These days, the people I work with have a Mr. or Ms. in front of their name. This is so very much the convention in the world of teaching that I have on many occasions had experiences similar to this: At our staff Christmas party, held in my home, as libations have begun to flow and inhibitions have lowered substantially, I have met a weaving co-worker on their way into the kitchen. "Mister Caven, where do I find the wine opener?" I'm guessing that after a good portion of that first bottle of chardonnay has been consumed and/or spilled on the carpet, the formality needed on the second diminishes substantially. Or the third. You get the idea. Still, I maintain to any child who asks me while I am in classroom mode that my first name is "Mister," because it's just easier that way.
But I have worked with a Snake. And a Rat. These were not their Asian zodiac signs. These were not their Christian names, either. Snake was a bartender in one of the quintessential watering holes of 1970's Boulder: Tico's. While I can't say that I worked alongside Snake in any sort of Bryan Brown/Tom Cruise Cocktail fashion, but in my capacity as a dishwasher, I did everything I could to keep him in clean glasses. Sometimes, when a rack of steaming hot stemware came out of the Hobart, I would carry it over to the side door of the bar, where he would give me one of the coolest nods in the world, fitting for a guy named Snake. A bartender named Snake.
I only worked at Tico's for a summer. I wasn't there long enough to get a nickname. It was my next stop in the food chain that I stuck around long enough to get that distinction. At the Arby's where I worked, everyone had a nickname. New employees were referred to as "Tuna," even though they wore name tags with their first names stuck to them in meticulously created Dymo label. Managers, or "Kingfish" as they were called, wore specially made tags with their names permanently etched onto them. Not their Christian names. The guy who hired me wore a tag that said "Rat." I also moved roast beef sandwiches around with "B.C." and "Babs," and we were all watched over by the benevolent eye of "Waldo." I had only been there a couple of months when I got my hands on the label maker and made my own tag: "Davo." It was a break in precedent. Tuna didn't have nicknames, but somehow I managed to usurp the dominant paradigm. Eventually I would earn my own managerial name tag with that moniker forever carved in plastic. Rat would eventually prove true to his name, and while I have had occasion to look up Waldo, and have always wondered what happened after Rat broke up with Babs for what must have been the leventy-seventh time, I haven't spent a lot of time wondering about the fate he met.
What is in a name, after all?