Sunday, May 25, 2008

The name of the game

Everyone, I think, went to school with someone who had a funny name. I had a lab partner in high school named Rob Graves. Jen went to school with a girl named Anna Banana.

Jen and I had long discussions about baby names. It seems to me that some parents just don't think very far ahead when they come up with names for their kids. Ours are tested; I tried to come up with everything I could think of that a kid might twist the names into.

The name I was born with was innocuous enough, but I've told friends about a young man who was not so lucky. I went to school with a kid named Harold. Harold Balz.


Harry Balz.

As you might imagine, he got a lot of ribbing for his name, and he tended to be something of a troublemaker. Causing trouble was the only way he could distract people from making fun of his name, and he developed quite the reputation.

So much so that when our teacher was out sick, she left a note that explicity mentioned Harold and his propensity for causing shenanigans.

One day when we found ourselves with a substitute teacher (in an astounding display of poor judgment, our teacher actually alerted us ahead of time) for the day, Harry decided to start the day off by hiding most of the class in the coat closet. Big closet, small kids, and not everyone participated; he needed witnesses to document the sub's reaction.

Our hapless sub came in and noticed that our numbers were a little thin. Before she could call roll, Margaret Ballanger, the class tattletale, made like Benedict Arnold and ratted out Harry and the others. The substitute teacher, Miss Binney, said that our teacher had left a note about Harry and thanked her for being honest.

I rolled my eyes at Margaret.

To be fair, I think the sub would've figured it out before too long. With all those kids in the closet, they weren't all that quiet. Miss Binney walked over the the closet, the clacking of her high heels sounding like gunshots in the relative silence.

As she got closer, the whispering from the closet grew more audible. She leaned her head in and knocked on the closet door. More whispering and even more shushing from inside.

"All right," Miss Binney said sternly. "Anyone in there with Harry Balz had better come out right now." As she realized what she said, I was busy trying not to explode with laughter. The classroom was dead silent.

And then, from inside the closet: "...does fuzz count?"