What's in a Name Badge?

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  • By J-Dogg, Jonn Karsseboom
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What's in a Name Badge?

For various, hazy reasons I’ve decided to wear a name badge everywhere I go for at least a year.

For various, hazy reasons I’ve decided to wear a name badge everywhere I go for at least a year.


It’s such a small, navel-gazing thing that I’m almost ashamed to mention it… much less write about it. Soldiers, after all, are on daily duty . Congressmen (and women) are fighting for valiant causes.  Community leaders are enduring hours of meetings to make our city more livable.  Members of the school board debate late into the night minutiae that can have a positive, long-lasting effect on a  child’s life. Even a gardener trimming a hedge shares that reward for anyone willing to take notice. 


Me? I have to assume my name isn’t in the running for the Nobel.


Nevertheless a month in now, it’s been an interesting experiment.


For starters, I never realized the protectiveness I have over my own name. Without ever realizing it, I have mentally given people “my permission” to use my name. So in the beginning when someone I was unfamiliar with suddenly called me by, ahem, my name, I was taken back. It was almost a guttural reaction too: “Who gave you permission?” Which of course made me question deeper: When did I (we) become so defensive? And protective?


My name badge, by the way, took some design work to create. I wanted it to be read easily from at least ten feet away. It’s also bigger than you would expect. Most name badges, I’ve noticed, are less than the size of a credit card. Mine, being three times larger, looks more like a Back Stage All Event Press Badge. It’s hard not to notice.


So, it also goes without saying that while shopping at various stores, I’ve been mistaken for store personnel. I’ve been asked where the “dry cereal” is located, where “parts to fix a toilet are” and one time I was asked to fix a self-checkout register. (I resisted.) In our help-yourself retail world it has become apparent to me that we still need quite a bit of help.


For me, those instances were understandable. (My badge has in big bold letters “Staff”) What surprised me however was how I found myself “acting” one way in one situation and then “acting” completely different in another. 


For example while at work I felt more patient, more attentive.  Though leaving that behind, say after hours, it was almost as if I gave myself permission to be less so. How did I realize this? I was “caught” being irritated with a store clerk (in one of those “big” stores) and while I was signing the credit card machine she was busy reading my name. Wearing my name badge, much like honoring a family crest, meant I couldn’t get away with bad behavior by hiding behind a shield of anonymity. 


It seems the cycle of rudenesss and its equal and opposite force of politeness begins with me. My name badge has shown me to myself.


In a way, I suppose, I was hoping that it would make the world seem a bit smaller and more manageable and more friendly. (As the song goes where everyone knows your name.) And in many instances it certainly has. 


The lady that has helped check out my groceries all these years? (Shelley) Yes, the one I’ve seen while grocery shopping three times a week over multiple years? (Yes, Shelley.) Turns out my name badge struck up a new conversation.  She happened to have grown up in the house down the hill from me and her father was a trucker that grew azaleas on his spare time. He sold those seed-grown azaleas to his neighbors.  Plants which incidentally, can still be seen growing throughout Tualatin. 


I have been asked by several people directly. Why? Why do I always wear my name badge? I’ve stumbled on the answer each time. “It’s an experiment” was the latest insufficient answer.


To be frank, it’s perhaps my personal act of rebellion. That in this fast paced, quickly moving world there should still be some space and time where we can momentarily even, meet each other. I want to make it easier for it to happen.


I suppose in many ways it’s much like gardening; it’s an act of hope. It’s digging a hole and planting something despite all of the odds. And, in a very personal way, making the earth, the nice people living on it and so the world, a better place for it.


Bio: Jonn Karsseboom is studying quantum mechanics in a round about effort to understand why some plants bloom profusely during the cold of winter. Send your thoughts his way to jonn@thegardencorner.com



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