January 15th, 2015
Two couples of a certain age – let’s say mine – are cooking out. The guys are by the grill, their wives across the patio.
One guy says, “We went to a great new place for dinner last night. Just terrific. Loved the food, good service, cool atmosphere. Price was really reasonable.”
“Oh,” says the other, “what was the name of it?”
“Uh…um,” struggles the first, “okay, okay … red flower, thorns …”
“Rose?” guesses the other.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s it,” says the first and turns to yell across the patio.
“Hey, Rose! What was the name of that place we went last night?”
And so it goes.
As published in The Daily News, January 16, 2015, and in The Memphis News, January 17-23, 2015
KNOWN BUT NAMELESS.
Who the hell are you?
I’m not mad at you, I’m mad because I don’t know who you are and I should. No clue. Known you since the earth was cooling and I couldn’t come up with your name under Dick Cheney’s enhanced interrogation, not if I had to listen to Barry Manilow sing or Rush Limbaugh talk until I came up with it. You look so familiar we might be brothers … but I know my brothers. Their names are … give me a sec. I don’t have any sisters. I think.
Did we work together, go to school together, get arrested together? Were we ever, well, together? Did I ever give you a pin, a ring, a good time or a hard time? Did you give any of them back? Do I owe you money or you me? Am I the godparent of one of your children or you mine? Who’s your daddy?
All of the above?
This week, every week, somebody behind me somewhere will tap me on the shoulder just as I hear the dreaded, “Hey, Dan.” I know as well as I know my own name (Dan, right?) that I won’t know theirs when I turn, that whatever goodwill might have built up over decades will be at risk in the nanosecond it takes them to figure out I got nothing …
“Hi,” I say, looking into nameless eyes, “(pick one) buddy, pal, bubba … lady, girl, darlin’… how you doin’?” So pathetically busted.
When I was growing up, I remember my mother turning to call someone and having to go through the entire litany of everyone in the house, including dogs and the odd hamster, before she got to the right name.
I’m so there, Mom.
Growing up in Memphis, you have a zillion associations and more cousins more times removed than clothes at a jiggle joint. Nora used to help me with all those names and connections, but now we stare at each other at a party, a business function or a family gathering, eyes hungry for a hint.
Both starved for recognition.
I used to think that everyone past a certain age – maybe 15 – should be required to wear a nametag, introduce themselves when they see you, and be arrested for stealth name calling if they sneak up behind you. But now we have technology. We can do something much better. We can do an app.
The Who-The-Hell-Are-You App.
When you walk into a room, your smartass phone – in the guise of a call or text, readout on your watch, discreet earpiece, one-way scroll inside your glasses – will tell you if you know anyone in that room and why, who their people are, nickname if any, and if you should run. If people you’re supposed to know blindside you attempting to say your name, they’ll receive a effective bolt of Bluetooth – ask your dog about invisible fences.
I’m a Memphian, and I’ve got a guy working on this. Can’t remember his name.
If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.
The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.