The phone vibrated in my pocket. I ignored it. Only a couple of blocks stood between me and the ATM, and there’d be plenty of time to look at the phone once I was off the road. After I made my deposit I slid the truck between two painted white lines on the parking lot and checked the phone. It was a text from my wife asking me to swing through Friendly’s and get her a sundae. I shot back the OK, stowed the phone, and pulled out onto the dark street.
Friendly’s was quiet and there was no line at the counter. A young fellow in glasses with square black frames greeted me with a smile and asked for my order. He made a mistake while ringing me up and had to call for a void key. The manager, a pleasant lady with a name tag that read Debbie, completed the void and apologized for the delay.
“No worries, thanks Debbie,” I said. I looked at the young man as he began to ring me up again. “I’d call you by name too, but you’re not wearing your badge,” I said.
“Oh,” he said. “I’m not wearing it. If I was, good luck pronouncing it. I’m not proud of it.”
“Aw, come on man,” I said. “It can’t be that bad. What’s your name?”
He looked down as he tugged on gloves to make my wife’s sundae. “Jay-Quan,” he said. “I guess my mom’s just not that educated.”
“Hey look,” I said. “I’m Robert. When I was kid I went by Robbie, and the kids called me Snobbie, Slobbie, Gobbie, you name it. No matter what your name is, people will find a way to make fun of it. Who cares what people think? Your mom gave you that name with love.”
He looked up from his work, scooping out and packing ice cream into a paper dish. “I want you to put your name tag on, and I want you to wear it with pride,” I told him. “Let your light shine, and don’t let anybody, or anything, dim that light.”
“Thank you so much, so much. That was…” he hesitated. For a second I thought he might cry, but his face brightened. He smiled and blinked hard a few times. “Thank you so much. I needed to hear that. I mean it.”
“You’re very welcome.”
He handed me the sundae. “Hear you are Sir. Have a good night.”
“I will Jay-Quan, thanks. You too.”
I turned and went out the door. Inside the truck I checked my phone for messages, found none, and started the motor. The man on the radio said snow was coming. Like my advice to Jay-Quan, I wondered if it would stick.