! Ugh. And you're right, when you can't remember exactly who someone is, it does make you less a participant in the conversation. If you figure out a foolproof trick, let me know!

  3. I have moments like this, too. But I always remember the face, so I focus on our memories of our class year...thankfully, I still remember those!

  4. This is so much fun, and so right. I just can't hold them all inside, or need practice now & then, especially with a face that's changed from when we "knew" them. Love that you say you count on Susan...