Fun with names

by Radio Somewhere

I see lots of names.

My regular job is at a wholesale printing company where business cards are a major product. I spend part of my day boxing cards — and sometimes find myself enjoying it more than I perhaps should — wondering about the people behind those names and titles.

Well, I’ll admit I don’t wonder much about lawyers, unless they specialize in something tawdry like DUIs. But the banking industry is surprisingly ripe for amusement — with names like Swindler prompting LOL moments. Then there can be a plumber whose last name is Leak; the home cleaning service with a proprietor called Dusty; or the pizza parlor operated by someone named Cheeseman.

Independent taxi cab operators favor simple designs in large typeface, especially the phone number, which I can often read without my 2.50 strength reading glasses — and which strikes me as most thoughtful consideration for late night drunks.

Realtors often have photos of themselves on their cards. So do some employees of certain mortgage companies. In the photos, they always look like people who enjoy their jobs and love their customers. I hope that’s true and that they are doing well enough financially and feeling secure. I suppose you need a reassuring appearance when you are working with people who are about to take on a huge amount of debt.

Small businesses are the most fun, because the artwork is usually far more interesting than a boring corporate logo — especially with work that involves pets or tattoos. It’s nice to see large orders from bakeries, coffee shops, hair salons etc. as a sign that business is good for someone out there.

And then there are the more obscure: the man in North Carolina who custom -makes walking sticks by hand; the guy who restores vintage biplanes; and practitioners of past-life regression hypnotherapy. I hope business is good.

I’ve only had one job that involved business cards. When I started my tenure-track faculty position in 1997 (which seems like a million years ago) a box of business cards just magically showed up — and it was a nice surprise. So when I box cards for faculty in August or September, I wonder if the recipient is newly appointed — and will be as excited as I was. At this time of the year, I also see cards for new graduates — and I hope their job search will go well.

When we are super busy, I have to just box cards as fast as possible. But I still like to take a moment to notice the person’s name — and wish them all the best in their endeavor.

I also do some volunteer work for a non-profit, helping out with database work. I see a lot of names there too, and it makes a rather routine task much more enjoyable than one would suppose. When I see a name like Bill Hill, I wonder what it’s like to live with that name. I actually met someone called Bill Hill once, a customer at a previous job. The encounter was nice and routine and would have been completely unmemorable had I not been amused by his name. I see him around town from time to time — saw him Friday night at the grocery store — and I can still recall much of our encounter from several years ago.

My dad knew a lot of drunks in his life, because he lived in England and was also a policeman. He could tell stories about any number of drunks, but it was the ones involving a neighbor called Harry Parry that invariably got top billing — and I suspect it was his name that brought them to mind so readily!