Peoples names are important to me. They really are. Combine that with a life-long disorder in which newly introduced names whiz through one ear and out the other has made for some interesting scenes in my CDO-structured life (OCD in alphabetical order).


I have battled my infirmity (and increasingly overcrowded mental file) by abiding hints of how to remember names (envisioning, tagging, etc.). I thought I had things well in hand (or head).

Recently, I attended a retreat weekend. I was the sole attendee at the 11 previous retreats. Since I had met most of the people, I was expected to remind others of names. I also anointed myself the personification of our motto “no one is a stranger for long.” This meant making sure first-timers were welcome and felt included.

Early in the weekend, I had found a friend in the lobby of our hotel. Eric explained that he was waiting for a friend to arrive. I sat in the only other chair and chatted until the man, a newbie, came.

Eric introduced us. I don’t recall if I repeated the man’s name, but I left the two knowing I would see them at dinner that night.

We were eating at a restaurant dubbed The Twisted Olive. The olive wasn’t the only thing to get twisted that night.

I had, through three phone calls, made three reservations for a total of 22 people. (It seemed I was also to be the social secretary.) I always used my phone number, but only once used my name. The other two reservations had another name associated with them.

Arriving at the very popular restaurant, I watched “my” fluctuating reservations. I was horrified when one of my groupings cancelled before I even left the hostess stand. The second group shuffled from table to table. I watched with my introvert’s horror as my sister and her first-timer friend ended up at different tables. In separate rooms. Both passing me mouthing, “That’s okay,” yet subsequently moving together after my sister placed her order.
I apologized to the unfazed owner/hostess and the frazzled waitress who had lost a diner. The owner was gracious. The waitress didn’t appear any less distraught.
Eventually, I was assured by all that things were copacetic. Even though I tried to let it go and enjoy the group I was with, I was still owning the unexpected game of musical chairs,.
Eric and his friend were at the opposite end of our table for eight. I got the friend’s attention several times by starting with his name. “Randy, how long a drive was it for you?” “Randy, what do you like to read?”
After several of these questions. Eric exploded, “Why do you keep calling him Randy?” His name is Ron!”
Ron was a gentleman riffing, “I kind of like Randy. Ron is such a meh name, only three letters…”
I pleaded, “Well it began with “R.”
At this point, several others at the table began brainstorming “R” names: “Richard.”
I responded with more “R” names than anybody. Ron seemed to puff out his chest a little more with each name.
We decided to dub him with a different “R” name each day that we would spend with Ron/Randy.
The joking and teasing that ensued from my misnaming finally put me at ease. I was able to enjoy the meal and the others’ company.
After dinner, I left our table to say goodnight to others in our retreat who were in another room. I said goodnight, by name, to five of the six in that room. I didn’t know the last man, so he was introduced to me.
“This is Randy.”