Reasons why Fran might be avoiding you
I met someone new at church the other day. 'Tell me your name,' she said, 'although I'm bound to forget it by next week.'
'Tell me yours,' I said, 'but, ditto.'
We exchanged names in the same way people exchange business cards, knowing that their loss is inevitable and that they will be found, years later, down the gap between the sofa cushions or in the pocket of a jacket that needs dry cleaning.
'There are people who've been coming here for years,' my new friend said, 'and I forgot their name early on. Now it's too embarrassing to ask.'
'Or to check whether they are a Nick or a Mick, or a Jean or a Joan.'
'If I even got that far,' she said.
'We should have a Church Amnesty Day for forgotten names,' I said, 'as they do with weapons or stolen goods or those library books you've had since 1974.'
We agreed that this was a good idea. On Namenesty Day, it would be perfectly okay to admit, 'I have been pretending to know your name for many, many years, both to you, and to everyone else in the church. Sometimes I have avoided having conversations with you in case you called me by my name and I couldn't reciprocate. Once, I saw you in the street and stepped into a betting shop to avoid you although I've never gambled in my life. In fact, fourteen other people were in there. Only one was interested in the horseracing. The other thirteen had also forgotten who you are.'
The person to whom you were admitting this would be duty-bound on Namenesty Day to extend mercy in the circumstances unless, of course, they had also forgotten your name, which would be a moment of great joy and manic relief-laughter all round. At that point, you could queue up together for tea and Namenesty Day cake, calling each other by name with wild abandon while you still could, because, of course, the following week, their name would once more be Thingy With the Curly Hair.
|Actual picture of Fran's brain|
The conversation reminded me of one I had when I was teaching in a school in London many years ago when I tried to convince a male teacher colleague that his name wasn't [let's say] John Collins.
'If we get a rise in pay,' he was saying, 'my name's not John Collins.'
'But your name isn't John Collins,' I said. 'I've just been having lunch with John Collins.'
'No, you haven't,' he said. 'Whoever that was, it wasn't John Collins. I'm John Collins.'
'Are you?' I said. 'But I've been teaching here for four years now and I've been calling that other man John Collins all this time. I called him John all the way through our chat. I tell other people he's John Collins.'
'None of that makes him John Collins,' he said, patiently.
'Who is he, then?' I said.
He sighed. 'I have no idea. I don't know who you're talking about, do I? Next time you see him, you'd better ask what his name is.'
'I can't do that,' I said. 'It's too embarrassing. I'll just hide in the English store cupboard if I see him coming down a corridor. Or resign and move to another school.'
He looked incredulous. 'You'd go to those lengths? Why not admit it?'
'AdMIT it?' I said. 'Who are you? Some kind of monster?'
'No,' he said. 'I'm John Collins.'
I saw a fabulous news story on my Twitter feed today. Click on the link for this short video. Now, THIS man has a memory!