Where I write

Where I write

May 6, 2014

What's In a Name




When I was a teenager, I baby sat for a woman who worked as a waitress at a fancy hotel in Chicago where she was required to wear a name tag. She was a single mom with two little girls. At the time I thought she was old, because back then I thought everyone was old, but surely she couldn't have been more than 30. Willowy with pale skin and red hair, her name was Alice.  A storybook name, but one that wasn't on her name tag.

Alice told me she wore a fake name to protect herself from all the men who wanted to ask her out on dates. She had a boyfriend, a handsome Greek man with thick, dark hair  named Elias who drove a sport's car and talked with an accent. He drove me home sometimes. He drove fast and his car smelled of cigarettes and cologne.

For some reason the fact Alice used a fake name impressed me. Soon enough I wore my own name tag. When you work in the service industry, name tags are a given, but I've always used my real name. I never had Alice's problem of needing to use a fake name so I wouldn't be inundated with men clamouring to date me. Darn.

Through the years, however, I've come to, and this is a strong word, detest wearing a name tag. Not just at work, either. When I go to an event, say a writer's conference, and I'm handed sticky paper and a magic marker, I cringe. Even if I changed my name to Felicity, I still wouldn't want to wear a name tag. Growing up, I once told my best friend Gloria that I would name my first child Felicity. Never got around to having a child, but I had a dog. I named my dog Felicity. She's the furry sweetie on the left. Jake is on the right. They are both in doggie heaven now.
 

It is said that the sweetest sound we can hear is our own name but not when a stranger is saying, "So, Susanne, what should I eat the fish or chicken?" And I don't like to ask a stranger his or her name either, not when I am waiting on them. People don't come to the restaurant to be my friend. They want to eat, plain and simple.

I  never ever say, "I'm Susanne and I'll be your server for the night." I always felt as if the word server in that sentence could be replaced with hooker.


My friend Debbie gave me these name tags a few year's ago for my birthday. She did so because she thinks wearing a name tag makes people tip her more at the bowling alley where she is a bartender. I didn't have the heart to tell her that my job wouldn't allow me to be wear my own cute and clever name tag. Corporations are funny that way.

Besides, as luck would have it, the restaurant management then decided we no longer need to wear name tags. I guess name tags are just so 1970s. Boy was I glad.  I no longer have to rush out the door and worry I forgot to wear my name on my chest. Maybe someday I won't know my name, but for now I don't need to look down at my shirt to be reminded.

Last night I waited on three men with accents. One of the men said to me, "Your name is very common in France." I realized he had seen my name listed on the check print out when I presented the bill. At first I was taken aback, as I always am when people who I don't know say my name, but then I listened as they said my name again with their French accents. Ooo la la.
I was transported to the Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights. My name was no longer Susanne with an s but Suzanne with a z. (they told me that's how it's spelled in France.) I was sipping  champagne and eating rich pastries and doing other French stuff. My name said in a French accent was the sweetest sound. I was no longer a waitress in Phoenix but Suzanne of Paris. I smiled and thanked the men for dining with us that evening  It was a pleasure to have them know my name if they were going to make it sound so delicious.

 Reality reared it's head when a short time later one of my coworkers said, "Hey, Susanne, what are you doing for side work tonight? You wanna  fill the fruit cups or clean the coffee urn? Hmmm how about neither.

I was back in Phoenix wearing an apron, but I started to think I might need to use an alias when I write. Maybe it will help me get published. I'm thinking Felicity Jake.

5 comments:

Kirsten Buck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirsten Buck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirsten Buck said...

As Bobby said to Rayette in '5 Easy Pieces', 'Why'nt you take 'at sign off your tit, Ray, an' let's go on out.'.

gloria mellinger said...

hi susy, another great story. love it! I've always loved your name and what fun to hear it with a French accent. I also remember that your were going to name your child Felicity. I love the name Felicity Jake--sounds like a detective. Love You!!!

Rita A. said...

I always love how you take the everyday and make it special. Perhaps now when I forget you are the only Susanne I know in a mass of Suzannes you will just remember the French men. lol Felicity Jake(s) wouldn't be bad but I bet she works in a diner and wears a name tag.