It was a pleasant day. I got up and did the usual things, and then went off to an unusual one. I attended the first meeting of the new academic year of a writers’ seminar. It is a bunch of really old people, (all of whom were younger than me) only one of whom I had seen at another function, but I knew none of their names. When the instructor asked that we do a round-robin to introduce ourselves, I asked that each of the people when they said their name to include a mnemonic, preferably a visual one, so I could remember their name. My stated excuse was that I was 84 years old today, and was now having some difficulty remembering names that just floated by, through the air.
That backfired back onto me and my bad behavior! People shouldn’t ask strangers to do such a silly thing. They, more or less good-humoredly, insisted that I publicly make up a mnemonic for each of them as they stated their name. My thought had been that each of them would already have one of these little memory helpers. Now I was stuck with making a further fool of myself by associating some weird images with each of these people. As it turned out there was only one other new person to this group, and the rest of them had already been in this group for the previous year, so they already knew each other.
Believe me, creating these mnemonics was a challenge for someone who was inexperienced, but having had a little experience at the strange game of stage improv I said an emphatic, “Yes” and struggled boldly on into oblivion. Hey, I’m 84 now and can do anything. Right? Wrong? Maybe?
As it turned out, the whole thing was hilarious. And when challenged to give the names of the ten people present, not counting myself, I was able to do it. And, without any particular difficulty, I was able to do them in reverse order too, without much of a pause between each name.
How about that for an 84th birthday present? Can you young whippersnappers learn ten people’s names at an introduction?