MY husband Stanley is a delightful fellow. He is cheerful and kind and has many talents, not the least of which is his way with a grill. The main thing that he does not do well is remember people’s names.
I’m similarly cursed with forgetfulness, but I try the usual tricks. Mnemonic devices can help, like mentally registering the name of a new acquaintance by picturing another friend with that moniker. Still, I’m always a little unsure. I never know when the recipient of my efforts at charm will say crankily, “Lady, my name’s Jean-Claude, not Johan.”
Poor Stanley finds the names of our son Bart’s friends the biggest challenge of all. This is despite the fact that he has cooked countless meals for at least a dozen of them, and lots of them have accompanied us on weekend trips. Yet, from one day to the next, Stanley might call Connor Conrad, Tippy or Greg. He might address Keiran as Hiccup or Barnaby, and transform Kyle into Scamp.
Bart also has a few friends with exotic names. We like one in particular because he has a great sense of humour. He thought it was cool rather than weird and creepy the day, nowhere near Halloween, when Stanley casually greeted him wearing a mu-mu.
Recently I heard a bunch of teenagers on our back deck. I asked Stanley who Bart was having over. He looked panicked at having to identify these people, many of whom he’s known for at least eight years. “I think it’s, uh, Ry (Riley? Ryan? He obviously had no clue), Kyle -- or maybe Cole, or Carnack -- or possibly Tash. There are a couple of girls I didn’t recognize. And Pokemon.”
Pokemon, as you probably know, is an obnoxious Nintendo media franchise featuring video games, figurines and trading cards. It is not a funny young man who’s mu-mu tolerant. Still, we’ve been married so long that I instantly knew who Stanley meant.
Which brings me to last weekend, when Stanley was on deck alongside Vancouver chef Rob Clark and others to help serve up 3,500 lbs. of fish at the 2nd annual BC Pink Salmon Festival.
The day before, Stanley had received a phone call at home from a woman (we’ll call her Bernice). Bernice said she was blind, and she wanted to attend the salmon fest with her assistant. She would have to order the HandyDART to get there, and needed to make sure she knew when and where the festival was taking place. They had a long conversation. Stanley told Bernice that when they arrived, she should identify herself to him so he could take care of her and her helper and they didn’t have to line up in the sun with everybody else.
Came the afternoon of the big event, and a horde of young cooks spent hours prepping and grilling salmon and serving it for free to appreciative members of the public. Stanley was in his “hyper-focus” mode, where it’s hard for anybody who isn’t a filet to get through to him.
Nevertheless, when a young man with some sort of official status hustled up and announced “Michelle has arrived! Can you give her something to eat?” Stanley instantly cried, “Of course!” He rushed over to greet Michelle Nickerson, who, he overheard, had just organized and accompanied the 3,000 km., five-week Ripple Relay bike trip across BC to spread the conservationist word about watershed use and Fraser Valley salmon runs. Nickerson had arrived on her bike, and a TV camera was on hand to capture the moment.
Stanley expressed surprise and delight. “Welcome, Michelle!” he cried exuberantly. Then, addressing the camera directly, he said “Can you believe that Michelle has been bicycling across BC and has made it here for this festival, and she’s blind?!”
Luckily, with the big crowd, Michelle -- who was, in fact, not Bernice, and fully sighted – didn’t hear this. It slowly dawned on Stanley that there probably aren’t a whole lot of visually impaired marathon bicyclists educating the public about BC’s salmon supply. He made a quick recovery and silently began to pray that any TV footage would not highlight that segment of Nickerson’s afternoon.
A little later, Bernice did arrive with her assistant, and Stanley set them up. No doubt they dined nicely. People generally do, when Stanley cooks. Nevertheless, this escapade suggests it may be time for him to give up any pretense of being on the ball beyond his barbecue expertise. In fact, it would probably be best for him to resurrect the all-purpose descriptor he used to use for anybody -- or thing -- whose proper name he could not recall.
Regular forgetful folk just employ the terms “whozit” or “whatzername.” With Stanley being Stanley, however, the kids, all our possessions, and I will have to get used to being called “Shvoogli.”