Posted by: ritagone | October 17, 2018

How to Remember a Name

We were in Dublin, Ireland, having lunch in a cute little restaurant on a side street.  I even remember the name of the restaurant, first, because it was a catchy one – Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill – and secondly, because I kept a business card, which, as an aside, is not a bad thing to do as your memory gets a little more “flexible” with age.

The restaurant had “celebrity” 8”x10” black and white photographs hung all over the walls, reminding me of the old Brown Derby in Hollywood, but of course many of the people in those photographs I didn’t know, because they were Irish actors and actresses.  But nearby our booth was the photo of an actress who I did recognize…except that I couldn’t for the life of me remember her name.

You know the situation: you look at someone’s face (usually this happens with a live person) and you know them, but their name is somewhere out there in the ether.  If a gun were put to your head, as the saying goes, at that moment, their name would still escape you.

So I did the smartest thing I could think of to do: I asked our waiter, a young lad who was brimming with enthusiasm and energy.  He didn’t know, of course, but he said he had a friend who might, and he would contact him.  So he took a picture with his phone, and off he went, presumably to turn in our food order and find out who the mystery lady was.  The funny thing is that by then, the couple seated next to us, a woman in her 50’s and her mum, had gotten involved, staring at the photograph too and trying to help…all to no avail still.  Amongst the four of us, the name still proved elusive.

You’ve probably had this happen too, haven’t you?  That name you can’t place, the word that escapes your mind.  It’s frustrating and a bit frightening all at the same time.  My husband cannot for the life of him keep actor Gene Hackman’s name filed in his brain.  Hard as he tries, Gene comes and goes at whim, so that Michael is constantly asking me, “What’s that actor’s name that I can’t think of?” and I know the answer is, “Gene Hackman.”  It’s always going to be “Gene Hackman.”  It’s a thing between us.

So there we were, in Dublin, Ireland, in a restaurant, with the same thing happening, but to me!! What was her name? It would have helped if I could think of something I had seen her in, but I couldn’t find that file in my brain either, although I remembered seeing her in a few things, both film and TV.

The young waiter came back after texting his friend.  No luck there.  Apparently his friend wasn’t as brilliant at naming people as the young waiter thought he was!

And then someone – I think it must have been the restaurant manager himself – was brought into the fray.  (It was a slow time of day as far as business in the restaurant was concerned, thank goodness.) “Oh, that’s Claire Forlani!” he said, as quickly and easily as if it had been a photo of his sister and she had just been dining in the place.

And the windows of my mind flew open and I knew immediately that YES!!!! It was Claire Forlani of “Meet Joe Black” movie fame (with Brad Pitt) and “CSI:New York” TV fame and many other film and TV projects, and I thought, “How could I not have known her?” and many such thoughts.

And my day got much better, after many sighs of relief.

And to this day, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Claire Forlani.

So the lesson here is: if you want to remember someone’s name, you must have this kind of “forgetting and then remembering” encounter around them, because then there’s a better chance that they will become embedded in your brain forever.

Is that scientific?

I don’t know.  Probably not.  But it sure has worked for me and Claire!!!

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