Elusive monickers: One of life’s frustrations

Elusive monickers: One of life's frustrations By Bob Karolevitz I've reached the age when remembering names is one of life's minor frustrations.

I blame it � not on mental deterioration � but on the fact that through the years I have met (or heard about) thousands of people, and it's just not possible to keep all their names on the tip of my tongue.

I like to think it's a case of my brain-computer being over-loaded, and that's what's causing my recollection problem.

Phyllis sometimes shares the dilemma with me. All too often we'll sit at the kitchen table trying to recall the name of someone we know real well. Then we start the alphabet process.

She takes the first name, and I take the last.

Andrew, Bruce, Charles, Donald, Edward, Frank and George she ponders, trying to stumble onto the elusive monicker. Harold, Israel, John, Kermit, Lawrence, Maurice � and still no light dawns.

Meanwhile, I go down a mental list like Adams, Baker, Christopherson, Duncan, Emerson, Fejfar, Gunderson, and Hanson. I try Isaason, Jones, Kilpatrick, Lee, Miller and Norton with no success.

Sometimes the system works; sometimes it doesn't, especially when we're trying to come up with Tadeus Kosciuszko or one of a couple hundred Smiths.

I understand that there are others who do the same thing, ruminating from A to Z in hopes of refreshing a lapsed memory. Actually I think it's good brain exercise, like crossword puzzles, cryptographs and Scrabble.

I once wrote a column advocating a national nametag law which would require everyone to wear an identification label. However, there were drawbacks like size, script and where exotic dancers would wear them. The idea never caught on.

I also suggested a $5,000 fine for anyone who started a conversation with; "You don't remember me, do you?" When they do that to me, I should just answer: "No, I sure don't." Instead, I pussy-foot and try to be polite.

If I offer a name, it's usually wrong, and the situation becomes embarrassing for both of us. There isn't enough time to apply the alphabet method, so it becomes a stuttering and mumbling confrontation.

I marvel at politicians and some writers who have the uncanny ability to remember everybody they meet or interview. Somewhere I read that Julius Caesar � I think that's who it was � knew the names of all the members of his legion, thousands of them. But then he died at age 44, so he never had a chance to forget them as he grew older.

My wife what's-her-name is really good at matching up names and faces, and quite often she whispers in my ear who it is we are about to meet. Or afterwards she tells me who it was.

I don't think I'm snobbish. I just don't have Caesar's knack, that's all. I probably come by it naturally, though.

I remember my mother once telling my father about something Mary did.

"Mary, who?" he asked.

"Mary, your daughter. That's who!" she replied.

Anyway, I'm doing my best to overcome my obvious deficiency. I'm still not ready to call it a problem of age, though. After all, I've got a head full of trivia and other worthless facts, so there just isn't all that much room left for names.

Oh yes, and I also remember lots of old jokes. For instance, there's the one about the two Shriners who met, and one of them said: "I don't recall your name, but your fez is familiar."

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