Thursday, January 13, 2005


I like my first name a whole lot. My mom's got good taste.

Shane's an unusual name, I guess, but in a good way -- it's unique, but not full-on freaky like "Dweezil" or something. My name seems to fit me. But maybe everyone thinks their name fits them. Even Dweezil.

As much as I love it, though, I do have a couple of beefs about the name Shane.

(1) My name inspires the elderly to quote lines from the movie "Shane" at the drop of a hat. I've never seen the 1953 Western that inspired my name, but I know for certain that it ends with someone yelling, "Shane! Shane! Come back, Shane!" I know this because every morning, on my way to work and when I'm usually running late, the cantankerous old guy in my apartment complex will open his window and yell it to me like clockwork. At least, I'm hoping that line's in the movie; if it's not, I'm in serious trouble. (Oh, and just for the record: My mom hates Westerns. She just thought it was a cool name. She was right... on both counts.)

(2) Inexplicably, for reasons I will never be able to fathom, half of the free world calls me "Shawn." People who I've worked side-by-side with for almost a decade still call me "Shawn" to my face. I don't get it. Not one bit.

"Well, the names are so close," said a co-worker of mine who I once questioned after she wished Shawn a good morning. 'So close?' Well, I guess they both start with "Sh," but by that explanation, people should also be calling me Sheila or Shannon or Sheneneh. All I ever get is "Shawn." I suppose the only real difference is the vowel sound: Sh-AY-n becomes Sh-AW-n. But at the same time, I've never gone up to someone named John and mistakenly gone, "Hi there, Jane!"

At first I hated the Shane-Shawn thing. I'd go out of my way to correct people whenever they did it. But now I'm a beaten man. If somebody says, "Hey, Shawn," I invariably go, "Yes?"

If that wasn't confusing enough, my old college roommate was also named Shane. If we were walking to class and someone yelled, "Hey, Shane," we'd both answer. If they yelled, "Hey, Shawn," we'd both answer.

In college, we had two friends both named Linnea. They solved the problem rather democratically -- they split the name. At their own urging, one shortened her name to Lin, while the other went by Nea. And they wanted us Shanes to employ the same solution -- but I wasn't a big fan of being called simply "Sh," and no amount of money would be worth the nickname of "Ane." So we struggled on, being confused and confusing at the same time.

All of this brings me to my current dilemma. One of my favorite hangouts to spend my lunch hour is the taco place in the food fair at Southpark Mall. The staff is nice and those Potato Oles are more addictive than crack. But there's one thing about that place that annoys me: They take your order and then invariably ask, "Can I have your first name?"

I wish I could answer "NO!" I mean, just because I love the tacos doesn't mean I need to be on a first-name basis with them, does it? But I always give in and offer my name, and then I cringe because I know what's coming... "Shawn, your order's up." And I'm left there to debate whether they mispronounced my name or whether I'm about to grab some innocent Shawn's burrito.

About a year ago, I had a revelation how to get around the Shane/Shawn burrito feud. For the past year, I've been making up a new name every time I go to their counter. For a while, I was simple -- I was Bill, then Bob, then Doug. But I've been getting bored of making up boring names, so I've been trying to liven things up lately. The last time I sauntered up for a taco, I was in full control, I was in my element, I was... Joaquin, Taco-Eater. The time before that? Just call me Alejandro. At this rate, I'll soon be incorporating accents and back stories to go along with my Name o' the Day.

But the other day, I went back to the taco stand to discover a new employee behind the counter. One who looked confident, one who looked incapable of error. I was brave. "My name's Shane," I said with perfect pronounciation. This time, I would prevail. I knew it. I waited until my order was up. It was truth time, and finally the rest of the food court would know my true identity.

"Shawna, your order's ready."

Sigh. I give up. Back to Alejandro, I guess. All I know is that if they don't start calling me Shane, I may just have to stop going to Taco Jane's.

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