First things first: When I think of name tags, my mind always goes back to a waitress my family encountered on one of our many station wagon treks across the desert southwest. When this young lady approached our table, my father - always one to chat up the help - said, "I couldn't help but notice - your name tag is upside down." Without missing a smack on her Doublemint, she replied, "I figure anybody really wants to know my name, they'll ask me."
I guess I've had fewer name tag jobs than most, only because for some unknown reason (stubbornness? fear?) I tend to stick with even the crappiest of jobs for years at a time. The one that stands out most prominently was my years (yes, you read that right) at Arby's. As is the case for most fast food restaurants, by the time you put on the scary polyester uniform, the notion of wearing a badge that identifies you by name is completely an afterthought. The best thing about the franchise that I worked at was this: They didn't care what your name tag said. They all but insisted that you have a funny comedy nickname. This helped take the edge off serving America's Roast Beef, Yes Sir! There was Rat, Waldo, Monkey, Buckwheat - and the whole thing was owned by a guy we knew only as "Cowboy." It only took about a week before the powers that be had determined the best possible name for my tag: Davo - to reflect my deep and abiding respect for the icons of New Wave, DEVO. If you got tired of your name, you could always make a new one on your break with the label maker. My moment of fast food ascension was when I received my cash register keys and engraved (on plastic) name tag - "DAVO Assistant Manager."
By working in the stock room unloading trailers I avoided wearing name tags during my stint at Target. The folks out on the floor were stuck in red polo shirts with their name tags prominently displayed. All the better to make it possible for customers to annoy you on a first-name basis. Later, when I moved on to the world of video rental, I felt assured that the specter of name tags was behind me. Little did I know that when I took the job in a hip, local video store that it would one day be bought and absorbed by a franchise. Uniforms and name tags had returned with a vengeance. As a manager, I had to field complaints from employees who were used to wearing their concert T-shirts and jeans to work that suddenly were asked to wear the royal blue colors of National Video - with a name tag that featured the visage of mascot Viddy O. Bear. Ironically, perhaps, that store was put out of business by mother of all chains, Blockbuster, where they don't issue name tags, but implant a chip in their employees' foreheads for easy identification.
It's been many years since my video days, and I find myself comforted in the notion that my students know me by the name I write on the board at the beginning of the year: Mr. Caven. Every so often, one of them asks me what my "real name" is. I just smile - and know that in my closet I keep my briefcase, upon which is lovingly embroidered "Davo."