A few years ago, I lived on the same block as a young girl who was forever walking her shaggy little dog.
One day I heard this girl addressing the dog by name. “Bilbo, it’s time to go inside now! Come on in, Bilbo, let’s go home! Come on Bilbo!” Through my shrewd powers of deduction I was able to extrapolate that the dog’s name was “Bilbo”, and I retained this factoid within the warm, pulsating lobes of my soggy thinkmeat as I imagined there would be a time when it might come in handy.
I was not a fan of this particular little dog-walking girl, for reasons that seem mean-spirited in retrospect. She was not the same little asshole who told me my skin was too white that time, nor was she the little punk shit who raced me to the bus stop so mom could skip ahead of all the people waiting in line. As I think about it, I have had problems with a few kids in my general vicinity, but in true me fashion, I don’t blame myself for this. Those kids are dicks.
Bilbo’s guardian, however - she never did anything wrong to me, not specifically. It was more of a Hannibal Lecter vs. Benjamin Raspail type of situation. She was just a garish and unpleasant kid in a lot of ways, and her poor flute playing was diminishing the entire orchestra. She was always barefoot, and her feet were filthy, and she was constantly shouting at that dog in the street with her filthy exposed feet. Her face reminded me of kids who were unpleasant to me when *I* was a kid, five thousand years ago. Her stupid ponytail and inappropriate butt shorts gave her a constant wedgie, which she could not quit digging at. She had perpetual Jam Face. Who eats jam every day? Employ a napkin please, my god. Eugh. Just eugh.
Please forgive me for judging a child in this way, those among you who are of a finer ethical class than I. I am the mother of a little girl now, and the idea of some snotty bitch judging her feet in front of her own house makes me want to punch this hypothetical person in the face, but this was years ago, like I say. Before I grew a compassion gland.
In any case, this hapless child had done little to earn my ire, but nonetheless, she had it. As a result, I also found Bilbo distasteful.
I am a terrible person.
Sifu and I were discussing affairs on the block one day when he mentioned the girl with the dog. “That dog’s name is Bilbo,” I said. “I heard her calling it Bilbo over and over again with her horrible little voice.”
"What is your problem with that child?" Sifu asked me.
"I am a terrible person," I said.
Sifu, who is a lifelong Tolkien fanatic, thought “Bilbo” was a perfectly good name for a dog, and remembered it.
Weeks passed. One day, Sifu came home from w*rk, and as he entered our apartment, greeted me with a look of perplexed disdain. “Why did you tell me that dog’s name was Bilbo?” he asked.
"Because that is what the filthy little child who owns the dog was calling it."
"I just saw that kid’s mother walking the dog, and I said ‘hi Bilbo!’ and the woman looked at me like I was crazy. ‘My dog’s name isn’t Bilbo. It’s Rufus.’ That’s what this woman just said to me."
"That crazy kid was calling it Bilbo. I am not making this up."
"I told her I called her dog Bilbo because my wife is a liar."
"I am not lying. That lunatic kid doesn’t even know her own dog’s name."
"I’m sure that’s what happened here."
I may be a terrible person, but I would never mislead someone into thinking a dog’s name was Bilbo if it wasn’t. That’s not how I was raised.
But Bilbo the dog is not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about two situations involving people I have w*rked with in the past.
The first situation was when two guys, Jack and John, were hired on the same day. They were introduced to me in passing, and I absorbed that their names were Jack and John, but I failed to assign an appropriate face to each name. They both looked similar, and they sat next to each other performing similar tasks, so all conversations with JackandJohn could be handled as a combo deal.
Until the day that I, the consummate professional, was tasked with informing Jack, but not John, of some critical w*rk related matter. ‘Give this information to JACK’, I was told. ‘John doesn’t need to know about it.’
It had been months since they started at this point. It was now simply too late to consider asking anyone at all which one was Jack and which one was John, because in doing so, I would be outing myself as a completely oblivious moron. So I did what any rational, thinking adult would do. I snooped on their desks and messed with their phones until one of them produced a name, and then I threw caution to the wind and addressed one of them by name.
I guessed correctly and never again forgot who was Jack and who was John.
But Jack and John and their stupid phones and name are not really what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about another guy I w*rked with, who was introduced to me on his first day, and then I never had anything further to do with him until almost a year later.
Throughout the course of that year, I had determined, somehow, that his name was Woody. Every so often I’d address him, in passing. As Woody.
Which by now, you, super sleuth, have determined, WAS NOT HIS NAME WHY DID I THINK HIS NAME WAS WOODY????
One day, Not Woody casually asked me why I kept calling him “Woody”.
"Because that…is your name?"
"Nope, my name is Jeff."
His name was fucking JEFF. Jeff doesn’t even sound like Woody.
Jeff Not Woody and Jack and John and I no longer w*rk together. And I no longer live on the block where Bilbo and his unpleasant little mistress patrolled the pavement with their murky toenails on display for everyone to enjoy. I guess this is all for the best.
But I think of them often, when I am trying to remember some jerk’s name. I think, “perhaps a pneumonic device should be used to retain this data for future use”, but then I remember that what I actually want is a MNEMONIC DEVICE, and if I can’t even remember the kind of god damned DEVICE I should be utilizing, I have no chance of remembering the name of someone I never want to talk to. So why try.
You have learned Sociology. Go in peace.