This weekend, I was at the theater and I ran into a friend of a friend of mine whose name I couldn’t remember. Well, we didn’t actually run into each other. It was more like I saw him across the lobby (I’m pretty sure that he also saw me) and recognized him as someone that I should know. I knew exactly where I’d met him, when and through which friend… but for some reason his name escaped me.
I spent the entirety of Act One attempting to figure out what letter of the alphabet his name started with… B? No. T? No. I avoided him during Intermission—largely because I had yet to arrive at what felt like the correct letter. I even placed a call to my friend, the one who had introduced me to the guy whose name I couldn’t remember, but alas, he didn’t pick up his phone.
As the light dimmed for the start of the Second Act, it dawned on me… V! And by the middle of the Act, I had remembered his name.
At work, oft times someone will leave me a message saying, “I’ve tried to reach you countless times, I’ve called, I’ve emailed and no one’s ever called or emailed back.” And I take immediate offense to such claims because it is my job to respond to each and every message that I receive--and because I am good at my job.
Before I call or email that particular person back I will literally go back into my sent mail or my call log and double check that they truly never received a response. Nine times out of ten, the email proof is there and I make sure to mention it when I call them back, “did you check your spam mail? Sometimes important emails unwittingly end up in the spam mailbox…”
There is this tremendous pressure to remember things. Names. Dates. Mostly names. This is probably because all of us want desperately to be remembered.
It stressed me out to no end that I couldn’t recall the name of the friend of a friend of mine I saw at the theater. Mostly because if he had decided to cross the lobby and say hello, I would have had to ask him to refresh my memory—“I’m sorry, what was your name again?” And he would have undoubtedly known mine because that’s the way these sorts of things always go. And I would have felt awful. Like I had insulted him. Of course, I would have felt similarly insulted if he hadn’t remembered my name.
And those people who leave messages for me at work—simply want to feel like they’ve been heard, that their requests have been acknowledged, that they matter.
It’s amazing how many people we meet in the course of a lifetime. It’s also amazing how you never know which of the people that you meet will have a profound effect on your life.
Back in November I met a woman on a plane who a month and a half later recommended me for a writing job—a really awesome writing job. She had never read my writing or seen my work, but her recommendation had the power to (potentially) significantly change my life. The funny thing is that initially—when I was first told how my name had come to be considered—I had no idea who my recommender was. I literally said, “Um… who?” It was only later that I realized—oh my God, the woman on the plane!
I guess I should pay more attention. Not even for the sake of my career or to save myself from future embarrassment, but simply because it is the polite and right thing to do. Because it feels crappy to be forgotten—even if you’ve only met someone once or if when you met them you were the friend of a friend.
I mean, we all have names for a reason, right? To distinguish us from everyone else… That makes them important.
Hi, I’m Harrison. Do try to remember that. Okay?