Mike Buzzelli

The old name game

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My friend Brian and I went to an art exhibit opening this week. We were out being the bon vivants of 'Burgh Vivant, a local culture website where we discuss theater, art, music and film in Pittsburgh. I get to see plays and write reviews about them. It’s nice work if you can get it.

I know that going to an art gallery exhibit sounds hoity-toity, but it was really about trying to drink free booze and look at paintings of naked people.

At one point, someone came up to me and started chatting. After a few minutes, Brian wandered away. When I circled back to him, he jokingly said, “Who’s your friend?”

For the record, he was joking, because he said it like Leslie Ann Warren’s gun moll in “Victor/Victoria.” But, like Ms. Scarlet, I didn’t have a “Clue.” I told him, “I don’t remember his name.”

I’m not good with names and faces, which is odd because I have both a name and a face.

Usually, when I’m hanging out with friends I have to prep them. I have a series of hand signals my friends are supposed to memorize, like a baseball coach.

When I clasp my hands together it’s my friends’ signal to introduce each other. When I tug on my ear it means it’s time to leave: It’s the old Carol-Burnett-I’m-So-Glad-We-Had-This-Time-Together signal. When I put my hand to my nose, it means you’ve followed instructions perfectly; that one is from charades. Sometimes, it just means I have the sniffles.

I have a backup plan for when I forget to brief someone about the hand gestures. I’m going to share this with you in case you have a similar problem. I’ll say, “I’m off to the men’s room. Introduce yourselves.”

You can only pull that one once or twice a night before you risk getting a speech about your prostate health. At a party with a bunch of medical professionals, I was told to drink more cranberry juice.

Once, I tried an old chestnut. I said, “I’m sorry. How do you spell your last name again?”

They responded with, “B-U-Z-Z-E-L-L-I. Same as yours.”

I guess I shouldn’t have tried that one at a family reunion.

I don’t always forget people’s names. Sometimes, I have an idea, but I don’t want to guess incorrectly.

A few months ago, a woman stuck her hand out to a friend of mine and said, “Hi. I’m Cathy,” and I exclaimed, “YES! That’s it!” I suspect she was on to me.

Recently, a total stranger came up to me and said, “You’re Mike – the writer.” I struggled to put a name with the face, but I couldn’t figure it out at all. I drew a total blank. Finally, the stranger said, “You don’t know me, but I read your column every week.”

Sometimes, I forget that my face is in the newspaper. I spent years trying to get famous, yet when someone finally recognized me, it freaked me out a little. One guy recognized me one time. I can’t imagine what it might be like to be a Kardashian.

Next time you see me, say hello. I’ll pretend to know your name.

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