Hi Alice!

Last night, after more than a year, I met an old friend; Alice. I hadn’t seen Alice since that fateful night last year when she changed the course of my life and it was a thrilling reunion.

I stopped into Lanesplitter to grab a quick bite before jumping into a book club meeting I had across the street. I saw Alice a few minutes after I sat down but she was busy. Too busy to talk, or even notice me. I wondered if I’d even have a chance, now that I had returned 17 months later, to even tell her what she had done to me; how she had impacted the rest of my life. My hopes were further dashed when Alice, in her flurry of activity, delivered my slice of pizza from behind my back (I was sitting at the bar, again)and kept on speed walking to where she needed to go. “Thank you!” I meagerly cried, but she was gone already.

Finally, Alice set up a glass in front of me to pour a glass of wine for a customer. “Was this the right timing?” I wondered. I wasn’t sure if she’d have the time for a quick talk but decided to go for it.

“Excuse me, are you Alice?” I asked. She froze. Then looked at me quizzically. I imagined it must have been a similar reaction to what I had given her last year when she called out my name. “Yeeeessss,” she said tentatively. “I’m so sorry.” I explained, having noticed that I’d thrown her off. “Last year I sat down there at the end of the bar and I had forgotten I was wearing a name tag and you called out my name. I just want you to know that you changed my life. I wound up wearing a name tag for three weeks after that it and it totally changed everything for me!” I told her.

From there, her face transformed from a look of confusion to, well, it lit up! Her expression became jubilant and excited. “Yes. Yes! I remember!” she confessed. “Oh that’s so great! Thank you for sharing.” “I wrote a blog about the whole experience. Do you have a pen? Would you mind if I share it with you?” I pondered. “I can’t wait to check this out later tonight,” Alice told me as she took the paper and pen back. As she took off to deliver the glass of wine she had just poured, I could tell Alice was excited for what I had just shared. I was REALLY excited to have come full circle and share the story, however briefly, with Alice.

Of course the contagion of the name tag continued as a guy next to me, Rob, asked me about the story and we chatted briefly as I finished my food before paying the bill. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to Alice before I left last night. I would have liked to, though. I owe a debt of gratitude to her for being the spark that lit a fire. And ask my wife, sometimes it grew to be a BIG fire. She changed my life, that Alice, just by being who she is naturally.

If you happen to be in the area, stop in to Lanesplitter and grab a slice. Ask for Alice and tell her I said “hi.” Just make sure you tell her your name and give her a generous tip, on behalf of me. After all, Alice helped change the world; mine at least.


Haircut and deep thoughts – PLAY

In this post I get deep.  Maybe too deep for a simple social experiment wearing a name tag.  You decide and please let me know your reaction.

Since it’s the holidays, I decide it’s time to breakdown and get a haircut.  Stephanie, the great girl that works on my hair, asks me about the name tag.  I go into the whole story and she’s so excited and wants to hear more.  After we finish up, the receptionist takes my money and says “thanks for coming in, Jim.” Now you could easily argue that that’s just good customer service.  And I would agree.  But, I find it doubtful that everyone that pays is told that.  Out on the street I start walking toward my car and I hear from someone sitting up against the building “ga-bye Jim!”  I look over to see who’s calling out to me and it’s the other receptionist, out on break, who was in the salon and overheard my story.  “Good to see you!” I respond.  “Have a good one!”

As I think about it more, I notice there’s a change in the quality of my life by wearing my name tag.  This isn’t a small statement so I’ll repeat it.  By wearing a sticker that bears my name, on my chest my quality of life has improved.  I’m having more fun on a daily basis.  It’s like every day is a game with the nametag and the whole nametag experiment.  And I think it’s the idea of introducing PLAY into life.  Which I think is really important!  It’s very easy to lose sight of playing, especially as an adult. And the nametag is one aspect of PLAY that I introduce every day.  I think THAT could be one of the reasons I’m enjoying this so much. This element of play.  I find I don’t allow myself to carry a grumpy face in public, even if I may want to.  I’m Jim!  People will know that Jim is not a happy guy and I can’t let that happen.   Aside from that, I’m enjoying everyone saying my name.  It makes you feel good.  It makes you feel special.  In his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie tell us to “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  Not only am I having fun on a daily basis, but with all these people saying my name to me everyday, I’ve found my confidence has increased as well.  Who can’t tackle the hardest problems in the world when everyone knows you and is there to support you?  I certainly can!  As I think about this further, I think it really would make a difference if more people wore name tags regularly.

We’re in Macy’s doing some holiday shopping and I’m standing at the counter in the cosmetic section while Shanna’s off looking for something.  And this guy, behind the counter across the way, waves over “Hi Jim!” So I walk over to talk with him and I say “ you know, that happens all the time,” thinking he’s talking about my nametag.  He says “actually, I was calling out to Tim, not Jim”  I felt badly and was definitely a little embarrassed.  Had I let an ego of my name go too far?  Innocent enough mistake, I conclude.  His name is Freddie.  He’s supposed to wear a nametag but he doesn’t really.  It just says “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.”

My interlude with Freddie concluded and I went back to holiday shopping, but that’s not where this weekend’s fun ends.  Stay tuned…

Holiday Party Fun

It’s the holidays and that means all kinds of things.  If you’re in retail, it’s long busy days.  If you’re a nametag wearer, it means homeless people, cosmetic salesmen, holiday parties,  drunk guys at bars and a busy schedule.   My next few postings are all true.  All of it happened, I promise.

The weekend started off with a holiday party for Shanna’s company.  It was one of those where it’s a cocktail party with lots of good finger foods and conversation.  They took it to the next level and brought in casino games to play with fake money; craps, roulette, backjack.  They were all there.  Shanna’s colleagues were all really nice, except for one.  Going around a circle of people I extend my hand to introduce myself to this petite blond, “Hi, I’m Jim.”  “Yea, I can see that from your nametag,” she shoots back.  I was shocked! Who says that?!  Really?!  Did this girl in her mid 20’s really just respond to my introduction with that?  And then she proceeded to stand there for a brief uncomfortable silence until I broke it.  “I’m sorry.  What’s your name?”  “Whitney” she replies.  “Oh.  Nice to meet you, Whitney.  Normally, when someone extends their hand and tells you their name they’re implicitly asking your name at the same time,”  I inform her.  Now Whitney is not a young girl from some foreign land.  She speaks perfectly fine English with, perhaps a San  Francisco Bay accent, if anything.   She should be perfectly versed in this custom of introductions, so clearly she’s just being ornery.  I hear she has that reputation about her.  I’m afraid I don’t think that personality characteristic will take her too far.  Moving on, everyone else, like I said, was really nice and were all curious about the social experiment.  Some even seemed pleased to be participants in the story.

From the holiday party we moved along, in our cocktail attire, to what could be considered a dive bar; Bloodhound.  No matter!  It’s a great place (except they don’t serve Jagermeister for some reason)!  I tuck the kids in a corner and saddle up to the bar to order some libations.  While I’m waiting for the bartender

Mike Tyson proved to be a good name memory device

the guy next to me inquires about the name tag.  His name is Tyson.  I remember this because I think of Mike Tyson.  There ya go!  Name remembered.  He wants a name tag too and funny enough, for the first time, I’ve carried some extras.  “Just go get a pen so you can write  your name on it” I tell him.  He’s a little drunk and decides not to follow through.  I think he just wanted to put a blank one on his chest and I wasn’t going waste one for that.  Perfectly happy to share if you want to participate in “the movement” but not just to take one of my stickers.

Back with the crew, drinks in hand, we’re approach by Ben.  Ben is very curious about the nametag.  He’s fascinated and remarks that Shanna and I are a nauseatingly adorable couple.  Yea, we get that from time to time.  Mostly it’s people yelling out of their car window as they drive past us “get a room!” because we’re making out on the sidewalk.  But, yes, we’ve even gone as far as to apologize to people upfront, “we’re so in love it’ll probably make you nauseous.  Sorry.”  I briefly reflect to myself that people are continuing to react to this small piece of paper on my chest.  Of course, it’s all new for them each time. Shanna, as a witness to all these antics, appears to continue to be fascinated with it and the affect it has on people around me.  Later in the weekend she’ll confess her concerns about all this attention going to my head but I allay them, promptly.  Later, when I get  a haircut, things get interesting and deep….

Movember and attention whores

“My mom is a nurse and wore a name tag for 40 years.  One of the most common responses she got was “what’s the name of the other one?”  My new landlord, Jay, shared his name tag story with Shanna and me as we enjoyed drinks at a local watering hole.   Almost since the start, there’s been a question of gender differences and wearing a name tag.  Would the experience be the same for ladies as it has been for me?  Jay’s mom would probably disagree.

“Is this like Movember?” Jay continued in his interest in my experiment.  He was referring to the fundraising movement in which men grow a mustache in the month of November to raise awareness and funding for prostate and testicular cancers through Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  Check it out! http://us.movember.com/?home My short answer was “no it’s not, it’s just a social experiment” but as it happens, those wheels in my head don’t sit still for long.  Sure!  This could be a great opportunity to create fundraising and awareness for a cause.  In my twitter feed I used the tag #nametagmovement in one of my tweets and realized that we could be on the cusp of something bigger than simply wearing a name tag every day.

With so many worthwhile causes that need could benefit from fundraising, it’s hard to decide what the name tag movement should be dedicated toward.  I’d love to hear your feedback about what you think is the best cause and if you think people would wear a name tag for a month in support of the cause!

Jay wasn’t the only person who’d noticed I’m prominently displaying my name.  Walking into a Starbucks, I held the door for a woman walking out.  “Thank you, Jim!” she proudly remarked.   The girl behind the cash register continued, “have a great day, Jim!” as I took my coffee and scone.

A friend of mine recently called me an attention whore after have read my story.  I’m not sure I fully agree but there’s no question I’ve gotten a lot more personal attention by displaying my name.

It all comes back to Seinfeld

I recently talked with my buddy, Dave and told him about the social experiment and my blog.  He’s skeptical, I can tell.  I promise him that simply wearing a name tag will change the way people interact

Dave wears a helmet in case he falls. I wear one because they are required by the Segway company.

with him.  He eventually relents and tells me that he’d be willing to wear on for a day or two but quickly informs me that he doesn’t have any sticker he could use for a name tag. I suspect he’s coming up with an excuse not to wear one.  We’ll see.  Dave’s just as crazy as I am to wear one.  In fact, the more I think about it, I bet he’d love the attention!  As a resident of Beverly Hills, Dave will probably feel like one of the other celebrities around Los Angeles when people start calling him out by name.

Later, after he’s had a chance to read about what I’m doing, Dave sent me an e-mail, “You really don’t have to put me in your next post, really……It’s interesting.  Kind of reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where they recommended everyone in the city wear name tags.”  Seinfeld and life ARE one in the same after all, aren’t they?  Why should a name tag experiment not be included a Seinfeld episode?  Actually, Dave has an impressively keen memory of Seinfeld episodes.  I wonder if he’s one of those people that are super smart and have a good memory but are socially awkward as a result…

I’m not familiar with this episode that he refers to so I look it up and it goes like this:

Elaine “Wow! You know what I would do if I was running for
mayor. One of my campaign themes would be that everybody
should wear name tags all the time to make the city friendlier.”

Lloyd (advisor to mayoral candidate Dinkins) “Name tags, hmm?”

Elaine “Well, everybody would know everybody. It would be like a
small town.”

The episode ends with the main characters watching Giuliani deliver his victory speech over Dinkins; the “name tag fiasco” cost him the election.



I’m not so sure about the Seinfeld episode or whether my friend will wear a name tag, but I am certain of one thing; Dave’s going to feel like a celebrity when he reads this post!

Might as well Jump like Van Halen, and interview the public…

I’m dripping with sweat after having been jumping for the past hour. Quite literally, jumping! We’re spending our morning at the new trampoline center in San Francisco,

Lawrence and I jump with our name tags on

House of Air. That’s quite natural for most people to do after a day of wine drinking (it was more than just tasting, let’s be honest) in Napa Valley, isn’t it?
I’m pleased that my sticky name tag has endured the trampolining and ensuing perspiration but I’ve yet to have a “name tag moment.” No problem. I’ll just have to create one!

I approach two ladies in their late 30’s/early 40’s who are speaking with each other on the fringe of an 8 year old’s birthday party that’s complete with heavily frosted cupcakes, juice boxes, noisemakers, and cartoon covered paper plates.

“Excuse me,” I interrupt. “Do both of you have children that were jumping here this morning? Yes? Hi, my name’s Jim,” I say and point to the name tag. They look at me quizzically as if to ask “and you’re telling us this…why”
“I’m conducting a social experiment, hence the name tag and I’m curious why you weren’t jumping.” I continue. After some confusion over whether I work for the facility or not (it must have been the name tag), it becomes clear what I’m trying to get at.
“Well, I have a bad knee. You’re body breaks down when you’re over 40 you know.” Says the lady to my left.
“And if it had just been me and my kids here, I would have jumped but it’s a social thing. This birthday party has a lot of friends of mine that I haven’t seen in a while and I wanted to spend time catching up with them.” Replied the second lady

So they weren’t being complete party poopers after all! I thank them for their answers and leave them to go back to their conversation. Five of us had come to jump and found ourselves the sole humans on the tramps taller than four feet tall. “Why were none of the adults here participating?” we had all mused. Now that I regularly wear a name tag, people speak to me all the time. So, I figured I’d return the favor to the general public and ask the two moms.

Later that night I was walking along Townsend street with Shanna and Lawrence to meet a friend at a restaurant for some drinks. We’d gone home and taken much needed showers after a morning that paired three hours of rock climbing after our trampoline time. Mid-stride I’m struck by a realization and gasp out loud. “I forgot to transfer my name tag over to my new shirt!” I was disappointed that I lapsed in my “responsibility.” Fortunately, we were only a few steps away from a Walgreens. We texted our friend saying that we’d be a few minutes late and bought a fresh pack of labels. Crisis averted!

At the restaurant no one mentioned our names. It could have been because we sequestered ourselves in a corner but it didn’t matter. We left the restaurant only after learning the names of the people who helped us; Ernesto and Albert.

Napa Valley Reactions

The hills that separate the Napa and Sonoma valleys

If you want to put yourself in multiple situations where people will notice that you’re wearing a name tag, and are happy to comment on it, I suggest you go wine tasting in Napa Valley. Wine pourers, by trade, are sales people. It’s their job to engage with people, show them a good time, and hope they buy some wine along the way. You wear a name tag, and they’ll swing, just like when a softball pitchers tosses a lob.

Our day started at Domain Chandon, a winery famous around the world for their sparkling wines. Shanna, Lawrence and I enter the tasting room and see people standing around bars that appear to float, suspended on crystalline sheets of glass. We step up to the counter where a lone pourer awaits her next trove to guests to serve. The first words out of her mouth, in a UK accent that could only be native, are “so what’s up with the name tags?” “Oh, well, I wanted you to know who I am,” I replied, unprepared for the question. I quickly realized that response was not how I wanted this experiment to come across and made a mental note to be better prepared next time.

Getting into our experiment, Georgia, the pourer, brought over a wine bottle label and a Sharpie and we wrote Lawrence’s name on it. We hadn’t yet purchased a pack of labels from the store and had been recycling the ones from the previous day. Lawrence’s didn’t survive Friday night. We each share a flight of three different sparkling wines before deciding it was time to move on from the next winery.

As we left, Georgia called out to us “Thanks Jim, and crew!” It was this departing comment that prompted us to reflect on the name tag experience with Georgia. We all agreed that Georgia had called out my name far more frequently than you might hear in a normal conversation. At this point, Shanna’s enjoying being a part of the whole name tag thing, and Lawrence has enjoyed the reactions he’s received by wearing it.

Our trio proceeds to our next winery stop, called Miner Family Vineyards. We step up to the second floor bar and are greeted by a jolly fellow named Steve. You can tell from the curious grin on his face that he’s

Our wine pourer, Steve, was enthusiastic about stories and wine.

not quite sure what to make of this group proudly displaying our names. Perhaps its because he’s seen how people can get when wine tasting and realizes that at some point they prefer to be anonymous, rather than well known.

Regardless, he quickly jumps into our game and swaps out Lawrence’s Domain Chandon wine label/name badge to a Miner Winery label/name badge. At some point along our tasting, we ponder aloud how long it takes to drive from the Bay Area to British Columbia. Enthusiastically, Steve has an answer for us! “21 ½ hours from San Jose to Vancouver when you’re going to the World’s Fair in 1986!” he beamed! Later, I would reflect back that Steve had mentioned my name a few times even though I never formally introduced myself. While I fumbled with Georgia, at the last winery, this time I had the presence of mind to query Steve on his name when we first arrived.

For the rest of the day in Napa we didn’t have any more interactions centered around the name badges. We had a great day and met Ivo, the wine maker for Grgich Hills Winery. On our way back to San Francisco we stopped at a Target and bought a pack of real labels. We needed to be prepared for the evening!