Thursday, September 18, 2008

It Starts With A 'P'

The guy lived in my dorm. He was tall and lanky, with big glasses and brown hair. I met him in September, during move-in, as we introduced ourselves from behind mountains of luggage. My first day of college, and I wanted to meet as many people as possible; I said hello to everyone that I passed, and the mental bucket of names that I was filling quickly began to overflow. Had he not lived in my dorm, I wouldn't have said anything--but I was sure that I would be seeing him at least once a week for the rest of the year, so it would be a worthwhile investment.

Of course, the second that we parted ways, I forgot what his name was. "Ah well," I thought, "it's the first day. He can forgive me for forgetting, so I'll just ask him later." Then I dropped my luggage on the floor, sat at my desk, and began imagining our future conversation, trying to figure out the best way to go about asking.

Yet imagined conversations never tend to actually go the way you had planned. I would see the guy again, several times at least, in the following weeks, but always at the worse possible moments. Walking down a crowded street, I'd hear a shout of "Hi Dan!" and turn to see him waving while walking past, turning back to his friends before I'd have a chance to respond. Other times I would find myself in the opposite position, spotting him jogging towards me, on the way to class or to grab food, and I'd manage a smile and a "Hey!" as he'd run by while offering me a high-five and a "Yo Dan!" in return. I considered grabbing his hand, mid-high-five, pulling him to a stop and screaming "Slow down for a second! I don't remember your name!" but by the time I worked up the courage to do so, he was was already gone.

Weeks turned to months. We finally started to have deeper, longer, more meaningful conversations, but at this point the cut-off had long since past. I'd been in this situation before, and knew all the tricks. So I tried, and I failed: I borrowed pieces of paper from his notebook, but his name was never written at the top; I mimicked "The Chinese Restaurant" of Seinfeld, introducing a friend to him, only to watch him respond with "Nice to meet you, I live in Dan's building"; I asked him for his cell-phone number, and then how his name was spelled while I plugged it into my phone--"Exactly like it sounds!" he replied; I even tip-toed around the dorm itself, glancing at the name-tags on every door, hoping that one would jog my memory. None did.

He was so smug, clearly showing off the fact that he knew my name, inserting it into our conversations whenever he could. "Hey Dan, how was your weekend? Wow, Dan, that's awesome! Anyway, I gotta go, see you later, Dan!" But despite this, he was really a nice guy. If he had more annoying or rude, I wouldn't care. But I'm sure that if I had known his name, we'd be good friends. It was not meant to be.

What could I do? I was out of options. Months turned to semesters. It was February. "Alright," I thought. "Only a few more months to go. You'll survive, and then you'll never see him again." I was so close.

Of course, as they tend to, things would get worse before they'd get better.

It was night, around 11:30. One of my roommates, Alex, told me that he'd be back later, and left. I didn't ask where, and went back to finishing up my homework. Knocks on the door disrupted my concentration, and I walked over to greet the visitor. It was the guy.

"Hi Dan!" he grinned. "...Hi!" I replied.

"Is Alex around?" he asked. "Nope, he just left." I answered.

"Well when he gets back, just tell him that I'm looking for him."

And with that he turned and walked away. "Oh no," I thought. Now what? Alex was the kind of kid who, if he heard my predicament, would immediately run to the guy and tell him that all this time I had never known his name. I didn't want to hurt his feelings with this news. He'd taken the time to learn my time, and practice using it nearly every day. Why couldn't I return the favor?

So I did what I often do in times of trouble. I turned to The Internet for support. And there I found it. On Facebook to be exact. I tend to hate Groups (and the people who invite you to them), but for once, one saved me. I discovered the group for people in our dorm. All 300 people. All of them with tiny little profile pictures in an alphebetical list. And this guy was hopefuly one of them.

Thankfully he was. I was relieved to see his smiling face in one of those icons. What would I do if his profile picture was of him in a group? Or worse, what if his photo was something else entirely, like a cartoon or funny picture, as some of my friends have? But you shouldn't question good luck. Alex returned, and I proudly told him that the guy from our dorm was looking for him. "Which guy?" he asked. And I told him exactly which one.

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