I make it a point to remember people’s names. I don’t get it right all the time, but I do my best since I know how warm it feels when somebody I’ve only met briefly remembers my name. It’s a good feeling — being remembered and being acknowledged as an equal.
Someone in the International House at San Diego had their 21st birthday a couple of weeks ago. “Have you said ‘happy birthday’ to ______ yet?” asked people passing by. I never met the birthday girl, but I supposed this was the best time to say hello. It was the first week of school, and everybody was trying to meet each other anyway.
I made my way to the birthday girl and introduced myself. Hi, I’m your neighbor, and I heard it was your birthday! She furrowed her eyebrows and gave me a limp handshake. I wondered if I had said something wrong.
Less than thirty seconds later she introduces me to her sorority friends as “some random guy I don’t know.”
Technically that’s true, but my blood started to boil over this title I was suddenly given. I’m her neighbor! I said to the other girls. They gave me these cheery sorority grins and said hi neighbor before heading off on their own way.
I walked out soon afterwards, rather bitter about the whole thing. This was such a small, insignificant interaction, and yet it provoked such a strong response.
Would the birthday girl have done the same if I were part of a fraternity and wearing my letters? Would she have done the same if I had stood a bit taller and kept my voice firmer? A far more ridiculous, sinister voice then popped into my head — would she have done the same if I were some dashing, buff blonde guy with bulging biceps?
Who knows. Many people I’ve met say she’s such a nice person, but wow, what a horrible first impression.
I made a promise to myself that I’d never do that to anyone I meet — that even if I don’t know the person that well, I would never introduce them as “some random guy/girl I don’t know”, no matter who they are.
Pretty sure that’s basic human decency.