I am one of those people that can’t remember names. I either have some sort of psychosomatic mental block or God just didn’t give me enough brain space to store names. I do OK with family and friends. But beyond that I am pathetic. Of course I can’t match names to faces or faces to name either. The same person can come into the library day in and day out and I won’t remember their names from one day to the next. It doesn’t help that the regular guys that come in have names like Bob, Bill, Ben, Jim, John, and Joe. I can never match the right name with the right person. In order for me to distinguish one person from another they would have to have a obvious distinguishing feature, like a 3rd eye in the middle of their forehead. My mom truly believes that a sure sign of aging is forgetting names. Once a week we will have conversation that goes like this:
MOM: Guess who I ran into today?
MOM: You know that lady that we see at Bonanza every Friday night.
ME: Which lady?
MOM: That short stocky one who is always dressed to the nines.
ME: You mean the one who has the 12 inch bouffant hairdo?
MOM: Yes, that is who I am talking about. What is here name?
ME: You are asking me? I have no idea.
MOM: Yes you do. She always stops at our table and talks with us for a while.
ME: I know who you are talking about, but I can’t for the life of me remember her name.
MOM: I think her name starts with an ‘E.’
So I offer a few suggestions. That I am capable of doing.
ME: Is it Eileen, Edna, Ester Eleanor, Emma, Erma?
MOM: Erma! That’s it. Then the story continues in which my mom mentions the names of every one of her sisters, their husband’s names, her seven kids, the dog and her two goldfish; Splish and Splash.
But then at the end of the conversation my mom will sigh deeply and say, “Names always go first.”
Translating she means that forgetting names is the first step towards senility. In that case I took my first step when I was 19. I was still living at home with my 6 younger brothers and sisters. One day there was a knock on the door. I was closest to the door so I went to answer it. That was back in the day when you could safely open the door and not worry that it was some stranger pretending to sell the best ever frozen steaks out of a truck and secretly casing the joint to plan a future burglary. Anyway, I opened the door and this tall, beautiful blonde girl said she was here to see my brother Ted. (Lucky Ted!) So I yell downstairs, “Te, someone here to see you.” (Te was my brother’s nickname which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. One of the main purposes of a nickname is to shorten a longer name. It is not like Ted is a super long name to begin with, but we still shortened by one letter and called him Te. Now that Ted is grown up, I think I am the only one that still calls him Te. In my case the shorter the better when it comes to names.) Now where was I? Oh yeah, I yelled downstairs again, “Te, Jill is here to see you.” Jill came inside, crossed her arms, glared at me and said, “Who is Jill?” At this point I was confused and said, “I thought you were Jill.” Not-Jill said, “No I am not, my name is Kim,” With her arms crossed even tighter and her eyes searing into me she demanded to know who was Jill. I finally realized my mistake and explained that Jill must be my other brother’s girlfriend’s name. I mean really, Jill and Kim the names are so much alike who could blame me for getting mixed up. Kim was not amused. I have no idea how that date went that night. I always had the feeling Kim didn’t believe me that I just mixed up the names and that Jill was her competition. I never had the nerve to ask my brother, Te, how the date went that night. Somehow I think he had to spend a good portion of the night explaining that Jill was our older brother’s girlfriend. There was no way to prove it since there were no cell phones back then and both my brother and his girlfriend, Jill, lived in Fargo.( Keep in mind calling to Fargo would have been an unnecessary long distance phone call.) I can only imagine my brother was probably hoping to get to 3rd base and instead he probably got the 3rd degree.
Besides having such limited brain space for name recognition I think that the wiring in my brain is messed up too. I feel like in the whole electrochemical process neurons are misfiring and not making any connections and I am left with dead brain space. My first year as a teacher I taught math in a little rural community called Underwood. More than once in conversations I have been known to call the town Underpants. This didn’t put me in the running for teacher of the year award. What I didn’t know about being a first year teacher in a small school was that 7th period was divided into two sections. Fourteen Football players had Phys Ed and the other 46 students had Study Hall. The new teacher, which was me, was in charge of that study hall. Ignorance is bliss. I went to the assigned study hall with an air of confidence even so I didn’t know the kids and they didn’t know me. Hey I got this. I sent around a signup sheet. When the sheet came back to me I proceeded to take roll by calling off the names. Halfway down the list I called out “Def Leppard.” The students giggled and Def didn’t respond. My thought was that poor Def was sleeping at his desk since he probably was up at 4:00 am milking cows. So, I just called out his name louder. This time the whole class burst out laughing. All 46 students were thinking this is going to be the best 7th period Study Hall in the entire history of Underpants High School!