I wrote a while back about how forgetful I am and, even though I am not a professor, I have been nicknamed “the absent minded professor” by affectionate family members. This memory loss is particularly bad when it comes to the names and faces of my peers and colleagues (unfortunately).
At a conference a few months back, I was chatting with a woman. I happened to glance down and see that her name tag listed her affiliation as the University of Toronto. I experienced a moment of blind panic. I had chatted with a professor at the University of Toronto via a choppy Skype interview for a postdoctoral research position a month ago, but I could not for the life of me remember her name! Or what she looked like! I could very well have been talking to her all that time and not realized it.
Fortunately for me (and typical of me), I had forgotten my name tag that morning, so she would not have known it either. The reception on the Skype was bad enough that she might not have recognized me. After seeing me suddenly go pale, she asked if I was alright, and I begged a sudden onset of dizziness and rushed off to look up the name of my interviewer.
Whew, it had been someone else entirely.
Still, it is pretty embarrassing to have forgotten the name of someone so important!
I recently started a post doc elsewhere and when I arrived, I met a woman from Brazil. “Oh!” I said enthusiastically, “I have a good friend from Brazil! She’s from Viçosa, do you know where that is?”
She did know where it was and we parted ways amicably.
A couple of months later, at the departmental Christmas party, there was a baked goods competition. Someone brought a dessert from Brazil. “Oh!” I said, greeting her enthusiastically (and with absolutely NO recollection of our previous interaction), “I have a good friend from Brazil! She’s from Viçosa, do you know where that is?”
This woman gave me a steely death glare, turned on her heel, and walked away.
I pondered that moment throughout the lunch, but could not figure out why she was so angry until…later that night, lying in bed, it hit me. I suddenly remembered my earlier conversation with her. “Aha!” I thought.
Oh well. I’ll definitely remember her next time. I think.