Of names and other things


Company is coming and I’m just sitting here looking at a blank screen, wishing something would remind me that I’ve got to get a column or two written before they arrive.

Inspiration doesn’t work that way, however, on demand. Dave says I need to get into the habit of carrying a notebook and jotting down ideas to tap later when a piece is due.

Me, keep up with a pen and pad here in the house? Surely you jest. That would be just one more thing to go missing, along with keys, cell phone, coin purse, ad nauseam.
So. Let’s just go with “stream of consciousness” here.

Did you see in the news that the parents of a new baby have decided not to reveal the sex of the child, giving it a gender-neutral name and dressing it in gender-neutral clothing? The idea is to protect it from gender bias, like giving a girl a doll to mother, or a boy a toy truck.

Already I see a problem. The pronoun that refers to the child becomes “it,” and the awkward “he or she” and “her or him” will start popping up before the third paragraph. His or her older siblings will surely notice, and where will they find a babysitter who can keep a secret like that?

Actually, I have already reprimanded myself for perpetuating the myth that boys are the stronger sex and girls are mostly decorative. Upon meeting a child and learning its gender, I hear myself telling him how clever, strong, or smart he is. But a girl I would call precious, pretty.

And just about the time you think you’ve heard everything, you find out you were wrong. How about an international convention of people named Phil Campbell in Phil Campbell, Ala.? The tiny town of Phil Campbell was named for a British railroad engineer in the 1880s, and has been hosting this get-together since the 1990s.

Last month, tornados leveled most of the town of Phil Campbell and the convention was the last thing people there were thinking about – until someone spread the word that the Phil Campbells were coming anyhow, with a mission: To help the townsfolk rebuild from the rubble.

From all over the world they are coming, from as far away as Australia and Alaska. The neat thing is that introductions and icebreakers are easy. Just learn where they’re from: Brooklyn! Las Vegas! Yelling “Phil” in a crowd will get somebody’s attention, for sure.

(I don’t imagine you recall my column several years ago when I discovered there is another Sallie Satterthwaite – spelled the same – in this world. She lives in Concord, Mass., and is also a writer, of technical things. I’ve had the name longer than she had – hers was a late marriage.

I e-mailed her, got a cordial response, and that’s about all there was to it. Except for this slightly creepy feeling I get from thinking how complicated life could be if we lived nearer each other.)

This will have to do. Unless you want to know what they call toothpaste at Kroger these days. I needed toothpaste and a brush, and Dave was looking (in vain) for those little tapered wire brushes that ease between the teeth. They weren’t where we expected them to be, next to the pharmacy windows. I was also looking for an overhead sign board like those that help you find baking needs, canned fruits, pet supplies and such.

They had been moved to the side a little, but at last I found them. The overhead sign? Oral Care. Of course. Certainly classier than Dental Supplies.

Now. Company is coming and I haven’t hit a lick about getting ready. Gotta run.