What can you do when you run into a person you’ve met several times and they still act like they’ve never met you before?


Today’s question comes from Ryan McCloud, from Honeynut Blossom, Georgia.  Ryan asks, “What can you do when you run into a person you’ve met several times and they still act like they’ve never met you before??”

First things first, Ryan. I hope you’re not referring to me!  While I’ll have to run this past my wife for verification, I’m 47% certain I’ve never set foot in Honeynut Blossom, Georgia.  My memory was filled to capacity approximately 22 years ago and as a result, I can tell you who the characters actors were in every film produced from 1934 – 1990 but have to refer to flash cards to determine whether the person sitting across from me at dinner is my 11 year old daughter or a long term life insurance salesman.

Now there are two types of forgetful, Ryan.  There’s the real kind where someone wishes to God above they could put names and faces together to avoid embarrassment and being considered a snob and then there’s the other kind where the person knows exactly who you are and pretends not to because they are a snob.

How to tell the difference?  As one who has great difficulty recalling names and would gladly throw away his knowledge of movies from 1985-1990 (most of them were mediocre at best anyhow), in order to clear space for people, I often go to great lengths to conceal the fact that I can’t recall the name of the person I am speaking with.

One tactic a sincere person will use is the “we’re too close to even use names” approach.  In this case, the forgetful one will run into someone on the street or at a social event and after tearing through the alphabet at twice the speed of light in a desperate attempt to trigger the first name and coming up short, will either hug the person closely to their chest in order to go through the alphabet one more time while staring over their shoulder in a dead panic, or simply take the “unknown” person’s hand in both of his or hers, look deeply into their eyes and exclaim, “How are YOU?!” with an extra emphasis on the “you” to convey a sense of intimacy, long standing friendship and camaraderie that transcends the need for names — or if necessary — a desperate, unspoken plea to be let off the hook as a quid pro quo because both of you have horrible memories and employ the exact same tactics.

Now the other people – the ones who know you but pretend to be meeting you for the first time – are often cut from a different cloth.   They may be part of a group that is often referred to as “social climbers”, people that look at others whom they consider inferior or unable to help them achieve their goals as nothing more than people who are inferior or unable to help them achieve their goals.  One thing you have to say about social climbers — they don’t see the point in hiding behind analogies or metaphors.

I’ve run into these types all my life, Ryan, and rather than get annoyed, I try to derive a bit of pleasure whenever the opportunity presents itself.    One tactic is to take the offensive and when you run into one of the culprits, greet them by a ridiculous sounding name that isn’t theirs.

“Hello, Gretel!  How are you?”

“It’s Katherine.”

“I love it!  When did you change it, Gretel?”

Should you decide to make it clear you’ve met this person before, here’s another tactic where you can mix one part fiction with two parts truth.

“Actually, we’ve met several times before.”

“We have?”

“Yes. At the Hansen’s party in March.  Also at the PTA’s ‘Better Spellers Make Better Mail Sorters’ Finals.  We also sat at the same table at the silent auction fundraiser.  I was the one who said, “Good move!” when you grabbed two handfulls of tickets out of the Ten-Day Getaway to the Cayman Islands bucket and stuffed them in your purse before putting your tickets in.  My name’s Eddie, by the way.  ED-DEE.”

While there are no hard and fast answers to your question, Ryan,  just remember what Shakespeare said.  “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”   That has nothing to do with anything really, I’m just trying to give you an edge in the event we ever do run into each other.  If you can’t remember my first name, I’ll be just as happy if you refer to me as “Hey, it’s that Shakespeare quote guy!”     Anything’s better than one of those desperate hugs.  At least until we’re better acquainted.

© 2013 The Monkey Bellhop and John Hartnett

4 thoughts on “What can you do when you run into a person you’ve met several times and they still act like they’ve never met you before?”

  1. Coming from someone who can barely remember my own name…this totally cracks me up. I have run into a couple people over the years who can never seem to shake free from their frontal lobe the fact that we spent 12 years together in school. I may have to resort to a weird name or the one part fiction to two parts truth tactic next time we meet. Thanks for the laugh!

    1. I just met a guy I went to High School at Home Depot this afternoon and he asked me where I lived. I’ve met him half a dozen times in the same town over the past 5 years… Suddenly I feel better!

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