Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Civilized Society's Secret Code Revealed!

There is a code among civilized society, but some people don’t know the code.
Mothers teach it to children.  Bosses teach it to employees.  Wives teach it to husbands.  Friends teach it to friends.  Every person who is close to me at some point in time has heard about the code from me, or they have told me about the code.
Do you know what it is yet?
It is the Forgotten Name Code (FNC).  The FNC is multifaceted, so hold on to your pants...
When someone walks up to you and your friend – at a party, in a theater lobby, at a meeting, at a volunteer day at Community Partners of Dallas, wherever – and that person greets your friend and your friend does not (in turn) introduce you to that person, you must introduce yourself to that person, so then hopefully the stranger will tell you their name because your friend has obviously forgotten the stranger's name – otherwise your friend would have introduced you.  Your friend can then respond with something like:  “Oh, I’m sorry that I didn’t introduce you to Mary – Sue this is Mary.”  This is the most commonly used scenario of the FNC.  Extremely helpful to all concerned. 
Now, sometimes the stranger will just respond to the above by saying “nice to meet you” and not tell you her name.  At this point, you have two responses:  1) Do nothing.  Your friend is the one who looks bad because they’re the one who can’t remember this long-lost friend’s name, so what do you care?  2) Look directly at the stranger and say something like “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”  You must do this if you really like the friend you’re with and you don’t really want to hear her try to remember that person’s name for the rest of the night!
A variation of the FNC is sometimes performed in the following manner:  You see someone approaching you who you really don’t know well or maybe you just haven’t seen them for 20 years.  You recognize their face, but have no idea of their name.  When this happens to me (as it did last night at The AT&T PAC during the pre-show reception for In the Heights), I always put a big smile on my face and say in a very familiar way “Well, hello!  I’m Paige McDaniel.”  The hope is that this person will return the favor and say “Oh, hi – it’s Mary Smith – how about those days at Camp Longhorn together?”  This is the best of all possible worlds.  But, of course, many times this person will respond to you with “Oh, I know who you are.”  Ugh.  For God's sake people, if I remind you of my name, remind me of yours!
And of course sometimes the FNC just goes to hell and you must admit that you cannot remember the person’s name.  Something like “Oh my gosh – I am just having a brain freeze and cannot remember your name and I simply must introduce you to Joanna...” is required.  Don’t feel badly about admitting this.  It does help that the older I get the more people tend to forgive this – they know my old brain has trouble sometimes.
The FNC is helpful to all of us – the stranger, the old friend, and the forgetful person – once you know the FNC, you won’t allow these uncomfortable social situations to occur. 
Of course, the best thing would a universal rule that every living human being must wear a nametag at all times.  And as someone who raises money for a living – that would be paradise.


  1. One day years ago my mother was visiting me in Odessa, TX. We were in the grocery store and I saw approaching us a woman I'd just recently met. My mind went into overdrive trying to recall her name, I remembered it just in time to beam and say warmly, "Janet _ _ _ _ , I want you to meet my mother--uh.....uh...uh....".

    My mother stepped in and graciously supplied her name.

  2. Hilarious, Phoebe! Moms are great for stuff like that -- and they never let us forget it, either...

    One of my co-workers reminded me of another way to use the FNC -- when the person who walks up knows you but you can't remember their name, you can turn to the friend you're with and say "This is my friend Joanna" in the hopes that then the nameless one will supply their own name to Joanna in response. The whole thing is dicey and really nametags would be best!