She couldn’t remember names, a problem she experienced neurologically, a synapse defiantly refusing to perform its assigned duty.
Use a mnemonic device, her father had recommended after she confessed her problem in her early twenties, when her inability to remember her coworker’s names threatened, she feared, to reveal her contempt for her job. When you’re introduced to someone, think of a famous person who has the same name. And she had employed the strategy with success at work, associating Bill from HR with POTUS 42, Jennifer from IT with “If You Had My Love,” Sal from Accounting with melting clocks. The flaw in the strategy didn’t reveal itself until she began working with the project manager for the SAS integration.
“Hello Leia,” her voice confident at the start of the second status meeting.
“Carrie,” the responding face souring like curdled milk. The actress’s name had come to her immediately at their first meeting, and for the duration of the six-month project, her struggling synapse continually linked the PM’s name with the character.
The experience put an end to that mnemonic device, but it wasn’t long before she happened on another. A Saturday evening party, Walt and Jamie’s apartment, a large man with long curtains of brown hair cascading down to his elbows. He extended his hand toward her — “Hey. I’m Brady.”
Twelve. The number came to her instantly, years of football games playing in the background of her parents’ home racing to her mind. And every time she saw him that evening,she thought of 12, his name then coming instantly to her mind again.
When she realized that she still remembered his name the next day, she felt inspired to explore this technique further. Clara, her friend from yoga — last name Lewis (she had to check her contacts for that). Five letters in both first and last names. Fifty-five, that Tuesday before class the number came to her and she called Clara’s name with an excitement that surprised her friend.
Further exploration provided equally positive results, pleasing her greatly. It’s like being a DNS server, she mused. But it worked for her.