Hello, my name is . . . I forget

The world would be a better place, filled with less animosity and anxiety, if we all wore name tags.

Cocktail parties, school events and church services wouldn't be so nerve-wracking if everyone wore the simple first-name-only badges typically worn at business conventions -- "Hello! My name is ILLEGIBLE SCRAWL."

Name badges would have many benefits to society, but the main reason for adopting such a system is this: I can't remember anybody's name anymore.

This could be a side effect of working alone at home. When I was reporter, out in the world, meeting people all the time, I was pretty good at putting names with faces. Now, I can't even recall the names of close relations, such as my children.

(This forgetfulness could also be a product of advancing age, but let's not go there.)

Though I work mostly in solitude, I sometimes go out in public for conventions and bookstore appearances. Also, my wife often drags me along to public events as "arm candy."

During these outings, I shake hands with many, many people and introduce myself each time. They say their names back, and I smile and nod, recognizing that I'm lost. The exchange has barely cleared my ears, but my brain already has filed the names in the overflowing trash bin of the forgotten.

This instantaneous forgetfulness requires that I fall back on deception and guile. Here's my guilty secret: Whenever I'm out in public, I call all the women "darlin'" and all the men "buddy" or "partner," as in "Hello, darlin'," or "Hey there, partner, how ya been?" This makes me appear friendly and casual, instead of a "space case" who can't recall the names of those he met as recently as one minute earlier.

At events where people wear name badges, I'm not forced to resort to such trickery. We all go around staring at each other's chests, but at least we avoid embarrassing name mistakes, such as calling a woman "Bill." Not that I've ever done that.

We should adopt name badges nationwide. We could bypass the sticky temporary badges in favor of fancy embroidery, such as you'll find on the shirts of bowlers and mechanics.

(I've noticed that the great majority of such shirts say, "Larry.")

Wouldn't life be less tense if we were all on a first-name basis? Wouldn't we be happier without the fear of forgetting the names of important people, such as our bosses? Wouldn't the loss of anonymity make us behave ourselves?

("Yes, officer, now that you mention it, the bank robber was wearing a shirt with his name on it. Put out an APB for someone named Larry.")

So, come on, America. Run right out and get some name badges. It's the one sure way for us all to get universal recognition. Someday, we'll know each other on sight, and we'll always get the names right.

Until that grand day arrives, I'll call you "darlin'" or "partner."

You can call me "Larry."

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