What’s in a name?

National Post (Latest Edition) - - WEEKEND POST - Jo Go n at hanld stein Week­end Post

Emily, Gus and I are at an al­lyou-can-eat buf­fet in Min­nesota. We’re din­ing with a cou­ple of friends and their two young daugh­ters. Be­cause there’s only a few days left be­fore Labour Day, I’ve de­cided to wear white pants. It’s some­thing I only do a cou­ple times a year and never while eat­ing tan­doori chicken. This is the clos­est I come to feel­ing like a dare­devil.

I’ve been prep­ping for this all-you-can-eat buf­fet the way I imag­ine an ath­lete trains for an event – fast­ing, nap­ping. At one point, the six-year-old ends up wait­ing pa­tiently be­hind me as I load my plate. I do so care­fully so as not to splat­ter my pants. “That’s a lot of food,” she says. “I’m shar­ing it with my wife,” I stam­mer.

“I just lied to a child,” I tell Emily back at the ta­ble.

I ex­plain what hap­pened, she asks why I said we were shar­ing and I ex­plain that I felt both shamed and on the spot.

“But I don’t want but­ter chicken,” she says. “I’m a veg­e­tar­ian.”

“Would you rather that I’d have lied to a child?” I ask. “That’s morally worse than eat­ing meat.” Emily plucks un­cer­tainly at the bas­mati rice on my plate. Later, Emily and I are fly­ing back home. While I stare at the TV, she stares at Gus’s face.

“It’s like watch­ing a kalei­do­scope,” she says. “Some­times he looks like you, some­times me. Some­times he looks like my fa­ther, my mother, and your mother.”

“When he chews on his paci­fier, I find he looks like Ed­ward G. Robin­son.”

“But no mat­ter what, he al­ways looks like Gus,” she says. “That name suits him.”

“You’d think that what­ever his name was,” I say. “Names hardly mat­ter.” “I don’t think so.” Maybe Emily’s right. I wouldn’t see a weep­ing wil­low as quite so melan­choli­cally ma­jes­tic if it were called “an over­flow­ing slop bucket bush.”

“I guess names are im­por­tant,” I con­cede. “Look at the Wright broth­ers.” “How do you mean?” “They had the mis­for­tune of be­ing named Wil­bur and Orville,” I say. “Must have made them try harder. Would they have jumped off the barn roof flap­ping their arms like chick­ens if their names were Steve and Eric Wright? Prob­a­bly not.”

And thanks to those ter­ri­ble names I can now sit, tens of thou­sands of feet above the world drink­ing Clam­ato Juice and watch­ing re­runs of Friends in my white Clam­ato juice stained pants. What a world.

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