Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Name badge obsessions

You wouldn't think name badges are at all controversial since they're so utilitarian and practical. And yet, I've encountered such obsessive behavior that surrounds this mundane practice.

Including my own. Especially my own. How well I know that when I’m pointing one finger — in this instance, at least — three more are pointing back at me.

Peel-off adhesive badges are a destructive force when applied to velvets and embroidery. I learned this the hard way, having applied a tag to a beautiful green velvet dress — only to discover at home that removal of the badge tore out the nap of the velvet. The dress is now permanently marred with a name badge-shaped bald spot.

As a result, I’m now a conscientious objector when it comes to adhesive badges.

This wouldn't be a big deal except when you're the only one in a roomful of people who has opted not to wear a name badge, people tend to notice and to comment.

At a luncheon that I attended, no fewer than six people asked why I didn't have a tag. You'd have thought I was President Barack Obama absent a flag lapel pin in the U.S. Presidential Primaries.

I have nothing against name badges; in fact I think they're a good idea. Having introduced myself on four occasions to the exact same person, I recognize that my ability to identify people may, in fact, be weak.

But why stop at just revealing my name?

Badges do more than disclose our identities; they reveal our affiliations and the values we care about. I wear a puzzle-piece ribbon pin to promote the concept of neurodiversity among people on the autism spectrum.

My chalice pin proclaims me a member of my local Unitarian Universalist congregation and I also wear a pin from Toastmasters International that was given to me when I joined my local club.

Badges can make subtle distinctions in the degree of our affiliations.

The UU congregation in Santa Rosa offers visitors a plastic-sleeve pin that wraps around a paper badge proclaiming the wearer a “guest.” I took one home so I could also wear it to my local UU services.

I decorated the name tag beautifully with stickers of cats and hearts and stick-on letters that spelled "Namaste." Later on, when I became more involved, some members of the congregation seemed to be uncomfortable that my badge identified me as merely a “guest.”

So I took my member's badge — uniform typography with the denominational logo on a plain white background — and I decorated it with stickers as well.

I returned my badge at the end of services to a rack that held everybody's tag and collected it the following week. This worked fine until my badge was replaced via a mass reprinting — so now I keep my badge with me. I have only a finite supply of stickers to keep up with each reprinting.

In the end this is a perfect solution to those troublesome adhesive badges. I now have a collection of badges that I can wear as needed.

What matter if my badge also has a chalice or a Toastmasters International logo? The main purpose of wearing my badge — making it easy to remember my name — can be achieved without risk to my wardrobe.

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