Jerry Della Femina
IF WE SHOULD MEET AND I IGNORE YOU (9/22/20)
Are you like me? Stuck for life with a horrible memory for names and faces?
The truth is, I have a great memory for the most trivial of facts. (Nick Etten of the Yankees led the American League in homers in 1944 with 22; Donna Reed won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1954 for From Here to Eternity.)
I could bore you to death with millions of dumb facts that no one is interested in. Perhaps this is why, as a young man, I had so few second dates with women. On top of that, I have a horrible memory for names and faces.
This is usually solved when I’m with my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, who, aware of my problem, compensates for my shortcoming by digging her nails into my arm when a couple, who appear to be complete strangers to me, approaches us.
Judy then screams out as though I’m deaf as well as dumb: “HELLO! IT’S BILL, B-I-L-L STRAUSS AND NANCY, N-A-N-C-Y. How are you two? Jerry, aren’t you going to say hello to BILL AND NANCY?!”
Naturally I’m standing there looking like Bobo the Ape Boy, and most people look a little dismayed by Judy’s screaming out their name.
But for the most part it works for Judy and me. And I’m sure that most couples we know, when they are alone, wonder how someone as smart as Judy wound up with such a clueless boob for a husband.
Judy’s great memory for names and faces, of course, doesn’t help me when I’m alone. For example, I remember the day a few years ago when I walked into the Blue Water Grill in New York City for my usual lunch of a dozen cherrystone clams, a glass of wine, and some good quality time alone with my cell phone.
Then I spotted a familiar face – or at least I thought it was a familiar face. This attractive woman who was sitting alone appeared to be waving at me. Naturally, as I approached her I was desperately trying to remember who she was, and decided to have a conversation with her and fake it until I could figure out the connection.
This method usually works for me, but occasionally someone will look me in the eye and say, “You have no idea who I am, do you?” That’s when I go into my famous “I’m an idiot” defense. But the woman sitting alone in the Blue Water Grill looked friendly, and she was waving, so I waved back, rushed up to her table, planted a big kiss on her cheek, and said, “How are you?”
“Who are you?” she answered.
Just then the waiter the woman had actually been waving to came up and asked the woman if he could take her order.
“Sorry, my mistake. So, so sorry,” I muttered, slinking away, trying my best not to look like the kissing bandit of the Blue Water Grill.
This, of course, was not my greatest “wrong person” disaster. That happened a number of years ago.
At the time my advertising agency was housed in a large office building on East 42nd Street in Manhattan. A UPS truck sat outside the building all day long, making daily deliveries to the companies in the building. One of the nicest people making these deliveries was an African-American woman named Ramona, who had a friendly smile and a nice word for everyone. We stopped and talked all the time. I liked her a lot and she liked me, too. Ramona’s hair was striking and very distinctive, as she had it arranged in wide cornrows on her head with the ends falling down to her shoulders.
One day, I walked out of my office and I spotted Ramona, cornrows and all, in her UPS uniform, with her back to me, waiting for an elevator in the long public hallway. I walked up to her, tapped her on the shoulder and, kidding, I said: “I guess you’re waiting here just because you want to be alone in the elevator with me.”
NOTE: This exchange took place a number of years ago, before the politically correct idiots took control of our lives. Today, saying something like that would have the militant women at MeToo and the marching members of Black Lives Matter joining together to have me executed as a racist and molester of women for my silly flirty talk. As it was, my remark to Ramona backfired when the cornrowed head swung around and it wasn’t Ramona’s. It was an African-American UPS man with cornrows identical to Ramona’s, except he had a big black mustache and he wasn’t smiling. Whoever said “white men can’t jump” did not see me jump at that moment.
I went straight up and, as I came down, I was running before my feet touched the ground. I was flying down the long hallway to another bank of elevators. I looked over my shoulder and there was the UPS man, giving me the most menacing stare.
Naturally, the elevator I got on was crowded with people coming from an upper floor who stared at what they perceived was a madman who came into the elevator alone and started giggling. Of course, in trying to hold back my laughter I only succeeded in making the most unappealing snorting sounds.
The elevator reached the ground floor and cleared in record time.
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