I was at the Oamaru Farmers’ Market last Sunday when my friend introduced me to a woman.
“Sorry- I didn’t catch your name,” I said, and why why why didn’t I stop there?
Well, I’ll tell you. I wanted to let the subject know I’d been listening during the critical introductory phase, instead of directing my attention to calculating laundry logistics. (In such situations, I simply assign a random name like ‘Atraxis’ or ‘Lucius’ until corrected.) But in this instance I had genuinely misheard. And so I said . . .
“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name. Nubbin, isn’t it?”
No, you didn’t misread that.
As in: “Lovely to meet you, Nubbin.”
It turns out her name was not, in fact, Nubbin, but, more accurately, Robin.
I mean, SUCH an easy mistake to make; I’m sure Robins are addressed as ‘Nubbin’ on a fairly frequent basis.
We certainly won’t be calling our imminent baby Robin.
Or, for that matter, Nubbin.
So I consider that incident not so much social suicide, as a social cry-for-help. But just to defy all your expectations, it gets worse. Not this particular scenario, which I salvaged by saying: “Watch out for the egrets. They bite,” and then running away in a loping crouch.
This morning. I was at my wonderful friend Kelim’s house with another friend from my antenatal class, Sinéad. Six months ago, Kelim had a second child, a son and, when she went to the bathroom, I took advantage to whisper to Sinéad,
“Psst! Sinéad! Does Kelim call Lucius ‘Lucius’, or does she- I’ve heard her use maybe like a shortened version.”
And Sinéad looked at me as if I had just made an inappropriate suggestion to her mother, and said, “His name’s Lochlan.”
“No, no I don’t think so,” I said. “It’s Lucius.”
“No-oo,” said Sinéad. “Lochlan. Or Loche.”
“Kelim!” I said as she came back into the room. “We have a question for you-“
“Niamh has a question for you,” corrected Sinéad darkly.
“What’s your son’s name?”
And then Kelim looked at me as if I had just made a simultaneous inappropriate suggestion to HER mother, and said, “Lochlan.”
“What? Are you sure?” I asked.
“I think so.”
“But I have a text message- the one you sent after he- announcing the birth of Lucius- look- wait- when was he born again? May. Here! Oh.”
So it turns out I’ve called Lochlan ‘Lucius’ his entire life or THE LAST SIX MONTHS.
You’d think someone would have corrected me.
I may have progressed beyond the cry-for-help stage.