I’ve Always Been Bad with Names, now I’m Bad with Faces Too

2 May

by Gerald Ortega (reprint from the Bye, Sight blog)

I never felt bad in the past about forgetting people’s names because NO ONE ever remembered mine. As a person I’m memorable enough, but my name just doesn’t stick. I get called every name but my own. I’ve gotten “Chris” and “Steve”, “Charles” and “Darryl”, and (sigh) “Jose” and “Carlos.”

When I started writing and working in stage/film, I started using pseudonyms. You know what? They stuck. I was never attempting to fool anyone – they often knew my real name as well – but when word gets out that you want to be credited as “Dirk Stairfighter” people take notice.

But even then, my real name got forgotten. I considered it Karma because I have never been able to hold a person’s name in my head before meeting them three times.

If a name is important, I write it down or I say it in my head a zillion times.

Hi James. Nice to meet you James. Would you like a drink, James? Perhaps in a James glass as you sit on your James stool. You, James – yes you, James, will have James’ drink because James is you. You’re James.

If I just meet you like a normal human and have a normal human conversation, by the time we say goodbye I’ve half-forgotten your name. …but at least I’m good with faces!! …or at least I was. Blindness has thrown a monkey wrench in my cover plan. Now, second and third meetings have gone from

“Oh, geez! What was this guy’s name again?” to:

“I know this voice. Where do I know this voice from? …Dad? …God? …Darth Vader?”

It’s led to some awkward conversations, especially if they have no idea that since out last meeting I’ve lost a ton of vision. It doesn’t help that I do all I can to appear sighted. (Yes, I know. I’m vain. We’ve covered this topic.)

A couple of weeks ago I went to a table reading and afterwards one of the actresses came up to me and said “Aren’t you going to say ‘Hi’?”. The first thing that popped into my head was “I knew I knew that voice!

I’d been listening to her act for 90 minutes and even heard her name, but until she spoke directly to me (as herself and not her character) I wasn’t sure if I knew her or not.

I quickly explained that I couldn’t really see her, but recognized her voice. Then I cracked a couple of blind jokes to let her know it’s cool that life sometimes throws you curveballs and that there are upsides to everything – even crappy things like going blind. I am learning so much about the world, about industrial design, about human nature, and that the rule The Only Real Limits Are The Ones You Put On Yourself still applies.

Then we caught up like any other colleagues. It was nice to “see” her again.

As we parted, I gave her my card. I did it partially because I’d hoped she’s keep in contact and partially because she never actually called me by name.

Gerald Ortega is a native Texan and he has glaucoma.  His career is in the film industry.  To read his full bio, go to http://byesight.wordpress.com/about-me/ and check out his blog, Bye, Sight.


One Response to “I’ve Always Been Bad with Names, now I’m Bad with Faces Too”

  1. Jeff Flodin May 2, 2012 at 1:03 PM #

    Many thanks, uh, now don’t tell me, , oh yeah, Gerald Ortega, for a very entertaining story. Sorry, gotta run. I’m heading to check out your blog.

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