On cruise ships, the staff each perform a lot of different tasks. On one cruise I passed one of the staff cleaning the stairway. As we exchanged “hi”s, he asked “How was the burrito?”

After puzzling over this for a moment, I realized that he’d put together my lunchtime burrito. I told him that it’d been great and thanked him.

I walked away feeling a bit sheepish for not recognizing him. Yes, there were an awful lot of staff on the ship, but we’d had a conversation as he prepared my meal. Another factor was that I tend to only see the ship’s uniform and not the person inside it.

My solution was to make an effort to note the name of whoever I was interacting with. This was easy in one way since the names are on badges on their chests in large friendly letters.

It was difficult in another way since very few of the staff had English names. Instead of names like Bill or Amy, I was more likely to see nametags that read as “Ingwa” or “Cohni” or whatever.

To get past this issue, I’d ask them how I should say their name. There’d be a bit of back-and-forth which kinda helped me remember the name. To help reinforce this, I made a point of using the name whenever we met again.

After learning some of the names, I was more likely to recognize the staff in their differing contexts. I patted my back for a job well done.

An unexpected benefit of this was that the exercise also helped the staff to remember my name and they started greeting me by name as we passed in hallways. I first noticed this when I was walking alongside Ingwa in a hallway. Ingwa was tending bar in the lobby on the previous night. She greeted me by name and said some very nice things about the way that Pam and I had been dancing.

I know that she’s paid to say things like that, but it seemed a bit more genuine this way.

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