The first thing I do when I meet someone is forget his or her name. This happens right away, and I have to spend the rest of the conversation doing my best to avoid structuring my sentences in a way that would reveal my forgetfulness. I think this happens because by default, I assume that I will not see this person again, and therefore do not need to learn his or her name. But all too often, I’ll be introduced to someone by a mutual friend at what I think is a fleeting moment like a coincidental meeting at a restaurant or other social setting. After the introduction, just when I’m assuming this stranger and I are about to part ways, I learn that since we’re all friends now and we all know each other’s names, we’re going to hang out together for the rest of the night, and quite possibly for the rest of our lives.
I go through life with plenty of these one-way connections, where every time I see the other person and they greet me by name, I feel like a jerk, and can never remember who they are. This happens a lot with my sisters’ and parents’ friends. Some people try to avoid this by using a trick where immediately after the introduction, they will repeat the person’s name (by saying, “Hello, [name],” which helps them to remember. For me, I’m so used to not addressing people by name that this technique would just sound too forced.
Similarly, there are those times when I and the other person are mutually aware of the other’s existence, but we’ve never introduced ourselves. Perhaps one of us wasn’t present for the initial round of introductions to a larger group, or maybe we just assumed that we were people who bump into each other from time to time, but not often enough to require any extensive knowledge about the other person. Unfortunately, it often turns out that we see each other more than either of us expected, but by the time we learn this, it’s not only awkward that we don’t know each other, it’s too awkward to introduce ourselves at this point. This happens to me all the time. In fact, just this morning, I finally learned the name of someone who sits very close to me every day, and has been doing so for over half a year. It was a little awkward, but at least I got a blog post out of it.