Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thanks for your patience . . . whatever your name is.

I have a mental deficiency. Now many of you who know me may be saying to yourself, “only one?” (imagine my sarcastic laugh inserted here). Well, I am specifically talking about my incredible lack of ability to remember names. I have tried pneumonics, memory tricks, and repetition among other efforts and I still struggle finding a way to effectively remember names. Ultimately, I just decided that I must not have inherited the gene that helps us commit names to memory (deflect blame to parents here). Unfortunately, this mental defect, can lead to embarrassing and awkward situations.

Recognizing this short-coming pushed me to develop several creative “tricks” that helped me re-introduce myself without revealing my utter lack of name recognition (none of which I plan on revealing here in case I need to use one of them on you). Unfortunately, these “tricks” have not always been effective and when they fail, I have faced embarrassing and awkward situations.
I remember one such occasion that occurred when I was the director of a summer camp at a YMCA. In preparation for the summer, I had to hire a staff which was approximately 30 staff people. As all of these staff members returned for training I had the duty of signing them in at a registration desk. One girl walked up to the desk and I could recall that I had hired her as one of my program managers, a leadership position on our team. I also remembered her first name was Melissa (which was actually a great accomplishment for me), but her last name was escaping me. I decided to employ one of my sure-fire “tricks” for getting her last name without being exposed.

“Melissa, great to see you joining the team. I’m going to get you registered, but can you spell your last name for me again?” I said with a sense of confidence.

She stared at me blankly for a moment and then she slowly spelled, “S-M-I-T-H”. To add insult to injury she followed that with, “Yeah, it’s a tough one to spell, I get that all the time,” and she walked off with a sarcastic smile on her face.

In hindsight, I should have had her sign herself in, but my over confidence in my “trick” was my downfall. As a result, I spent the better part of that summer as the butt of many spelling jokes.The danger in me writing this column is obvious; I’ve introduced you to one of my most embarrassing weaknesses and a very large character deficiency in the area of name recollection (so much for a career in politics). This makes me very vulnerable. However, I am making a commitment to do better, work harder, and ultimately be more effective at remembering names. But if you approach me at church, at a community event, or at a dinner party and ask if I recall your name – don’t be offended when I say, “Sure I do, but can you tell me how to spell it?”

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