LBJ, they say, could meet somebody once and remember his name forever. Not so with me; I can be introduced to somebody and five minutes into a conversation not have the faintest idea what his name is. I am lousy with the names of other people probably because I have insecurities about my own name. First comes the Nick part. Wait, actually, first comes the William part because my first name is William after my father. So when I am making plane reservations or something like that and give my legal, credit card name they sometimes, with excessive familiarity, take to calling me Bill.
I don’t like being called Bill.
And for most of my life in the parts of the country where I have lived, “Nicks” have been very few to none. Perhaps because the name was unfamiliar, I would introduce myself and people would say, “Dick, did you say?” Or “Pleased to meet you, Rick.” I thought maybe I was saying the name too softly because of what followed it, “Tingle.” So I practically took to bellowing “Nick,” but I still got the Rick or Dick deal.
Then came the “Tingle” part. I think about 2000 Tingles live in the USA. We are not that common, true. So I could understand having to repeat that. But be damned if I can understand why people can’t spell it. Is that T….I…, they would say, and so I took to saying my name is ‘NICK!!! Tingle, rhymes with Jingle or Dingle; spelled “gle” and not “gel” which properly speaking is something a person puts on his hair.”
And there was that stinking commecial for dandruff shampoo. You could tell it was working, the commercial went, because “the tingle tells you.” So practically everytime I heard it, I would yell at the TV, “Well, this mother fucking tingle isn’t going to tell you a goddamn thing.” Or words to that effect.
My best friend in college roomed with the only black guy in our class. His name was Wilbert, and I called him Wilber for nearly a year and a half till he exploded and yelled directly into my face, “WilberT. With a T. Wilbert.” I apologized and felt bad for a week. I guess I just didn’t hear the “T.” I had never heard the name Wilbert before.
Once Wilbert and I rode back to San Diego on the same Greyhound Bus. As I was saying goodbye to him, our fathers came up. His father was a bit shorter than mine; mine was white and his was black. But they were dressed exactly the same way. In khaiki shirts and pants and with steel tipped work shoes. This was a common working class uniform at that time, a left over, I expect, from soldering in WWII; Sears sold the pants and shirts real cheap. The uniforms made them look like twins.