Let’s paint the opening scene of this bi-week’s foray: an unspecified location on Yale campus; you’re briskly sauntering about your day and happen upon someone who seems familiar.
The next five to six seconds are clutch. First, do you recognize them? Yes. Check. Do they recognize you? Unclear. Have they noticed that you are suspiciously taking stock of their facial features with mildly frantic eyes? Questionable. To wave or not to wave?
Do it! Do it.
The moment passes. And now you’re that weird person who keeps staring as they walk by, hoping they’ll make the first move.
When faced with this situation, I say, just go for it. If you both recognize each other and you just continue to look at them, you risk making future encounters more awkward because the acknowledgement rule has not been established. If they don’t recognize you and therefore ignore your grand and munificent gesture, you can suavely smooth your hair, look around, breezily mutter to no one and continue on your way. Passersby might look and wonder who you’re talking to, but if you walk fast enough, you’ll be able to shake off the light dusting of shame and embarrassment. The brisk pace will raise your heart rate. Enjoy it. It’s getting cold outside anyhow.
I follow the rule of three: That is, if I meet you three times and you don’t remember me, I ask: “Really? Not even an inkling? What the heck is wrong with you?”
That’s three chances to get it right, just like Aladdin had.
The rule of three is a generous rule. But not that generous.
If we met twice in high school and once at Yale, you can be sure that you’ve exhausted the rule of three.
Last semester, I stumbled upon someone I’d met three times before, dining with a mutual acquaintance. This was our fourth encounter, and I casually called them both by name. The response was mixed: the mutual acquaintance returned my salutation; the other, more forgetful, expressed mild confusion.
He didn’t recognize me. After all we’d been through!
True, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I wasn’t angry or confused, despite his failure to recall the joyous junctures we shared in the 15 minutes of interaction we indulged in during the last three years. At that moment, my impulse advised me to create a ridiculous situation so that he might at the very least remember the situation, if not the Kristen behind the magic.
I walked a few yards away and turned around. This time, as I approached, I raised my hands to the sides of my head and let out my default sound (i.e. the sound that you make when solicited to make some sort of memorable sound for games and kicks): CAW!
After a brief stint of mild bewilderment, we simultaneously chuckled and continued with our lives, the incident embroidered in our memories. Or so I thought.
Our paths crossed yet again in the walkway between Berkeley and Calhoun, and I looked forward to the first time we would recognize each other. As we approached each other, I raised my hands to the sides of my head and exclaimed, “CAW!”
I really hoped his yes-I-recognize-you-my-heart-is-aglow-with-the-jubilance-of-a-thousand-suns face looked a lot like his where-is-my-pepper-spray face.
I CAW!ed again. In retrospect, it was futile. But it seemed appropriate at the time.
Needless to say, if he didn’t remember me before, he certainly does now. We even exchanged numbers with the intent to have coffee at a later date to solidify our bond.
What have we learned? The Ridiculous-situation-with-default-sound Idea is a last resort. It’s only to be employed if the respondent in a I-remember-you-but-you-don’t-remember-me interaction isn’t savvy enough to employ a few simple strategies that I have listed below.
1. It’s entirely possible to have an extended conversation with someone without using any proper names whatsoever. Just look at your repertoire: man, pal, bud, bro, dawg, homes, money … the possibilities are endless. Depending on the characters involved, you might be able to use sweetie, hun or dear, but use these with caution. Nobody likes a creeper.
2. Ask how they spell their name. This could either make it seem like you’re taking an interest in them, or can backfire on you, seeing as though there are only so many permutations of “Joe,” “Mary” and “Smith.”
3. Continue the vicious cycle, and introduce them skillfully to another person. Try the following line: “Hey, do y’all know each other? This is my friend (insert name of innocent bystander you happen to remember).” Chances are, the other individual will introduce himself with his name.
4. The last one isn’t flashy or glamorous: Just be honest. Chances are, the person doesn’t remember you either. If it’s the fourth time around, though, I’d prefer you use your own default sound. Or a hatchet.
Kristen Ng is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.