As a journalist, you meet a lot of people. Some you meet in passing, and some are names you beg yourself to remember. As a journalist, I have also found there is nothing more embarrassing than forgetting a name.
You helplessly search around in your brain for a moment or two, before the person either leaps in and offers it (bless you, kind souls) or you have to ask. I hate asking, but it’s happened more than once since I’ve moved here.
I started going by Kate day-to-day when I was in university. Professors, old acquaintances and family still called me Kathleen, and of course it’s the name I use when I write, but most people started calling me Kate.
Regardless of any of that, on a visit home I heard my mother moaning to a friend that her daughter had up and changed her name. To her, it was the difference between who I was, and who I’d become.
My favourite story about names is about my name, but comes at the expense of an acquaintance of mine.
In my previous job, I had a standing meeting with a professional acquaintance every week. He was a person of significance in the community, and I often needed his comment on stories. So every Monday, we’d sit down and chat.
Over the course of the year, we developed a good relationship—he trusting me with information before it was publicly announced, and me trusting them to tell the truth.
During our final meeting, he referred to me in the third person. Wasn’t I surprised was I to discover that he had my name wrong—I’ll never know if it was a slip of the tongue or if he genuinely believed that was my name all year. I’m inclined to believe it was the latter.
I’ve always been better at faces than names, so chances are if I’ve met you I could pick you off the street – but no way I’d remember your name or where I knew you from. Your name is how people see you, an identifier. The thing about forgetting names though, is that its never personal. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve met nearly 200 people since I moved here two weeks ago. Trust me, I have a mental Rolodex going and I’m attempting to keep track. So if you see me around, come and introduce yourself. I promise I’ll remember your name.