Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Old Age, My Arse!

Lately I've become aware of an increasing difficulty in remembering names. I'm unsure if it's something that's got worse lately or if it's always been there and I just haven't been aware of it. Chances are it's the former. Which is a bummer and might mean that it's a sign of old age increasing wisdom and maturity.

It's not a biggie, it's not that I meet a person and get to know them quite well, then totally forget their moniker the next time I see them. No, once there's a degree of familiarity, a sort of ongoing relationship, then I'm fine, as are you.

But, what does happen, is that I can meet a person, let's say at a party, not that I go to many these days. We'll get introduced or do the thing ourselves, then we'll be chatting away merrily about life, Superdry shirts or anything important for that matter, and after a few minutes I realise that I haven't the faintest recollection of what the fellow's name is.

It's embarrassing. Sometimes I can get away with asking their name again, but when it comes to forgetting the second time I know that I've reached a limit and have to bluff my way through the rest of the conversation. It's always stilted, with me doing that hopping from one foot to the other as if I'm dying for a poo thing, for my desire to get away as quickly as possible grows with each minute, knowing that the longer we go on the more likely I am to be faced with the prospect of introducing my "friend" to another stranger and having to come clean as part of the process.

The thing is that I've recognised and acknowledged this problem and I always think that's a good fifty per cent, maybe even half way, to solving something. I've put a plan into action using things I remember reading in one of those American "How to make friends with everyone in the world and thereby be hugely successful and the envy of all your friends and neighbours" books.

Now, whenever I meet a new person, as we talk I say their name in my head over and over again. I have to be careful that the voice in my head doesn't manifest itself outwardly and also that I actually listen to what the chap is saying. Usually I sacrifice listening and do "token" listening; that thing where you nod and say "yes" at appropriate intervals, you know, the one that women are so good at detecting then accusing you of not listening and asking you to repeat what they've said.

And it seemed to be working. Okay, I haven't had the faintest clue what people have been saying to me lately, but at least I've remembered their name.

The plan seemed to be working. Until last week that is, on two entirely separate occasions.

There I was, at a funeral. It was an old aunt who had passed away and I took my Mum and went off with her to the funeral. Though it was a sad occasion it was nice to see some of my cousins and other distant Aunties and Uncles, many of whom I hadn't seen for several years.

I was talking to a random Sri Lankan man, one of those who you're never sure if he should be addressed by his name or by "Uncle". I introduced myself and he reciprocated, telling me his name was Gerry. It probably still is, even now.

So we put some chat, about the usual sort of things. The subject matter isn't important here, mostly because I haven't got the faintest recollection of it. I was far too busy remembering his name, which, as you're aware, I did very well.

He talked to me and I said "Gerry, Gerry, Gerry" over and over in my head, time and time again. Then we got separated and I went to talk to someone else whose name I can't remember, but it was a most fascinating chat.

Anyhow some while later I found myself in conversation with Gerry again. As we chatted, this time about Colombo and Ward Place specifically, I casually replied to a question and flung his name at the end of it. He did the briefest of double takes, no doubt impressed that I'd registered his name and flattered that I'd used it. Exactly how these fellows should react, according to my American books on how to conquer the world.

Now let's jump to a few days later at the concierge office at RD Towers, if your mind is up to this sort of mental agility. There's a new fellow in there and I had to talk to him about getting a letter or something. So I introduced myself and got his name, Miro, he said. I mulled it over in my head, making sure that I remembered it solidly in order to use it next time.

As I left his office I had a long conversation with myself, mostly in my head, in which I asked him about his name. It helped a lot.

The next day I saw him there, in his concierge's lair. I said hello, addressed him by his name and he gave me the exact same look that Gerry had given me. This time I wasn't as pleased.

I'm not good at this jumping all over the show in a story thing, I just finished a book in which the author did it all the time. On one page you're reading about now, then on the next you're reading about now, but this now is twenty years later or ten years before. It was all so understandable and simple but now, as I try to tell you a story spread over a mere few days, it's very different.

What had happened with Gerry those few days before, when I replied and called him Gerry and he gave me that look, was that I realised I'd got the name perfectly correct. I'd hit the nail on the head, thread the camel through the eye of the needle and hit the cow's arse with the banjo. My memory trick had worked, I'd said "Gerry" so much that it was ingrained in my mind.

Except that the fellow was someone else. The name bit was a resounding success, just that I hadn't remembered what on earth Gerry's face looked like. And that was why he gave me the look. I had to spend the rest of the conversation calling him Uncle, to make sure he thought he just misheard me.

And with Miro it was the same thing. I'd committed his name to memory perfectly, except that it wasn't Miro I'd used it on. It was a different chap altogether.

I realised that there's a flaw in my plan, that remembering the name is only half the battle.

All I have to do now is figure how to remember the face that goes with then name.


Charlene said...

I remember a person's story or something about them of a personal nature and I can't remember the name. So I justy mention the th9ing ane if it gets sticky wicket, I say, I can remember things we talked about but what's your name?

Perfection in these matters would be nice but I forgive my imperfections.

Gallicissa said...

I subscribe to a newsletter named 'A.Word.A.Day' and yesterday's word was anomia. It means the inability to recall names of people or objects.

Anonymous said...

Just when I thought you couldnt get any worse.
Perhaps more sex (or in your case any sex) in cars would help.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Charlene - I think your method is good, just not when I forget a name actually in the course of a conversation!

Amila - How do people with the condition remember the name?

Anon - Not on my leather seats!

Gypsy said...

Oh R, bless you. I'm pretty terrible with names too though so it can't be the, ahem, 'wisdom and maturity' thing.