Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What's in a Name

Last night, Polite-Though-Casual Patron had me helping him track down information on Mary Surratt, who was hung as a conspirator in the Lincoln assassination. I began by trying to move him from "a book on" to "information about," and to that end went to pull a reference work of biographies of Civil War figures.

As I checked the index for her name, a man said, "Lisa." I looked up and didn't recognize the well-dressed man in front of me. "How come you have a name?" he asked. Ever the quick wit, I shot back with, "My parents gave it to me; I've had it a long time." At the same time, I asked myself, "How did he see my nametag from that angle?" and "Okay, are we done, here, 'cause I am helping a fellow who asked a real question." Before I could move away, he launched into a speech about the importance of names -- not titles -- on nametags. Staff at Library D, for instance, has only "librarian" on their nametags, and he found this outrageous for "city" employees. He paid his "city" taxes and expected to know the names of police offices, garbagemen, and library staff. He called [full first name of County Library director (a name he does not use)] for a answer to this terrible problem. He didn't buy that a stalker following a library employee triggered it: what if a library staffer were hit by a truck crossing the street, would the Director bar us from crossing the street? "That's just faulty logic!" he cried, and his expression urged me to agree.

I didn't care to agree or disagree. I didn't care to discuss it with him. I wanted to get the book to Polite Patron. While I did manage, "Some people just don't like for their names to be known," I did not lash out with: "You have a lot of damn nerve choosing to address me by my first name, not last" "You know this is the county not city, right?" or "Sir, you are creeping me out with that tight smile, sales manager tone of voice, the way you don't blink, and the way you keep referring to stalking."

I did steal a glance, then another, at Polite Patron -- a man who does not wear a tie, admittedly, but who knows how to blink and how to ask a question. Finally, I pointed to the book in my hand all these hours and said, "I hate to cut you short, but I need to bring this information to another patron."

"Yeah, yeah, I just wanted to compliment you on having your name. That's real important."

Capital City weather: sunny and 70s
Show in the Far West End Tonight: GoGos

10 comments:

Marky Marky said...

Do you know his name? I think he comes into our library all the time and likes to drop names left and right.

If it is who I think he is seach RTD and Style magazine. he is always writingn letters to the editors

Lisa said...

He was all about calling me by name but did not introduce himself. R investigated; I think his last name started with a B and his card came from DU.

marky marky said...

I know who he is.
I will tell you who he is but it will blow my undercover cover.

Lisa said...

Do we need to meet in a DC parking garage?

Daniel said...

I was going to say "don't get me started on first name usage," but you already have. I'll blog upon it myself...

Lisa said...

Mr. D. Gibbs blogs at The Marble Bar

Marky Mark said...

There is a lot at stake on this blowing of cover...

Lisa said...

Nah, I have a pretty good idea who you are! I have good sources here at the CCDesk.

Marky Mark said...

Always with your ear to the heartbeat of the pulse of America!

LisaBe said...

i'm thinking if you don't want people to *use* your first name...maybe you shouldn't have it on your name tag? i usually take my cue from how people introduce themselves; if your name tag (your written introduction, in that setting) says, "jane smith," i'd probably assume it's okay to call you "jane" unless you're my doctor or professor or you've been previously introduced to me as "ms. smith," "miss smith," "mrs. smith," or some other preferred moniker. (points, lis?) so...maybe change the name tag to "ms. [surname]" if that's what you prefer?