There was a time when I worked as a restaurant accountant for one of the hotels in my resort town on Washington’s rugged coast. When the need arose, I also filled in as hostess for the evening shift. I really liked hostessing, because it felt more like play than work; a cheerful, make people happy sort of job.
During this same period in my life I was single, and had a friend who was determined to find me a man. It mattered not, as I explained regularly, that I had been married for thirty years, and believed that was more than enough time spent in the bonds of matrimony. My friend was intrepid in her pursuit of a man for me, and completely ignored my stance on the matter. It got to the point where I could not attend any event at her home without finding another potential partner among the invited guests.
I got pretty good at dodging the gentlemen brought my way. One did need to be skillful in the art of rejection when living in a very small town. Word traveled fast, and reputations could crumble in less than a day if relationships were mishandled.
My favorite and most successful dodge during those days occurred one evening while hostessing at my restaurant. It had been a particularly busy night, and everything was going well. The phone at the hostess station rang just as I finished seating a kindly, older couple. Upon answering it, I immediately recognized my matchmaker friend’s voice, which sounded frantic. Apparently, she once again had been recruiting men on my behalf, and this time even she knew things had gone awry.
Her son was a student at the local high school where there was a new principal, who also happened to be single. That day she had been at a community meeting where the principal also was in attendance, and not allowing a golden opportunity to pass, she hung around until everyone else had gone, then approached him with a plan which would enable him to meet me.
He was open to the possibility of us meeting, but this was a man accustomed to controlling things. Everything. He was, after all, principal of the high school in a very small town, and things were done his way. The challenge he had with my friend’s plan was he did not know what I looked like, and he was very particular when it came to the appearances of women he dated. He did not have time for, nor was he willing to gamble on my friend’s description of me.
I was warned, in that brief phone call, the principal seemed interested; however, I needed to pass muster in the looks department before he would commit to even being introduced. She had told the principal where I worked, and his crafty idea was to show up at the restaurant, incognito, and evaluate me before further pursuit. She said he was on his way over right then, knew I was not going to be happy about it, and felt I was owed a warning. Yes, that and an apology; but at the moment I would settle for the warning.
Incognito? How was he going to accomplish that, when his picture had been on the front page of our local newspaper off and on for a month after his hiring? As for me, I immediately knew what to do. The drawer at the hostess station was where the name tags of all servers, bussers, hosts, and hostesses were kept. Some also were in there that belonged to people who no longer worked for us. And that was my easy solution to what I saw as an impending, inappropriate, and insulting situation. I quickly rummaged through the name tags in the drawer, and found my favorite. Rosemary. She had not worked at the restaurant for six months, but her name tag remained. Taking my own off, and tossing it in the drawer, I happily replaced it with Rosemary, and became a new person, ready for the task of fooling Principal Incognito.
Around fifteen minutes had passed, when a gentleman walked into the restaurant, glanced at me, then turned his attention to the people already dining, and the staff serving them. When he finally turned back to me, he was scowling. I knew who it was, but pretended I did not, and asked if he would like to be seated. While staring at my name tag, he declined, stating he was supposed to meet someone, but it appeared that person was not going to make it. He looked around again, frowning as he did, and then left. Oh, and his disguise? Principal Incognito, who, in all his photographs the newspaper ran, was bald as a cue ball, showed up at the restaurant sporting an obvious toupee. And when I state it was obvious, I mean it stood out, and was not very attractive. Think small, matted cat lying across someones head. No, definitely not attractive, at all.
After that, the name Rosemary became very convenient. I have used it many times when the need arose. She looks like, sounds like, and behaves just like me; but with a little more sass and cheek. The name has provided a certain freedom within privacy when I did not necessarily wish to reveal my own, and more than once gave me the pluck to say something I would not have if my true identity were known. And the last time someone asked me if I were a superhero, what would my name be, it was an easy answer. We all, at some time or another, could use an enhanced version of ourselves; I found mine on a left over name tag in a drawer, many years ago. And my superhero’s name?