What's in a name?


I honestly never saw this coming. While I often publicly have fun at my own expense, it’s typically of my own choosing. And this was not my choice, by any means.

Let’s back up. Several columns ago I confessed that Camo Man and I don’t know how to vacation. Hard to imagine of two mid-50ers in that boat, but when you add up his vacations and mine from previous lives, it’s a pretty sad list, and nothing considered remotely luxurious.

After that column, readers had helpful advice, and some of you shared your own lovely memories of vacations.

Basically, however, we’re slackers. We had penciled in the vacation time with our bosses, which was the extent of our “planning.”

Until a few weeks ago, when we went to Portland and spent time with two couples we love and admire. Couples who are active, healthy, fun-loving folks — the opposite of my perception of people who go on cruises.

Nonetheless, cruising was their advice to us. “Oh, you’ll love it! You’ll have so much fun that you’ll want to go on another and another!”

Really? Because I have long believed that “cruise” was a synonym for “boredom.” Too much food, too much sitting around, too many old people or screaming kids, too much formal wear. Not “too much fun.”

But these are our friends, bright and interesting individuals. How could all four be so wrong?

The deal was clinched when Camo Man’s friend sat down at the computer in his man cave. Pilot Dude asked what days and how much, finding an answer in about five minutes. Before we knew what hit us, we were immersed in cruise lore, including how the washcloths are folded into little fluffy animals.

Like dominoes set in motion by a heavenly finger, everything fell into place. In a master stroke of luck, our favorite teen jailer was totally available to hang out. Meaning we could cross “Who will make sure the house doesn’t get burned down?” off the list. Boarding port? Within driving distance or an easy flight. Itinerary that excited both of us? Definitely.

All was perfect until Joey the “cruise specialist” uttered fateful words as he and I wrapped up an exciting 20 minutes of vacation booking.

“Wonderful, Sheila! Now, then, both passengers need a birth certificate and drivers license.”

No problem, I replied.

“And the name has to match on each.”

Say what, Joey?

I’ll fast-forward. I wasn’t talking about the difference between maiden and married. I was feeling the familiar flames of torture over my real first name.

That’s right. I have another first name. My parents apparently were so beset by happiness at my birth that all good sense left the building. They named me something they must have then thought better of, since they never bothered to let me in on the secret.

No, readers, I had to find out the day a copy of my birth certificate arrived in the mail. At the time, Oregon teens seeking work under the age of 16 had to apply for a “work permit.” I have no idea what that was all about, other than one more revenue source. My mom (conveniently, I now see!) had lost my birth certificate, so I had to send away for one.

It finally arrived after about six weeks, and I eagerly ripped the envelope open.

What was this? The state had sent me the wrong one! That wasn’t my name! But wait ... this person had my birth date and my parents. She was a she, she was born at St. Mary in Walla Walla and she shared my last name of Gileck. What then, pray tell, was this appendage dangling before “Sheila?”

I can tell you, I was in a fine steam when two plus two finally hit four. Or, in my case, one plus the three names I already knew about.

My mother was bewildered by my ire. “You were named after your dad’s favorite aunt, Honey. That’s all.”

Like heck that was all. I felt I already had a pretty awful name. What kind of baby girl looks like a Sheila? See my point?

But no, I have a horrendous other first name, although I mean no offense to anyone who shares it. It’s just so, I dunno, old. Not in a romantic, classic kind of way. And if I wanted to go on this cruise, I was going to have get it on my drivers license.

I dragged into the Department of Motor Vehicles. I slunk to the counter after looking around to see if I knew anyone waiting in the chairs. I whined my tale of woe to Rosie and Fern, the DMV ladies. Without actually saying the dreaded name out loud.

“Oh,” Rosie said, perusing her screen. “You mean (fill in the blank with some awful name)?”

“Doh!” I blurted in pain, doing the perfect Homer Simpson. “Shh!”

If you think it’s a long wait at the DMV, think again. When you are getting your real-horrid-embarrassing first name attached to stuff, it’s a whiz bang and we’re done. Right down to the worst drivers license picture I’ve ever presented to the camera. On a bright note, I do believe Fern and Rosie had quite the entertaining 30 minutes.

I’m finally papered for the cruise, there’s that to be said. Oh, yes, Eldest Daughter is now forgiven, as well. It wasn’t quite two years ago that Camo Man got the goods on me by tricking her into thinking he already knew that blasted name. But wouldn’t you know, he’d forgotten what it was. ... Helga? No. Esmerelda? No. Prudence?

“Oh, you’re thinking of (again, fill in the blank),” she sang out like a canary.

She denied it for a good 48 hours, but now she’s off the hook, since the whole Oregon licensing division is in on the secret. Just call me mud.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at 509-526-8322 or sheilahagar@wwub.com.


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