Monday, July 17, 2006

What's in a name?

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That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet."
--From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Last night I worked with an engineer that I had never met before. After introducing myself in the sign-in room in New Haven, I asked him what his name was.

“John,” he replied.

I was surprised that I never had seen him around before, and I wondered if I might know him by his last name

“John what?”

“John Smith.”

“Are you serious?”


“What did you do, rob a bank or something?”


“Perhaps you’re in the witness protection program then?...

I know! You’re in the mafia and you’re on the lam?”

“No, that’s not it at all.”
(Of course. What else could he say?)

“Don’t tell me?... You’re wife’s name is Jane Doe.”

“No,” (now looking a little perplexed.)
“Her name is Claudia.”

I really wanted to explore the whole Pocahontas, Captain John Smith angle, but he didn’t seem to want to play along, and it deflated my enthusiasm.

Tonight I worked with an engineer by the name of James Joyce, and the same thing happened.

“Written any good books lately?” I asked.


He said NO, curtly, as if he’d been answering this question all his life. (Which he probably has.)

Although, John and James might have it bad, they can’t hold a candle to my fellow conductor…Ronald McDonald (Swear to god!)

When I met Ron, the first thing I noticed was his name badge. It read R. McDonald.

“Please tell me that your first name isn’t Ronald?” I pleaded.

“I’m afraid it is.”

“EGAD MAN!” Can’t you bring your parents up on abuse charges?

“I'm afraid not. You see I was born in the 1950’s, long before the restaurant clown with the white face and red hair.”

I can’t imagine the harassment poor Ron has gone through and it made me think back to my own grade school days . Classmates would deliberately bastardize my name (McDonough). All I heard was McDoogle, McDoogie, and their all time favorite-McDonut. But poor Ron’s torment must have been tenfold.

We have some other interesting names on the railroad. For several years my brother Brian has been having fun at the expense of a fellow engineer named Jimmy Stuart (Stewart.)
Whenever Brian sees Jimmy, he breaks out into a spot-on impression of George Bailey, from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“Ah, ah, ah, Clarence…Where’s Mary?”

To mix things up, Brian sometimes opts to impersonate the older, feebler Stewart. This requires a lot of stammering and talking with his hands. Brian will sometimes go on and on about a 7ft imaginary rabbit named Harvey or he’ll tell the risqué joke that Stewart once told on the Merv Griffin Show.

Jimmy Stuart, (the engineer) always laughs along with Brian and takes the ribbing in stride. I wish the same could be said about my long time engineer-Bob Barker. For years Bob and I worked the late night trains together. When meeting at the beginning of each shift, I’d always greet him with a:

“Hey Bob Barker…COME ON DOWN!”

Perhaps Bob isn’t a Price is Right fan, or possibly he just got sick of me yelling, "COME ON DOWN." I'm not certain. The only thing I do know, is that one night he gave me a look.

It was the kind of look that said…ENOUGH ALREADY!

It was the kind of look that said…CUT THE CRAP!

It was the kind of look that said…I WISH I COULD HAVE YOU SPAYED OR NEUTERED!


Anonymous said...

Maybe you should consider enrolling in the Dale Carnegie course, "How To Win Friends and Influence People". I'm sure name harassment is a no-no!

Anonymous said...

Letters and a meaning (or meanings). That's what's in a name.

Tony Alva said...

Poor Ronald... I think I'd have to go with a middle name in his case. You have tears coming out of myeye reading this post.

MotherOf3Guys said...

I've had patient's with names that are "famous." It never ceases to amaze me when they are the direct opposite of their namesakes. I always wonder if their parents named them "on purpose" or if they had the same poor misfortune to be like your "Ronald McDonald." I really have to say that you're pretty whitty when it comes to the quick comeback line!

Anonymous said...

What can I say...I though the same thing when I met John...John Anyway....Have a great weekend Bobby...~Little Kelly

Anonymous said...

Ever think of doing a blog on Railroad employees nicknames?

You would have quite the list!

Great job and excellent writing on your blog!

Anonymous said...

You'll never believe this one, but it's true. When I worked for the doctors office, a gastroenterology group no less, we had a patient by the name of Harry Anus. Tell me that name doesn't shit!! Thank God that was before HIPA Rules were around. We had many jokes at that poor man's expense!!!

Anonymous said...

My dad loves to tell people how he knew someone in college (back in the 1940s!) whose name was Harry Bottom - and he had a sister named Rosy Bottom! I always accuse him of making it up, but my mom swears it's true, and she wouldn't back him up if it were a gag.