Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I'm sorry, what did you say your name was again?

If ever you are introduced to me please don't be offended when I fail to utter your name correctly less than five minutes after. Its not personal. I just can't remember names. I never could. It seems I was born that way.

Over the course of 40 plus years this failing has caused me to commit many social gaffes and has led to a number of embarrassing meetings with past friends who I remember very well in every way except for their name.

There was one occasion however when I failed to remember a name on which I look back fondly despite it being embarrassing at the time.

I happened in my final years in university. It was not a particularly memorable period of my life. I was drifting through the closing stages of my course slowly coming to terms with the realisation that very soon I would have to leave college and get a real job.

I bumped into a girl I used to know from my school days. When I say used to know, I mean this was someone I had suffered a couple of humiliating defeats to in school debating.

Although we had gone to the same university our paths had not crossed. This lady had become a leading light in the college scene. The only dent I ever made on the college social circuit was a minor position with the sleepy Mathematical society (not a hotly contested post). In terms of social significance there was a very large gulf between us so it is not surprising that we did not generally mix in the same circles.

At the time I bumped into her this young lady was running an active, enthusiastic and ultimately successful campaign for leadership of the college's largest and most influential society. This was an organisation famous (infamous) throughout the country as a breeding ground for leading media personalities, politicians and other bastions of Irish society. Her name was emblazoned in large letters all over the Campus and her smiling face looked down from many election posters.

There was a chance meeting in the college canteen. I doubt I would have had the nerve to introduce myself but she turned and said hello, addressing me by name. I opened my mouth to return the greeting and then..

Vocal chords froze as I realised that I could not remember this girls name. The pause was too long to escape notice. My anguish must have been visible as I strained to drag the missing name from my un-compliant memory.

It was awful it was embarrassing and suddenly it was there - a name came into my head.

"Hello Elizabeth" I stuttered.

Her name was not Elizabeth. I should have known this because she was standing under a large poster on which her name was printed in foot high letters. To the left and to the right were many many posters carrying large smiling pictures of this girl with her (correct) name printed in large bold letters.

"My name is Isabel" she replied frostily and walked off.

I never saw her in person or spoke to her again although I did take note of her victory in the election and subsequent coronation as queen of the college social scene.

At the time I was mortally embarrassed but when I got over that I began to feel a tiny bit proud of the event. Perhaps I am just being spiteful but perhaps in some small unknowing way I struck a blow for nobodies that day. We may not be glowing stars of society and many people may not even notice that we exist but hey, we can forget famous peoples names too.

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