SAY YOUR NAME
Pilot season … it used to be THE time of year that could change your life forever.
Aspiring actors would make their way to Los Angeles with stars in their eyes and copies of Backstage Magazine under their arms in the hopes of auditioning and getting cast for the next Friends or Seinfeld. I dreamed of making that trip but never did. I stopped dreaming about “making it” in the industry a long time ago.
There are no more pilot season trips in my dreams, but a new season haunts me now. Fundraising season. That’s the season when nonprofit organizations launch their campaigns and tug on your heartstrings to donate to their cause. I like a good party, and even look forward to it. Some people complain about being served yet another plate of rubber chicken—but not me—I sympathize with the chef, who has to send out 400 meals in twenty minutes. My apprehension comes from knowing that I will see the same people that I’ve seen for years, and I won’t remember who they are.
It’s worse than that. Not only do I forget everyone’s name, I assume everyone is a regular Joe, just like me. I put my foot in my mouth repeatedly.
I’ll say, “Parking sure was a mess! Whoever runs this hotel should invest in a better valet service,” only to discover that I’m talking to the hotel owner—and not just the manager of the hotel that’s hosting the event (probably for free), but the owner of the worldwide chain!
Or I might comment, “The weather report said it would be nice and clear all night, and it’s pouring. They always get it wrong,” and later find out I was speaking to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration director—the guy responsible for the science behind all those weather reports. By the end of the night, my attempts at small talk could offend the whole room.
Remember the movie The Devil Wears Prada? Meryl Streep plays the diabolical boss to Anne Hathaway’s unfortunate assistant character. In the movie, the assistant must memorize “The Book” prior to the big gala, which contains a photograph and biography and includes the spouse and children of every important guest. The assistant’s job is to stand next to the boss in the receiving line and whisper all the details as each guest approaches. The boss appears so caring and engaged, and the donation checks flow in.
I want that book.
Actually, I want an assistant to memorize the book and accompany me to all parties, both big and small. I’m confident that even if I had the book, I wouldn’t remember the names and details at the crucial moment. And we know what happens when I’m left to my own to improvise. Perhaps worse than not remembering someone’s name is calling them by the wrong one.
It’s unlikely that I will ever find an assistant willing to take on this job, or have the funds to pay someone. So, I am forced to go it alone. And here, I want to toss out an idea and hope you’ll pledge to do the same. If you run into me at a party, even if you think there is no way that I don’t know who you are, remind me that you are working on a cure for cancer, or whatever else you’re doing.
And please, please … say your name.