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Barnum and Bailey

1960

I hadn't worked at Dr. Malin's office very long when I realized I had a very hard time remembering names. Patients would come in for their eye exam and after filling out many forms with their name on every page, by the time they came back a few weeks later to pick up their glasses, I'd totally forgotten their name completely! The face I remembered, but the name, not!

Mrs. Bailey, a wiry little old lady confronted me about this.

"I'd think that you could connect my name with Barnum and Bailey Circus, that's easy to remember."

"Thanks. I'll try that!" I assured her nodding my head up and down as if that would help her advice to sink in.

About a month later Mrs. Bailey came in to have her glasses adjusted. Each time a patient came into the office I had to pull their chart and write down the event, whether it was major or minor, that was one of Dr. Malin's idiosyncrasies. He could look at the last date and chat about something relevant to it.

"Hi Mrs. Dallas, what brings you in today?" I asked cheerfully.

"Mrs. Dallas! How in the heck did you come up with that name? I told you to remember Barnum and Bailey Circus. Was that so hard? Dallas? Where did you get that?

I stood there at the reception window a minute just totally dumbfounded. I thought I was getting better at remembering patient's names by the association system she had taught me.

Barnum and Bailey Circus. Her name was Mrs. Bailey. Where did I get Dallas?

Then it clicked in. Dallas Barnum was in Miss Kleinburg's Kindergarten Class back in Brea. I'd plowed through twenty-five years of names to come up with Dallas as the name to remember for Mrs. Bailey.

After I told her the story, she forgave me and actually got a chuckle out of it.

As she left the office she called back over her shoulder "I'm afraid to suggest that you remember me by Bailey's Irish Crème ... that would just confuse you by giving you two more choices."

I gave her a blank look, "What's Bailey's Irish Crème?"

Dr. Malin could look at a pair of glasses and tell who they belonged to by the prescription. I was guilty of calling people by the name of the frame they chose or worse ... like Mrs. Bailey ... a name from my childhood!

I wondered if I would ever get better at the name thing. Probably not. I stored too much trivia in my mind for that!

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