I’m sorry, but I don’t know your name. Maybe you told it to me, or maybe you didn’t. Actually, I probably never even asked you what it is. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. I must come in contact with the same dozen people each day, and yet I’ve never thought to ask them something as simple as their name. Truth is, I’m afraid that if I ask them their name, we’ll become friends, and then they’ll want to hang out or invite me over or, even worse, be invited over — and I just don’t have any time for that level of interaction. I’ve got Netflix and an HBO GO login, so I’m pretty booked up. It’s nothing personal; that’s just the way it is, man. Oh, sorry. That’s what I do when I don’t know someone’s name. I call them “man.” Or I’ll throw a “buddy” their way. Sometimes I’ll even say, “my man” if I want to really make it seem like we’re tight, even though I know full well that we, in fact, are not. So, to make up for my insincere and impersonal transgressions, I thought I’d write a little something to all the anonymous people I take for granted each day.
Old Man Who Cleans the Sidewalk
I see you when I take my dog for a walk. You’re always wetting the sidewalk in front of my building with a hose. I guess you’re the superintendent? Or maybe you’re just a concerned (unemployed?) citizen who takes great pride in making sure the sidewalk is clean for when my dog (and homeless people) pees on it. At any rate, you greet me every morning with a smile and a hello, which is more than I can say about my soon-to-be wife, who most definitely knows my name. You’re a class act!
Black Guy Who Also Has a Dog
While I’m out with my dog, I often run into you, Black Guy Who Also Has a Dog. You’re a really nice guy, and your bulldog, Daisy, is absolutely adorable! Oh. Well…this is awkward. Yeah, you see, I know your dog’s name. I know you told me your name, but then you told me the name of your dog and then I immediately forgot yours. What can I say? I like dogs a lot more than people. That doesn’t mean I dislike you. I just like your dog more than you because befriending a dog is a lot less stressful and time consuming than befriending a human being. I pet your dog’s head, she wiggles her tail and then I’m on my way. If I did that to you, it would just be weird.
I’m not really sure what your job at the supermarket is, but I feel like you’re a manager of some kind. I always run into you around the produce aisle. You’re always wearing a hat with what I believe is a Washington Nationals logo on it, and I’m almost always wearing a Yankees cap. You’d think I’d use our common love of baseball as an excuse to delve into a deeper conversation than just our normal “hey, how’s it goin’?” but no. Ben & Jerry’s half pints are on sale and I’m fat. I’m sorry.
You’re great. You really are. You always get my sandwich order right, and never give me a problem when I want to pay for a two-dollar pack of gum with a card. That’s right, credit minimums be damned when good ol’ Bodega Lady is on the clock! Also, when you put my coffee in the bag, you don’t plop the napkins on top of the coffee lid, so that when some coffee spurts out of the top of the cup while I’m walking back to my apartment it doesn’t completely soak through all of the napkins. Now that’s a veteran move. One time I built up some courage to introduce myself, but then some other people walked in and also it was getting late.
amNewYork Hander-Outer Man
I’ve never agreed to take one of your newspapers. Every morning when I approach the subway station, you try to hand me one with that “today’s gonna be the day!” look on your face, and every morning I crush your dreams by saying, “no, thank you.” Well, I don’t actually say that. I just shake my head “no” and throw up my hand — but you always seem to get the idea. Despite my constant turning you down, you never become discouraged with me. I suppose I could ask you your name so that every morning I could be like, “no newspaper for me today, Charlie” (or whatever), but that would just get really, really repetitive.
I’m going to start by saying I’m sorry for the 50 pounds of sweaty, dirty clothes I give to you to wash every week that I’m too lazy to wash myself. I mean, that is the basis of your business, and I am paying you, but it still feels pretty crass. A strange woman touching my dirty underpants without knowing my name may have been fine in college, but as an adult, not so much. Maybe one day I’ll introduce myself and extend my hand to you, but you probably won’t shake it because, again, you’ve seen what I do to my underpants.
Look. I know there a lot more people to whom I owe an explanation, but this is becoming a real chore. If you’re one of those people, the next time I sheepishly half-smile and nod in your general direction on the street, just know that’s my way of saying “sorry.”