The one with the Nameless Friends

I’m sure this has happened to you: you go to a social occasion, bump into people, start cracking jokes, etc. etc. Days later, you keep bumping into them, and you keep giving them a nod of recognition.

You’re now .. umm .. “friends,” at which point you realize… that you have no clue about his name. (We’ll get to the “her” parts later.) Either you haven’t asked, or you have just plain forgotten. But now it’s too late already, it’d be rude to ask him his name now.

How has this affected me in the past: 1. The Nameless Friend addresses you by name, at which point you realize it’s not a two-way problem, and a deep guilt starts building up, and you return a … “Hey…. you.” After this, he knows you do not know his name, and makes sure to use your name even more often to make sure you feel the guilt even more. 2. There’s a possibility that the Nameless Friend doesn’t know your name too: this is an ideal situation, although every time you meet there’s this awkward, “Hey” that both of us would prefer to avoid, but social etiquette demanding that we go on with it. 3. The worst is: You need to address him, and he’s not looking at you. “Hey, move out of the way of that car.. hey, … you.”

Being in grad school at UPenn, you’ve got a whole lot of classmates. Really, I’m not used to so many people at one go. My brain just doesn’t have enough gigabytes to register so many faces, and so many names. Of the hundred names that I had heard in the first few days, less than five might have actually registered.

The invention of the elevator has brought with it lots of potential awkwardness. Being on the 21st floor doesn’t help: probability of bumping into people are higher. It’s hard to avoid your Nameless Friends — and sadly for them — they can’t avoid you. And among the others: you begin to hate those single-serving friends who take it their duty to comment on, “Oh, you live on the 21st floor? You must have a great view from there!”

Pretty girl moves in next door. The Damsel in Distress calls me for help with setting up her ethernet. The brave hero that I am, I puff up my chest and say, “Don’t worry, I’ll use my PennKey to activate your ethernet.” (Heh, the networking setup at UPenn absolutely sucks.) She also can’t access the wireless without a PennKey. “Don’t worry, you can use my PennKey whenever you want.” Some chats later, we say goodbyes. Now my question is: exactly what would have been the correct time for me to have asked her her name? She’s now my Nameless Girl Next Door. Oh, and I’m her Nameless Guy Next Door.


8 Responses to The one with the Nameless Friends

  1. Preyas says:

    Ah, but this is not a bad situation. You can just ask her name with an expression that says, “How funny we never thought of asking each other’ names” (if there is such an expression). The real problem is when you forget a name.

  2. dpgodct.od says:

    f*** names, f*** expressions, f*** this continent and all its people, and what it turns others into.
    dumb phoneys, meaningless lives; shiny useless trinklets.

    Remain anonymous, be xenophobic, become racist.

  3. Preyas says:

    And sometimes the useless trinkets aren’t even shiny… ah, well.

  4. ochod says:

    or, another trick which i use, is to stay around the person, when his/her other friends are around, and keep an eye for the time when they call your nameless friend by his/her name. tough thing to do, but a less awkward one too.

  5. Shreevatsa says:

    I know of two strategies for this:
    The first, for remembering names, is something I picked up soon after coming to the US, although I don’t put it into practice as much as the Americans do: Whenever you meet someone, address them by name as much as possible. “Hi, Phil. That’s funny, Phil. Bye, Phil” :P It sounds excessive, but that’s actually a good thing here.
    The second, my own long-standing strategy, is to sound interested and ask someone a question about their name, without giving it away that you have no clue what it is. “What’s your full name?” “How do you spell your name, BTW?” etc. Of course, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do this more than once, so use your chance wisely.

  6. arnstein says:

    @shreevatsa: lol, I’ve done the asking-the-full-name thing long ago.. sometime in 7th grade. He caught me. “Oh, you don’t know my name?” “No, no, no.. I just need to know your full name, you know, about your family.” Or something like that. I haven’t done it since.

  7. Shreevatsa says:

    There is an art to it :P
    Maybe it helps that I’m known to ask that question even to people whose names I do know.

    General advice: Never say “No, no, no ” :P

  8. zynga chips says:

    i was starting to think that i may well be the sole man that thought about this, at least at present i discover i’m not extreme :) i am going to make it a point to go and visit various different posts right after i get my morning caffeine in me, it is actually difficult to read with out my coffee, I was up late last night playing myspace poker and after getting my fill with a few brewskies i finished up losing all my zynga poker chips take care :)

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