His name is Scott. He wears a nametag. All the time.
February 12, 2003 4:06 PM   Subscribe

"Hello, my name is Scott." He's Scott, he's 22, and he's worn a nametag for the past 833 days. Why? So that people will feel more inclined to talk to him. To break down social barriers. Surprisingly, it has worked. I'm sure many of us try to be friendly to strangers, but in some cultures these days you're almost sure to be rebuffed or ignored. That's how it is here in the UK. Are people open and friendly in your part of the world without needing gimmicks like a nametag?
posted by wackybrit (39 comments total)
He's out of his mind...
posted by SweetJesus at 4:22 PM on February 12, 2003

People in Portland, OR, are pretty friendly. Visitors from out of town often comment on how friendly people are. It's really noticeable when you ride the bus. Many people still say "Thank you" to the bus driver when they get off.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:25 PM on February 12, 2003

Some enjoyable stories at the site. When I was done skimming, I thought for about .5 seconds of trying it myself. Then I remembered the one time I walked out of a meeting in downtown Minneapolis with the "HELLO" tag still on my dress and was almost immediately hassled for nearly two blocks by a rather scary vagrant. Maybe a social experiment better suited to guys, I'm thinking.

That said, I'd like to start a movement where people in my area of the country feel comfortable and natural calling other people affectionate and innocuous names. Kinda like the cabbies in Britain who always called me "love" and the waitresses who call you "dear". That rules my world, and I've already established the right to regularly address several of my coworkers in a Fortune-500 firm in sunny terms like "beautiful," "handsome" and "genius." High saccharine potential, yes, and so I try not to overdo it--but it does brighten a dreary Monday.
posted by clever sheep at 4:36 PM on February 12, 2003

Strength makes friends In the Mountains of the American West. Smile, say "Thank You", say "Howdy", "Hello" or just "Hey" and you'll do just fine here. Just don't say "Here's what's wrong with the way you people do things ..." after moving here (or being elected to congress).
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:38 PM on February 12, 2003

As for the name tag, I think there is definitely something magic about knowing the stranger's name. I wish more ladies would do this. (Or any ladies.)
posted by jfuller at 4:39 PM on February 12, 2003

As for the name tag, I think there is definitely something magic about knowing the stranger's name. I wish more ladies would do this. (Or any ladies.)

Like any guy needs an excuse to stare at a woman's chest.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:41 PM on February 12, 2003

Plus he is really cute, which I am sure helps him out in his little experiment.
posted by benjh at 5:35 PM on February 12, 2003

And he doesn't look retarded.

Yes, I'm working on the horrible stereotypical assumption that a person with a nametag usually has mental deficiencies a la Bob from Fight Club, oh my, what a bad thing to say yadda yadda yadda. If I met him it'd be the first thing on my mind.
posted by Stan Chin at 6:04 PM on February 12, 2003

You're pre-apologizing again, Stan.
posted by botono9 at 6:32 PM on February 12, 2003

Oh, the wonderful people I met when I used to work in the service industry and was compelled to wear my nametag. Oh, the times we had, those people and I. And when we had to sing our song... I met many people, when I was made to sing the song.
posted by stonerose at 7:21 PM on February 12, 2003

I memorized mine!
posted by geist at 7:35 PM on February 12, 2003

Where I live, schoolboys point and say shout "A foreigner!" or sometimes "An American!" in their native language. The first I've gotten used to, the second still pisses me off. 'cause, you know, I'm not.

I don't know if that qualifies as friendly.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:51 PM on February 12, 2003

I had the same theory about crazy hawaiian shirts. I was going to wear them under the assumption that people would naturally be more friendly to me if I looked silly. Slowly, I began to realize that I didn't really like people all that much anyway.
posted by Hildago at 8:20 PM on February 12, 2003

Are people open and friendly in your part of the world?

No, and that's why I live here. "Open and friendly" equates to "tells you about relative's bowel blockage and takes insincere interest in book that you're reading to pass time on train."
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:21 PM on February 12, 2003

I know I've read his "Roxanne" story somewhere before. Googling doesn't help, though. Anyone else think it sounds familiar?
posted by mattpfeff at 8:35 PM on February 12, 2003

"there are only two types of people who wear Hawaiian shirts, Marge: gay guys and big fat party animals. And Bart doesn't look like a big fat party animal to me!"

< /obligatory simpsons ref>
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:06 PM on February 12, 2003

"Many people still say "Thank you" to the bus driver when they get off."

This was completely foreign to my experience, having been born and raised in San Francisco where the word "surly" doesn't even begin to apply to the bus drivers. After coming to Oakland I found the transit experience to be much, much friendlier.

Oakland for pete's sake! Hardly a town of warm and friendly renown, considering that it's mainly a place to get shot at or mowed down by some buffoon doing donuts in the intersection.
posted by majick at 9:21 PM on February 12, 2003

Many people still say "Thank you" to the bus driver when they get off.

majick, you beat me to it. I ♥ Oakland.
posted by eddydamascene at 9:33 PM on February 12, 2003

Surprised no one's done this yet.

Hello, my name is Dave.
posted by dgt at 9:45 PM on February 12, 2003

Mayor Curley: I hear you. Oh, man, do I hear you. I love Boston. I think we just have a different idea of what constitutes being nice. In some places, nice means being talkative and engaging. In Boston, nice means leaving me the hell alone.

I also have a lifelong habit of addressing people as ma'am or sir, whether they're cops or cabbies. It usually gets me better service. And there are times I crack a joke in public to break tension (e.g. being practically in someone's lap on a crowded subway car), and in my experience, people are receptive to it. Did I mention that I love Boston?
posted by swerve at 10:00 PM on February 12, 2003

His front porch, eh?
"After the audience had a good laugh at my front porch, I said, 'Would there by any chance be a lovely lady out there by the name of Roxanne? Anyone out there named Roxanne?'"
"The best part happened next when Roxanne said to me, 'Thank you so much Scott,' after which she ripped off my nametag and stuck it on her boobs."
In French, a slang expression to refer to a woman's ample bosom includes a balcony. Something along the lines of "there is the world in her balcony". In France, there are no front porches. Only courtyards (and the aforementioned balconies). Americans are thought to be too forward.
posted by Dick Paris at 10:02 PM on February 12, 2003

so who is the mod-euro-trash looking guy with him in his "this is cnn" photos?
posted by grabbingsand at 10:58 PM on February 12, 2003

I may be missing the point as usual Paris, but I think when Scott talks about his front porch, there's no sexual innuendo intended. What he means is that we Americans used to be 'too forward' and used front porches all the time to invite guests and entertain friends. In some parts of the country this may still be common place, but Scott's right in saying we're not as forward as we once were. Front porches rarely ever get used in the manner with which Scott refers. It's too scary for some. Too boring or slow for others.

There was a time when we didn't lock our homes. There wasn't a need. Individuals in communities knew one another. However, in more recent years we've come to lock our doors habitually, and even erect bars on our windows and elaborate security systems in our homes. It makes us feel more secure and ironically free. Yet what's happening is we're imprisoning ourselves, metaphorically speaking. When we lock out the unwelcome elements of society, we're also locking ourselves in.

On one's front porch you can choose to get to know a stranger and if you learn to like and trust the person, you can invite them inside. If not, there's still little harm the stranger can do on the outside of your house. That's the way it was anyway, at one time. In more recent times, that has proven to not be the case, and also people often just don't have time to get to know one another anymore. Our daily lives go so much faster. Cellphones. Fast cars. Fast food. Instant coffee. Walkmans. We're shutting one another out, and by going faster as individuals, the evolution of community is slighted.

Maybe this could explain in part why some people prefer communicating online as opposed to offline. The Internet offers people to be sociable in a virtual way, without the risks of face to face confrontations. If you find someone online who happens to be near where you live, you can suggest getting together, which is the equivalent of going from the front porch to inside the house. Taking that next step of getting to know one another and learning trust. But it's actually more of a security option, because usually meetings of online people happen in public places, and each participant's front door remains locked at home, their front porch ignored and gathering dust.

What Scott has done is turn his entire life into a front porch. Wherever he happens to be IS his front porch at that moment in time. Rather than building new barriers, he's seeking to break the barriers down. Wherever he is, he can opt to assume the position of life of the party, or operate as if he were a host wherever he happens to be, whether it's posing as a coat check clerk or a waiter or just a strange person who people happen to find interesting to get to know.

It takes balls in today's society to open oneself up like that. It's risky. There's a reason why most people don't make eye contact in day to day activities, unless they know the person or are required to do so for some reason. Scott's not just putting a nametag on his own chest. He's pointing out the barriers that many of us have in our lives. He argues they're not necessary.

I would argue conversely that they are.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:59 PM on February 12, 2003

I live in Los Angeles, more or less... in my experience people say "thank you" to the bus driver 25-50% of the time (what to do when you're going out the back door, though? I'm very soft-spoken). "Good morning" rates about the same. People do speak to each other in L.A., but they're not very chummy. I lived in Washington, D.C. for a summer and going to the supermarket was... well I hope I'm not overstating it, but... it was a revelation. Women offering me tips on picking vegetables, on the shelf life of milk (often still good a few days past expiration). Cashiers commenting, "Wow, that beef looks good. I think I'm going to have some beef for dinner tonight, myself." Here you'll probably hear about the traffic or the weather, but people won't get any more personal. But you almost can't blame them-- there are so many cultures and subcultures here that it's hard to figure out where people are coming from. For example, I'm Chinese-- strangers that try speaking to me don't know if they're going to get a coherent response back or a blank stare. Kind of puts a damper on trying.
posted by halonine at 12:54 AM on February 13, 2003

I did not mean to imply that "Hello my name is Scott" carried any sexual meaning in referring to his "front porch". I meant only to trace a connection between his "front porch", a balcony and boobs.

His analogy of the front porch is interesting but, in the end, may be inaccurate. A front porch is not an opening line, it is a transition from or interface between private and public space.

Part of the problem with the front porch concept in the United States is that as we finished the 20th century, homes were likely to be built without front porches. Furthermore, when they were provided, the typical porch lacked the necessary support from the urban landscape (distance to street, lack of sidewalk, width of street, house to house distances) to act as an effective transition (the physical "stuff" which makes a neighborhood).
posted by Dick Paris at 1:26 AM on February 13, 2003

Kinda like the cabbies in Britain who always called me "love" and the waitresses who call you "dear".

I like that too. I also like it when the drug dealers on my street corner call me "darlin'" and "beautiful" while they're offering me a packet of weed.

"Open and friendly" equates to "tells you about relative's bowel blockage and takes insincere interest in book that you're reading to pass time on train."

Where I live (London), 'open and friendly' equates to drunk, drugged or insane.
posted by Summer at 3:39 AM on February 13, 2003

Many people still say "Thank you" to the bus driver when they get off.

Am I mad or do I remember this happening in Boston, when I live there in the 90s? In Boston! Talk about cognitive dissonance.
posted by luser at 6:51 AM on February 13, 2003

I live in New Jersey (the suburb of NYC part) and always thanked the bus driver when I took the bus every day.

Given that once, I dropped my purse on the bus, and the driver not only rescued it, but arranged for it to be waiting for me on my regular morning ride, I think that it's worth the three seconds of effort.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:19 AM on February 13, 2003

I think I know where Scott's coming from.

You see, I carry an accordion around with me. It started off with me and a friend trying our hand at being street musicians, and we soon discovered that neat things happen whenever you take an accordion with you when you go out. Especially if you play Nine Inch Nails, The White Stripes and Fatboy Slim as opposed to polkas. People drop their guard and approach you. I can even con them into singing along -- not many people sing in public because we've programmed all these inhibitions into them.

The accordion has landed me a couple of job offers (one of which was for go-go dancing), gotten me lots of free booze, helped me get a date in Prague during New Year's 2000, saved me from both an attempted mugging and U.S. customs, wangled me into a limo full of girls on a stagette in San Francisco, gotten me invited to a Naked News party and put me on TV a couple of times.

Thanks to the accordion, life has become a little more interesting. It taught me to find my singing voice, improve my keyboard-playing skills and edge closer to having perfect pitch. A friend who hadn't seen me in ten years says that my speaking voice is way more commanding now. Playing in front of crowds, whether on stage or on the street has taught me the value of...well, let's not call it courage, let's call it chutzpah, shamelessness or maybe just saying "yes" when most people would say "no".

Well done, Scott, and hey -- smart move, picking something that doesn't weigh thirty pounds!
posted by AccordionGuy at 7:41 AM on February 13, 2003

I have a nametag (the diner waitress kind) that says "Sparky" and I love wearing it out because it always starts conversations but I don't have to tell anyone my real name if I don't feel like it. And I've noticed that the name Sparky just makes people smile.

The other thing I've noticed is that if I walk into any establishment with it on, people automatically assume that I work there and start asking me things like "Where are your Easy Listening CDs?"
posted by witchstone at 7:51 AM on February 13, 2003

I'd be happy if I can just get the clerks in grocery stores to say thank you, or even tell me how much my purchase total is instead of expecting me to lean over and read the number off their computer screen. There's a CVS near my house where I'm not even sure the people there CAN speak. 99.9% of the time, I bring my items to the counter and the purchse is made in complete silence. It's really unsettling because it's not like it's the same cashier eacxh time, it's all of them. I stopped shopping there because it was too Twighlight Zone for me.
posted by archimago at 7:52 AM on February 13, 2003

I'd be happy if the clerks in grocery stores even spoke English.. Come to Miami some time, and you'll never complain about your rude city again.
posted by eas98 at 8:32 AM on February 13, 2003

I'm getting more than a little tired of people who cannot correctly spell "Skot."
posted by Skot at 9:01 AM on February 13, 2003

Am I mad or do I remember this happening in Boston?

It still happens. It's customary to give bus drivers a demur "thank you" as you get off. The thing that makes it worth mentioning is that it's also done on the Green Line, but only above ground. It's one of those little quirks that makes this city so unique.

Did I mention that I love Boston?

Solidarity, my sister in standoffishness!
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:20 AM on February 13, 2003

Great idea, and I actually envy this guy the life he's going to have - but when you're cute, funny and outgoing you probably are bound to have some good times anyway.

Wouldn't work for women though. I do have something that has turned out to be a get-noticed accessory though - I knit on my commute. I'll look up to see that everyone around me is staring, I get asked lots of questions, attract curious small children like flies, and have had the odd business card pressed into my hand by some guy or other who asks that I call him as he wants to "learn how to knit."

It's interesting what happens when you do something that sets you apart from the herd, even in a small way. It can be a little uncomfortable at first, but you do get used to it. We may be more conformist than we know....
posted by orange swan at 10:22 AM on February 13, 2003

Here in Nottingham, England it's considered rude not to say thank you to the bus driver. They say the further North in England you go, the friendlier people get. I think there's a grain of truth in this.
posted by squealy at 12:28 PM on February 13, 2003

For all these places where it's commonplace to say thanks to the bus driver, is it the norm to exit the bus via doors next to the driver or ones further down the bus? See, round these parts, the way things work is that you get on at the front doors and exit by ones about halfway down the bus. Makes you feel like a bit more of a tool shouting "Thank you" down the bus as you step out the door. So most people don't. Unless they're over the age of 60.
posted by MUD at 5:03 PM on February 13, 2003

I don't say "thank you" to bus drivers out of empty politeness, I say "thank you" because I am honestly thankful to them for saving me from having to drive in Seattle.
posted by Hildago at 5:31 PM on February 13, 2003

See, round these parts, the way things work is that you get on at the front doors and exit by ones about halfway down the bus.

here, you take the closest exit. thank you's are less common when exiting the back door, except during the evening commute, when people are generally in good spirits, or late at night.
posted by eddydamascene at 11:22 PM on February 13, 2003

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