Faces, sort of. I usually have some idea who people are when they strut up to me and start lipflapping. Some idea.
Names, forget it. I mean, I forget it. My secret is, if you're a guy and you come up to me in line at the Credit Union and I can't think of your name, I can get away with "Hey, buddy boy! How you doin'?"
If you're a female, the appellation "buddy boy" hardly seems to fit, and since only Frank Sinatra could get away with its distaff equivalent ("Chickie Baby"), I am out of luck. Sometimes I will just guess a series of female names. Pro tip: "Thelma" hasn't been right since 1957.
So Peggy (whose name never escapes me) and I were at the grocery not long ago and a guy about my age started sidling up to me. There are two kinds of Supermarket Sidles: a) when a woman of diminutive height is about to ask me to reach something on the very back of the very top shelf (Sunsweet Prune Juice and Special K cereal are always way back there) and b) when some dude thinks he knows me.
"Hey there!" he said. "How have you been? Did you retire yet?" At this point, I realize he does not know me well, because from lifelong boon companion to the guy who made my pizza the other night, everyone I come in contact with has heard about my glorious retirement over and over and over again. But I admitted to retiring four years ago and he gradually lost all the steam in his conversation, like a fully loaded beer truck trying to climb a steep hill from a dead start. As my answers became more puzzling to him, he finally raised one eyebrow and said, "You ARE Professor _____ ______ from Towson University, aren't you?"
Sometimes I think that life gives us retirement so we can spend four or five hours wondering why a total stranger would confuse you with someone to whom you bear no resemblance at all.