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Jewish World Review August 26, 2003 / 28 Menachem-Av, 5763

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

U.S. needs amnesty
for amnesiacs | NEW YORK Move over, Bob Dole. I've got the solution to an even more embarrassing problem for America than yours. It involves a Magic Marker and sticker.

You see, it is not just me - and not just you - who cannot remember anyone's name a nanosecond longer than it takes to say, "Pleased to meet you." This is a problem shared by every person I know (just don't ask their names). That is why I hereby propose this simple solution to America's secret shame: National Name Tag Week.

I'm talking about a week in which everyone will be required to slap a "Hello My Name Is ... " sticker on their lapels or, lacking a lapel, foreheads.

Yes, yes, I know that What's-Her-Name on "Seinfeld" - the brunette - proposed a similar idea several seasons ago: Name tags for all New Yorkers to make this a friendlier town. Ha ha. Big laughs. But how hilarious is it when you run into your spouse's supervisor at the grocery store and all you can say is, "Hi ... uh ... you!"

And what if you then have to turn around and say, "Kids, I want you to meet ... a wonderful human being." Then again, maybe that's not such a bad idea. Usually, however, a frozen brain equals increasingly hot cheeks. Madly the brain racks itself for clues, begging its data banks to open up. "Is his name Johnny or Jimmy? Or did it start with a B? Isn't there any way I can get him to blurt out his name himself?"

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Turns out that many individuals have spent serious time preparing themselves for just such a situation. "I ask for their E-mail, which is usually name-driven," confides publicist Melody Campbell-Goeken. Clever!

"I play the driver's license game," admits New Yorker Robert Tessaro: "I say, 'Gee, you ever notice the new design on the license? Let me show you on yours.'"

That one is simply brilliant. But there are also plenty of situations when none of these techniques could work. Like when you can't remember the name of your kid's soccer coach - you're gonna slap him on the back and casually ask for his E-mail? Or when you're in the elevator with the neighbor you've chitchatted with for years and now you want to introduce her to your dad - suddenly you're going to ask to see her license?

That's why National Name Tag Week rocks. Just as public libraries sometimes have amnesty weeks when people can return overdue books without paying fines, NNTW would be a sort of amnesty week for amnesiacs. At last we could learn all those names we should have stored away by now.

Peter Post, however, has another solution.

"If everybody wore name tags, nobody would feel awkward," concedes the great grandson of Emily Post, tactfully trying to sound enthusiastic. "But honesty works, too."


"Everybody has the same problem, so they're going to let it go," says Post, the author of three etiquette books. "We think they'll think we're idiots if we forget their names, but they don't."

You mean, just as I don't mind if people forget my name, other people don't mind if I forget theirs? That's great news, Paul! I mean Phillip. I mean ... you etiquette expert, you. Thanks!

A pleasure to meet you!

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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