Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, December 31, 2018
Over the past 30 days, my bride, Ms. Bry, and I have been invited to what seems like 238 “events,” two per night and three on weekends — this holiday season — oy! Ms. Bry is a member of the San Diego City Council, so I am confessing straight up that the event organizers clearly only wanted her, not me. I drive, I drop her in front, I park the car and then enter the melee (often by the back door).
And so, on this the last day of the year, I will offer up what I think to be the next big thing for 2019 — name tags.
Yes, truly what the world needs is name tags. We have RFID tags, we have dog tags, we have luggage tags, we have clothing tags — we have “tag, you’re it,” but what we don’t have in America today are mandatory name tags. Just who do you think you are?
I go into a room and someone comes up and says hello. Now here is what happens in that neuro-psycho-emotional moment. In your head you say, “I know this person, or I think I know this person, or darn, I ought to know this person, but at the moment I have no idea who this person is, so I say “Hello, great to see you again.”
In that moment, I know that he knows that I know that I have no idea who this person is — but I throw him a smile. And then he says, “I’m Betty, you remember me, I used to be Bob.”
So having loused that one up, I move on to the table of chips, cheese, aging carrots, and a creamy dip from three weeks past the “sell by” date, with no forks, no spoons and no napkins. (This is known as “finger food” — if my mother caught me eating with my fingers, she would have cut one of them off. I still have a scar on my right-hand pinkie.)
The solution to everything is not software; it is name tags. Now, I am willing to be bold and creative — so I am fine with your name tag not having your real name on it. I accept that we have different personae, so I want the right to change my name the way I change my underwear (every day, I assure you). “You can be whoever you want to be” — you have heard that line at every commencement since the first graduating class at Harvard (1640). So go for it, dude.
Another ancillary benefit of name tags (beside knowing who you are or even better, who people think you are) is that you would increase the civility of the country. When someone is identified by name, it is much harder to throw a pipe bomb at them. Because they are not a cause or a political party — they are a person.
A name tag is a statement of humanity. The greatest line in American literature is “Call me Ishmael.” What if Captain Ahab had looked over and said, “Hey, you with the ponytail, can you go down below and get my harpoon?”
A name tag is a statement that affirms your life. You can always look down and remember who you are — or possibly, who you will become or want to become — e.g. try out Jack Kennedy for a week or so, or maybe Ben Franklin.
So, in the end, the world would be a better place with name tags. It would humanize the citizenry, it would allow for people to spend some time in the other person’s shoes — and you could pick your own shoe size, so they wouldn’t pinch your toes. And since you know their name, you can easily return them to the rightful owner when you are done.
Finally, I would at least always know who I am not — reminiscent of SNL — “I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not.” Thank goodness for that.
Rule No. 590
“To thine own self be true”
— William Shakespeare