Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You look familiar

I was out and about a lot today: Out for breakfast, out for lunch and then I actually went to the grocery store. And, because Buffalo is such a small town, I saw someone I knew at each establishment... or at least I thought I knew. I'm not sure if it's because I'm 50, or if I'm just coming to grips with one of my many shortcomings, but I cannot remember people's names. Today was really bad  because at each place I was sure that I knew the person but, had absolutely NO idea of their name, the connection or if indeed there WAS a connection. 

However, the most heartening thing happened at lunch. A very nice gentlemen (by the way I recognized HIM to as a former Buffalo News writer - and I STILL can't remember his name) came up to our table and asked my friend Fred, "Excuse me, is your name 'Bob'?". Fred, because he, too is a gentleman,  answered in the kindest manner, "No, no it isn't". The man apologized and walked away. I loved that this happened!!  Here was a man who actually took the time (and risked embarrassment) in order to put a name to the face. But, did I learn from this?  No, I continued in my cowardly way to just ignore the person that I thought I might know from somewhere, maybe.

It's even worse when someone starts talking to you and obviously knows you, your family and some intimate details of your life - but you have NO CLUE who they are. This scene is played out in infinite encounters - I know it's not just me. But, good LORD, it's awkward.  They've talked to you long enough  for your brain to scan the entire alphabet searching for the first letter of their first name  - and you still can't come up with anything.

Unless.... unless you are married to BILL SAVINO and, he is by your side. He is a human computer when it comes to remembering names. His former students will tell you of their first day of class with Bill when he asks everyone to stand and say their name. By the end of the class, he has everyone's name memorized. We're talking about 30-40 students and he's been doing this for 30 years. No kidding. And, he remembers them years later.  He'll be at Orvilles's (PS- those beggars from Orville's haven't delivered that darn $700 dishwasher yet!) and a middle aged woman will say "Professor Savino!"  He will not skip a beat: "Miss Wojciechowski, how are you". I have seen this happen many times.

He tells me that he was trained from an early age by his father who, for a period of time, sold insurance. Frank Savino said that the sweetest thing a man can hear is the sound of his own name. Too true. And he taught Bill the power of memorization and recollection. Bill told me that when he would go on long car rides with his parents his dad would interrupt Bill's reverie in the back seat and say "Quick! Read that Ford truck's license plate aloud". Bill would dutifully reply. Three days later, Frank would ask "Quick! Recite that Ford license plate back to me". And, Bill would do it. Cruel? Perhaps. But, it re-wired Bill's brain to remember details that you and I just don't (care to) process.

So, when we are at functions, the airport,  or approaching someone in the aisles of Tops,  I will say to Bill, "Quick! Who is that guy and what's his wife's name". And he will dutifully reply.


  1. Liz, my dad told me the same thing, in exactly those words -- that there is nothing sweeter for a person to hear than the sound of his or her name. I love that Bill said that!

  2. I was a taxi driver for years. When people ask if I remember them, I say no, I was looking out the window, driving, the whole time and you were behind me. I then ask if they remember the address where I picked them up and where I dropped them off. As soon as I hear these two pieces of info, I can remember everything. Apparently my brain files everything by location. Location is the trigger for my memory. I'd be interested to know if Bill has some type of trigger for faces.