Instant Recall


I have done some soul searching and have come to the conclusion that I do not have a short term memory problem, and I don’t have a long term memory problem. But when I meet people I haven’t seen for a while, I have a tough time coming up with a name.

I have an instant recall problem.

If I bump into an old familiar face, there is instant recognition. I know who they are, where we served together, and almost always remember a fond memory. But too often, when it comes to recalling his or her name, I draw a blank.

The greetings can be awkward.

“Heyyyy! How you doin‘? Long time no see!” Meanwhile my mind is racing at Mach 20 to come up with a name. If you have ever gone through the alphabet in your head in the one-in-a-million chance that it will magically spark your mind into remembrance, you are one of us.

I think I am witnessing a slow deterioration of my brain, with the little cells responsible for fast thinking being the first to go.

If a miracle happens and I DO remember, I feel honor bound to prove that I DID know all along. It becomes a competition to see how many times I can actually say the person’s name in one conversation. I might as well save us all the misery and just say, “See? I remember!”

Sadly, there have been a few times when I call someone by the WRONG name. It comes out quickly – almost as a reflex – and once it leaves the lips there is no way to undo it. Today, these people consider me either rude or stupid (or both). Inevitably, of course, the right name comes to mind as soon as they walk away, thus adding to my discomfort.

I envy people with instant recall. They are the ones who stride into a room with confidence, shouting out to friends and acquaintances. They are the life of the party.

I, on the other hand, creep into a room, looking for a dark corner where I can hide.

There have been plenty of times when I bump into people who cannot come up with my name on the spot either. I enjoy these moments. I see the same, almost imperceptible flash of panic on their faces that I feel when the roles are reversed. I fight the urge to thank them for reassuring me I am not the only one with instant recall deficiency. They are my brothers-and-sisters-in-arms.

A long time ago I met a man who always spoke his own name while extending his hand. He worked for the Chamber of Commerce and would repeat his name whenever we met. By doing so, he allowed me to say, “Of course I remember you, Bob.” I think that is a good example to follow. No awkward moments, no hurt feelings.

I suspect that many people share the same problem as me, but that is no consolation. Maybe there is a vitamin pill we can take, or a book we can read to solve this challenge. Maybe I’ll get a “photographic” memory after a few mental exercises and will become the life of the party.

But I doubt it.

Until the miraculous cure comes along (if ever), I am left with only two options: to stay at home, or to keep going and fight through it. The positives of seeing old friends far outweigh the negatives that a little embarrassment might bring. So I’ll keep going.

Maybe we’ll run into each other sometime. Maybe at a party, ceremony, or grocery store. No matter where it is, you can’t miss me.

I’ll be the guy in the corner.


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