The Name Game

Why do women change their names when they marry? It’s not that a husband has power over his new wife but on the unity of marriage. In the words of English jurist Henry de Bracton, a man and woman become “a single person, because they are one flesh and one blood.” By early 17th century, William Camden, an Englishman wrote, “women with us, at their marriage, pass into their husbands surnames and justly. For they are no longer twain (two) but one flesh.”
I recently remarried a wonderful man. It gives him great pleasure and pride to call me his wife, Mrs. Davis and vice versa For you ladies who have recently married, you will appreciate the red tape and hoops that need to be hurdled in order to change your name!
My new husband and I decided to make a day out of it. Once we had the certified license, off to the Social Security Administration! The clerk at the courthouse suggested the Winterhaven office, so that was our first stop. The line of people was out the door, probably 15 people deep. Inside every chair was occupied with more people.
As we approached the security guard, he looked at both of us and said, “get in line outside, and I’ll call you in when it’s your turn.” I tried to ask a question to which he replied, “I said get in line and I’ll call you.” I was incensed, and Roger wasn’t happy with his response either.
We stood outside for less than five minutes. No offense intended, but there was only one other person in line outside that spoke English. Roger couldn’t stand it any more and went back inside to talk to the less-than-friendly security guard. After a few minutes, he came back out with an application and said, “let’s go. It will be at least 3 hours before we can get in.” So we left and enjoyed the rest of our day.
I overheard several people say that they had made reservations, so I called the local SSA office to make an appointment. Unfortunately, name changes don’t warrant an appointment! Roger had the bright idea of getting to the SSA office 20 minutes early to get a better spot in line. I arrived on Thursday morning at 8:40, and I was number 51 in line!!
The security guard in Lakeland was just as pleasant as the one in Winterhaven. Since the office only seats 40 people, only the first 40 were allowed in the building. I struck up a conversation with a few people in line who told me to be prepared to wait at least 3 hours. I explained that I only wanted a name change so that I could get my driver’s license. Two ladies in line said I could get my driver’s license without a SSN name change, so off I went to the DMV.
It was about a 20 minute drive to the DMV. I walked in and spoke to a very pleasant young lady and explained what I wanted to do. Well, don’t you know the laws changed in 2010, and you must have your name changed on your SSN card! So another wasted trip, and I drove home. Oh, and you have to bring 5 documents along with the SSN card in order to get a new driver’s license.
On Friday, I decided to try again. This time, Roger dropped me off at the SSA office at 8:30 a.m. I managed to be in the top 40 in line! On this morning, we had a new “Barney Fife” in charge of security who only let 10 people in at a time. I was the cut-off point – aaarrrggghh!
Once inside, I had to sign in at a kiosk. I had to guess at answering the questions, and thankfully guessed right. “Barney Fife” walked around the office twirling his keys around his finger and feeling so powerful. I managed to stay calm and collected for the next 15 minutes. Finally, my number was called. Thankfully, I had a nice young man who processed my paperwork. He took my old SS card, gave me a receipt and said I should receive my new card in 10-14 business days. In the time it took me to process, Roger had just returned home and now had to come back and pick me up. I sat in the bus stop by myself waiting. I at least had the first step accomplished.
About a week later, I received my new SS card! Hallelujah! Now I have to endure the DMV, with my five documents, hope I have a good hair day and get my new driver’s license. Once that is completed, I will begin the process of changing the bank accounts, vehicle registration, utility bills, credit cards, insurance policies and anything else that my name is attached to! Wow . . . the list is exhausting when I think about it.
Why do I do it? Call me old-fashioned, traditional. I do it out of respect for my new husband. I do it because we are now one flesh, heart and soul. I do it out of complete love for my husband, my partner, my best friend, my life.

“We Love You Guys” But . . .

My husband, John, was a master with people. His philosophy about people was “it doesn’t matter if they drive the truck or pick up the cans.” He motivated others by making them feel extraordinary thereby bringing out their best. He sincerely cared for others and had a giving spirit.

I especially enjoyed watching him “work his magic” with service people, people who would fill a need we had, people we would only meet one or two times. One important lesson that I learned from John is that “people love to hear their name.” No matter who crossed our path, he greeted each person asking their names. Whether it was a crew to help us move, paint our house, pave our patio, maintain our yard, he knew them by name. He always provided a cooler of water and Gatorade for the workers. For the guys who moved us to FL, we bought lunchmeat, bread and chips for a “take-out lunch” before they left. He never failed to thank them by name when they were done.

Two weeks ago, construction started on our dream home with an opportunity for me to put John’s lessons into action. On the first day, I drove out to meet the crew and watch the process of building a log cabin. I met Glen, the crew chief and head carpenter. When they took a much-needed break, I met the other three: Charlie, Ray and Roger. They are definitely a “motley crew”, and my initial thoughts were “I hope they don’t cut off an arm or leg or get stuck under a pile of logs!”

Throughout the afternoon, I sat on their trailer and observed. I couldn’t tell if they were amused or intimidated with my presence. They took breaks for Mountain Dew and water, but they never ate a bite. Around 4:00 p.m., they started cleaning up and packing their tools for the 2-hr drive home. Before they left, I asked, “don’t you guys eat lunch?” Glen said, “we grab breakfast at McDonald’s; we don’t have time for lunch.” Charlie could see the surprise on my face and said, “she doesn’t believe him!” Ray and Roger just smiled and kept packing up.

I walked to the car and grabbed some cash. I handed it to Glen and said “have breakfast tomorrow on me.” He shook his head and said, “no ma’am, that’s ok”, but I was insistent. All of them thanked me, and they drove off.

The next day, I grabbed four Cuban sandwiches from the Publix deli. When I got to the property, Charlie, Ray and a new guy were taking a break. I handed them the bag and said, “I brought you lunch.” They looked surprised but gladly ate the sandwiches. I watched the slow manual progress of stacking logs for the detached garage. When the new guy walked to the trailer, I introduced myself. He shook my hand and said, “I’m Jason, Glen’s son-in-law.”

Again, around 4:00 p.m., they packed up and headed home. I told Glen that I wouldn’t make it Thursday but would be back on Friday. Charlie thanked me again for lunch, and said “you’re the best.” It felt good to hear “thank you”, like I was appreciated. I drove home fighting back tears.

On Friday, I grabbed chicken tenders and a 12-pk of Mountain Dew. Luckily, I arrived before 2:00 p.m. because I learned something new. On Fridays, they leave earlier to give them time to stop by the shop office. The blue-collar construction world is new to me. It’s very humbling to watch these guys work in the hot sun, hauling logs with sweaty hands for an hourly wage. They left early so they could get paid.

Week two, a rainy Monday postponed construction. On Tuesday afternoon, I showed up with Mountain Dew and water. Now, there were six guys on the crew to build the house: Glen, Charlie, Ray, Roger, Jason and Glen’s son, Kyle. I was glad I didn’t bring food because I would have been two short!

But over the weekend, I had a brainstorm. I could achieve two important needs: clean out the freezer and pantry and provide lunch a couple of days a week. On Wednesday, I showed up with BBQ crockpot pork sandwiches. When they took a break, they couldn’t help but peek into the bag. They eagerly grabbed a sandwich as I walked around taking pictures of the work-in-progress. When I returned, one of the guys called out, “hey, you can cook for me any time you want!” I said, “I want to make sure our cabin is built right.” They were all smiling and said the sandwiches were fantastic. They went back to work, and I sat on the trailer fighting back more tears.

By Thursday, they had grown accustomed to my daily visits. They also know I’m the General Contractor and have figured out I ask a lot of questions. (John’s nickname for me was “Perry Mason” because of my never-ending barrage of questions.) And, they reluctantly try my suggestions for process improvement. Glen found out quickly that I can read a house-plan and will point out anything that doesn’t look right.

Snack crackers on Thursday and more sandwiches on Friday. Charlie, Jason, Ray and Kyle were taking a break together. Jason, was the first to peek into the bag, and say “what do we have today?” Charlie said, “you’re the best; you know how to motivate us through our stomachs.” After a couple of bites, Ray asked, “are these home-made?” to which I replied, “yes”. He smiled and said, “I can tell because they are made with love.” And then Jason said the most profound thing: “You know, the lady from the last job told us every day ‘we love you guys’.” And then came the BUT . . . “But she never once gave us something to drink let alone feed us. You bring us drinks and feed us. You wouldn’t believe how most people treat us.”

The guys worked until around 2:30 p.m. and packed up. I turned away to take more photos, and I heard Charlie say, “see you Monday.” I waved as they drove off wiping away tears.

They say “actions speak louder than words”. Greeting the crew by their names . . . providing water, Mountain Dew, and homemade sandwiches don’t seem like big “actions”. But to these guys, who typically aren’t recognized, let alone appreciated, they bring a smile to their faces and maybe a small bright spot for the day. For me, they give me a feeling of purpose, if only for a day.

I’m honored to share a couple of John’s simple but positively impactful life-lessons. I hope you will do the same . . . take a moment to speak someone’s name, share a drink or meal, put a smile on someone’s face.

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