Remember me

28Jun09

What with the rugby, the tennis, Big Brother and official mourning for Michael Jackson you might think I would be too busy to blog… But no, none of these things interest me very much beyond what is mentioned in the news from time to time.

I’m too busy to blog because I’m trying to do more simple things, like remember people’s names and master my new portable barbecue.

I have never been good at remembering names. Or faces. The only thing that I am really good at remembering is where I have been. It’s strange, but if I look at a photo of someone whose wedding I attended 15 years ago, I would probably not recognise them, but I could tell you where the wedding was held, where we stayed, where we stopped for lunch on the journey there and where we parked near the church.

It can be useful skill. If, for example, Britain was invaded by hostile forces and I was trapped behind enemy lines I’m pretty sure that I could find my back to base and give helpful advice on the location of petrol stations, cafés and major intersections en route.

However, it is a lot more useful to remember people’s names. I would have been able to avoid the embarrassment last week when out for a walk on a sunny afternoon with Mrs R…

“Hello Alex!” Said a tall man walking the other way. We both stopped and exchanged pleasantries. I recognised him enough to know that we had worked together at some point. He enquired politely about what I was up to these days. After a few moments we all continued on our way.

“Who was that?” Said Mrs R.

“I don’t know,” I said. “It was someone from work. I think it was Mike… or Martin… or Steve…”

“Is that why you didn’t introduce me?”

We walked on in silence.

Five minutes later I remembered his name. It was Mike… I think.

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11 Responses to “Remember me”

  1. Story of my life, but with me it’s faces. I have an excellent memory for faces but a lousy memory for names. Hence i get into the exact same type of conversation…

  2. 2 adam

    I have the same problem.

    There is a certain pleasure to be derived from poising an innocuous question and listening intently to the answer in the hope of identifying clues/nuggets to the missing identity.

    If I can do this and conclude the pleasantries using the mystery persons correct name I feel very superior. This is ridiculous. I should feel inadequate for forgetting a simple name. I don’t. I feel wonderful. My impressive mind has triumphed in conditions of great adversity.

    Of course if I fail to recall the name I shuffle away asap desparately hoping it will be months before I see them again. Usually its later the same day. In a queue or a revolving door.

    I’ve noticed a curious law at play here as well. The harder it seems to recall the name, the more this person appears to know about you. Or is it just me?

  3. 3 Amanda

    I find if you just call everyone ‘bloss’ or ‘sunshine’, you don’t have to worry… very handy if you’re not sure if you know them as a therapy client, a colleague, a school contact or someone you may have possibly exchanged saliva with in your deep dark past.

    • 4 alexoutside

      …or perhaps all four of these. ;-)…. In which case you really ought to remember their name.

      • 5 Michael Dagless

        It’s generally the last option when meeting Amanda’s old acquaintances.

        In this situation, if I’m feeling mean and mischievous, I say to Amanda “Aren’t you going to introduce us?” Just to watch her squirm.

        If, however I’m feeling my normal kind self, after a length of time has elapsed which would normally enable my good wife to introduce me but still hasn’t, I introduce myself. Upon hearing the new name, I immediately remark “Ah yes! Amanda has often spoken of you”. This brings all the cards face up on the table in case the stranger wasn’t able to remember Amanda’s name either.

        So everything’s perfect, right? And when we politely part ways after some jolly ol’ chat, I can use the person’s name in a “Nice to meet you” kind of gesture… If only I hadn’t forgotten it already.

  4. 6 Mike S

    Your memory isn’t failing you yet Alex!

    Our conversation went along strangely similar lines….

    “Who was that?” asked Mrs S.

    “That was Alex, who used to be our CTO, who then went on to spend his time swanning round Europe, before ‘retiring’ recently – I don’t expect he’ll remember who I am, what with him having hundreds of staff working for him”

    “So, when his wife asks ‘Who was that?’…..he’ll have to admit to her that he has no idea – must have been one of the ‘minions’ who used to work for me” says Daughter number one.

    “Hmmmm…..probably”

    • 7 alexoutside

      Mike – glad I got it right! Perhaps it just takes a long time for my brain to retrieve archived data. Time to upgrade from microfiche perhaps… 🙂

  5. 8 Dr R

    It’s even more embarassing when one cannot recognize one’s spouse or offspring in a supermarket. I try to avoid solo errands to procure the tin of coconut milk missed when passing the exotic foods section for fear that I will spend the next 30 minutes pacing up and down the central aisle looking left and right until I am found again.

    It initially helped when T had her hair dyed pink/red, but now on every shopping trip there are at least 5 other people in the store with the same coloured hair. I can only find her again if I think hard about the clothes she is wearing and search for those – that tends to work.

    Of course the advantage is that every day I’m with someone I’ve not seen before.

    Just as an aside, in terms of pointless things that I can remember – all the family’s car number plates back to 1965, now how useless is that?

    • 9 alexoutside

      Dr R – actually they are just hiding from you in the supermarket. I do this too when shopping with Mrs R (the old red wig trick always works). If it persists I’m sure that it would be possible to overcome the problem using bluetooth and some form of electronic tag… she’d never notice.

  6. 10 adam

    Car numberplates – Another ‘rule’ I’ve noticed…

    I too can easily remember all the numbers of my former cars but when challenged by a traffic warden or police office to remember my current number my mind goes completely blank. Its all I can do to remember the make, model and colour!

    So my hypothesis is that with increasing time ones memory becomes sharper and sharper on irrelevant details.

    It comes as somewhat of a surprise to me that I hadnt realised this before. Long evenings hearing my Father recount the tiniest details of his navel wartime service on Corvettes should have provided plenty of evidence!

    Its seems that there is a reverse Data Protection law in play for humans. Out of date information which should be deleted / removed from memory archives are held in ligthening fast memory for instant recall whereas useful current information required to help manage relationships with close friends and family are at best held in an insecure flakey temporary storage area.

    My daughter already calls me a ‘Shuffler’ – the current en vogue word for more senior citizens. It seems as if I’m well on my way to confirming her suspicions.

    Now where did I put my car keys…

  7. 11 alexoutside

    Adam – I thought ‘shuffler’ meant that your memory was always on shuffle. Like an ipod… Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised by what comes up but most of the time you want to click quickly to the next track.


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