I was all set to have a productive day last Friday until I stopped to buy a bagel and everything went completely off the rails.
Of course, my first mistake was going to a place named “Einstein Bros. Bagels” because everyone knows that Albert Einstein didn’t have brothers, and wasn’t a baker. Or at least I don’t think he was. Maybe “e=mc2” is actually a recipe for gluten free banana muffins and I never learned that because I only ventured over to the math side of campus whenever I needed someone to calculate how many grams were in an eighth. (Ganja Jeremy was a notorious overcharger.)
But while I was waiting in line for my bagel, I started to wonder why there aren’t more businesses named after dead people who can’t sue the pants off of you because they’re dead people. Like, why didn’t someone open up “Nietzsche & Sons Tires”? Or a chain of laundromats called “Harriet Tubman’s Wash ‘n Fold”? Seems like a wasted opportunity. I know I’d definitely frequent “Hemingway Bros. FroYo,” especially if they had flavors like “The Sun Also Raspberries.”
After musing on the name thing for a while, my steeltrap of a mind moved on to the last time I’d had a bagel. It was not at all a pleasant experience. Mostly because I bought the bagel at the grocery store, and it was actually called a “Squagel.” “Squagel” either means “square bagel” or “made by squirrels, from squirrels.” It had a hint of acorn flavor and small impressions left from paw kneading, so I’d side with the latter. Anyway, the squagel was as disgusting as you’d expect food molded into the wrong shape to be. Seriously, want to punish prisoners? Give them an octagon pizza and watch how fast they demand an ACLU representative. You do not go against nature.
By this point, I was almost at the front of the bagel line, but I then noticed the final piece of information that would throw my thinking off for the rest of the day and cause my “to-do” list to be ignored. This final piece of information was the cashier, who looked to be an unremarkable young man, kind of skinny, black hair. But just to f-ck up my day, he was wearing a name tag that said, “Kevin Bacon.”
Before I continue, I should tell you that when I was in high school, my friends and I saw a marquee at an old theater showing the movie “Quicksilver,” the greatest film ever made about bike messengers with 80’s mullets. This particular theater must have been running short on the letter N (I blame “Hannah and Her Sisters”) because the sign out front said “QUICKSILVER WITH KEVI BACO.” That’s why for most of my life, I’ve called Kevin Bacon “Kevi Baco.” It’s super fun to say, of course, but nobody understands me when I ask them to play “Six Degrees of Kevi Baco,” so it is also not without its challenges.
Back to Einstein’s.
Now, I knew this cashier wasn’t actually Kevin Bacon because if Kevin’s career had hit the skids this badly, he’d at least get the job of Bagel Toaster or Guy In Charge of Schmears based on “Footloose” alone. Maybe Assistant Manager if the hiring person was a fan of “He Said, She Said.” So my thought was that this guy was probably just having a little fun like I used to do when I worked at Macy’s and customers thought my name was “Apollonia.”
“Wendi, have you been wearing that Apollonia nametag again?” my manager would ask.
“That depends. Did this Apollonia insult someone’s taste in hand towels?”
Honestly, like it was my fault they left the label maker out in the open in the break room for anyone to take?
Once I’d decided it was just nametag shenanigans, I was feeling pretty good until the woman in front of me asked Kevin Bacon if that was his real name. Idiot. Probably a squagel eater, too. I was busy rolling my eyes in dramatic fashion when the cashier said the one sentence that I then couldn’t get out of my head for the rest of the day:
“No, ma’am, it’s just the nickname my parents gave me.”
Welcome to my nightmare. How? Why? When? WHAT could your child possibly do to compel you to name him after an actor best known for dancing in a barn wearing mom jeans and a trailer park top? Sing “Holdin’ Out for a Hero” in the shower? Not quite make it to the A-list? Reenact scenes from “A Few Good Men” with his puppets? WHAT?
I mean, once my son told me his poop looked like The Millennium Falcon, but we didn’t immediately give him the nickname “Harrison Ford.” Why? Because we’re not insane (and also, it actually looked more like the Death Star.) And my parents didn’t start calling me “Angela Landsbury” after my 7th grade teacher told them I looked like her whenever she was on medication and squinted. My mind was reeling.
Of course, the smart thing to do then would have been to just ask Kevin why he had that nickname when it was my turn to order, but I didn’t to that. No, my way of handling things is to just let them stick in my head so I can obsess for weeks on end. It’s all part of my Mental Health Strategy that is working out really well. Just ask my cats after they’ve taken off their Renaissance costumes.
Yes, instead of finding out why this nice young man had that nickname that day, I simply grabbed my bagel and said, “Thanks, Kevi Baco.” Then I put on my sunglasses, gave him a small smile, and handed him my credit card receipt.
Signed by “Apollonia.”