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Monday, May 12, 2014

Just Don't Be, Okay?

I have mentioned one of my favorite former coworkers, Danielle, in a previous blog post titled Honestly?, in which I talk about how honest we may or may not be with one another. Ever since I wrote that piece, I wanted to share something else about my old friend Dani.

I had known Danielle for quite some time before we began sharing an office. She had been a telephone banker like I was, and was then promoted to the position of Service Quality Analyst. When I was promoted to a training position, she and I shared an office with my fellow trainer, Brooke. When you start to work in closer quarters with people you already knew, you get to know them on a deeper level. You may have known that one of them has children and that another is engaged, but that is often as far as it goes.

Then you end up hearing them make phone calls, or they mention something that is going on in their lives. I had seen one of Danielle's children a couple of years earlier at a department function, and he had created a lasting impression. We were spending a day at Elitch's amusement park here in Denver, enjoying free rides and the lunch that was provided for us. I was sitting at a picnic table enjoying a hamburger when I heard uproarious laughter. Danielle's toddler had found a tube of sunscreen and decided to use it when mom and dad's back were turned. His arms, legs, and tummy were thickly slathered with the stark white sunscreen. Dad immediately said, "I have to go to work, I can't take care of this." To Dani's credit, she just laughed at the hilarity of the situation, and then ran her arms and legs over the sunscreen to transfer some of it to her own skin. She then held him up and offered sunscreen to anyone who might need it. It was a sweet parenting moment, and I respected Dani for being so awesome about it. I remember telling Gram about it later, and she got a kick out of it as well.

As I shared office space with Danielle, I heard her mention her sons' names. She might get a call from one of them, and I would hear their name. Or she might say something about what one of them did at school. I freely admit that at first I had a hard time remembering which was which among her four boys. She'd say that so-and-so had soccer practice, for example, and I would ask if he was her oldest. And of course I was usually wrong. I didn't want her to think that I wasn't getting it right because I didn't care, so one day I asked her to tell me their names, from oldest to youngest, while I wrote them down. I was determined to remember them, and get it right, whatever it took. 

As Dani told me the names, I listed them on a piece of paper:

Preston, the sunscreen kid, incidentally.

I looked at the list in my spare moments, repeating their names like a mantra of sorts, "Justin, Devin, Brandon, and Preston. Justin, Devin, Brandon, and Preston." It wasn't really working. I knew the names, but only knew the order when I was looking at the list. So I went back to the drawing board, looking for a mnemonic device, a memory tool, to help me get it right. After looking at the first letters of the names, I came up with:




Hey, baby steps. I searched for a set of words that would begin with the same letters so that I could finally get their birth order straight in my mind. Before long I came up with this:

J = Just
D = Don't
B = Be a
P = Poophead.

Victory! I told Danielle, and she thought it was pretty funny. We occasionally went through the little statement just for giggles, but we also tended to refer to sweet little Preston as Poophead. It wasn't done to be cruel, it just became our nickname for him because of my little memory tool. It got pretty ingrained in Dani's head though. One day she came into work and started laughing before she could even begin telling me her story of what happened the evening before. Without thinking, she had said Poophead instead of Preston. He mustered all of his four-or-five year old dignity and told his mother, "My name is not Poophead, it's Preston P.!"

I see by posts on social media that little Poophead Preston is now in high school. I wonder if his mom ever thinks of him by his old nickname. But if he ever starts acting like one, she'll put a stop to it fairly quickly, I'm sure. It's good enough advice for anyone, I guess, "Just don't be a poophead!"