Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wayback Wednesday: How About "Big Daddy?"

How About "Big Daddy?"

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2003 (published week of November 14th, 2003)

On Wednesdays, rather than rehashing a news story, I reprint one of my old columns. I've got 15 years' worth of the damn things, so there's no point in letting them sit moldering in a box in my garage. At least not the good ones.

I've always wanted a nickname, ever since I was a young boy. While I like my name, I've often wondered what it would be like to have a cool nickname. A name that would sum up my passions and interests in one simple word or phrase, like "Stein," "Wheels," or "Collectible Elvis Plates."

I'm named after Erik the Red, the famous Viking explorer. However, my dad says he received the inspiration for my name from Erik the Red cigars. But I usually skip that part of the story, since no one wants to be named after something that can kill you. At least that's what my friend, Ernie "Too Many Fatty Foods and Not Enough Exercise" Tutwiler tells me.

I was four years old when I decided I wanted a new name. One of my friends at preschool was named Sam, and he could run incredibly fast for a four-year-old. So I told my parents I wanted to change my name to Sam. I thought if I was named Sam, I could run fast too.

Unfortunately they said no, so I was doomed to a life of average running ability, thus insuring I would never win an Olympic medal.

Olympic announcer: And your three medalists in the 100 meter dash are Sam Johnson, Sam Lewis, and Sam Bannister. Meanwhile, Erik Deckers has tripped for a third time, and will probably not cross the finish line until Wednesday.

So I gave up my dreams of a new name altogether. Instead of some cool and unique name like John, Bob, or Jim, I'd have to suffer the rest of my life being named after some Viking explorer who discovered a whole new continent.

But when I started the 7th grade, I discovered the magic of nicknames. With a nickname, I could get a whole new name without having to go through the hassle of changing the one stitched in my underwear.

So when my history teacher told us we could be called by any name we wanted, I desperately wracked my brain for one: "Spike? No. Flash? No. Studly McStudmuffin? Definitely not." Finally, because I couldn't think of anything that didn't make me sound like a dork, I chose my uncle's name, and told my history teacher he could call me "Pete."

As I think back, I have no idea why I picked that name at that particular moment. That's why it never sunk in with me. And it was pretty obvious, when my teacher called on me during the first day: "Pete, do you know when the Declaration of Independence was signed?"

Since no one had ever called me that before, I didn't realize he was addressing me.

"Pete? Pete?" he repeated a couple of times. I just sat there, looking at the blackboard, wondering why the heck this Pete kid wouldn't answer. Finally the kid next to me nudged me and said "He's talking to you." Needless to say, the Pete experiment lasted about three weeks, before I got tired of remembering I had a different name in that class. So I asked my history teacher to call me by my real name again. I think he knew all along.

So I gave up on the idea of nicknames ever since. And except for a brief stint in college when one of the guys in my dorm called me Elmo, I've been nickname free for the past 23 years.

At least until now. For the last few months, I've finally earned my nickname. All sorts of nicknames, in fact, given to me by total strangers: Dude, Guy, and Buddy. Someone even called me Sport once. (But I've avoided Old Man Deckers so far; I've got a few more years before the neighborhood kids grow up and I have to start shouting at them to get off my lawn.)

I just have to walk into my favorite hardware store, and I'm greeted by a "How's it going, Buddy?" Or I stop by the grocery store, nod hello to one of the stock boys, and receive a half-mumbled, barely intelligible "Hey Guy." I can even step into a music store and be met with a hearty "Dude, you wanna check out the new Limp Bizkit CD?"

I'm 36 years old! When did I become Dude? I should have been Dude 20 years ago. I could have even been Dude 14 years ago. I'm quickly approaching my forties, and NOW I'm Dude?! Where were you people when I was in college?

But the rudest, most insulting nickname of all comes from that snotty 19-year-old cashier at the coffee shop, when she asks me, "Will there be anything else, Sir?"

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