A Bus Driver by any other name…
What’s in a name?
For the past sixteen years I’ve had children ages four through seventeen call me Bus Driver. Bus Driver is my job. Bus Driver is my title. Bus Driver is not my name. For the past sixteen years I’ve been telling children that Bus Driver is not my name. One principal told the kids to call me Mr. Natoli. That didn’t seem right at the time. I felt I was too young (early thirties) to be called Mr. Natoli and besides, that’s my Pop’s name.
When I was a child we called adults Mr. Smith or Ms. Jones, etc. Somewhere along the way it became customary to call adults Mr. Frank or Mrs. Jenny. I liked the lack of total formality in the new naming system so I decided to have the kids call me Mr. Jimmy Joe. Some did but most still called me Bus Driver. Finally I’d had it with being called Bus Driver. I said, “My name is Mr. Jimmy Joe. You may call me Mr. Jimmy Joe. If you can’t get past calling me Bus Driver then you MUST call me Mr. Bus Driver Man Sir!
It was sort of meant to be a joke but kids took to it. Some Call me Mr. Jimmy Joe but more call my Mr. Bus Driver Man Sir. Two little girls on my current route, being either creative or confused, call me Mr. Jimmy Joe Man Sir. I like that one. I still refuse to answer to Bus Driver.
Speaking of names, many people have asked me how I managed to grow up in New York with a name like Jimmy Joe. The answer is I didn’t. My parents named me James Joseph. They never called me James Joseph, or James unless I was in big trouble. As an adult the majority of people calling me James have been creditors and sales people, so, I don’t have a very positive association with that name. Growing up I was called Jimmy or Jim. When I was a little boy my Aunt Jo started calling me Jimmy Joe. The neighbor kids caught on and they continued using that name long after they moved to rural upstate NY. It sounded natural in that setting. Back on Long Island I think there was a law against double names and if there was, the neighborhood bullies would be happy to enforce it. My double name was limited to Aunt Jo and the neighbor kids who moved away.
Down south folks don’t understand how you’d get Jimmy Joe from James Joseph. By golly, if you want to call your kid Billy Bob you don’t go naming him William Robert! Billy Bob types out just fine on a birth certificate.
Fast forward to my mid-twenties in Los Angeles. I was selling bread and pesto at farmers markets all over the LA area. One of the volunteers at the Hermosa Beach market was an older gentleman named Dick Storey. (He said they called him Cocktale, but that’s a story for another venue.) The first time I met Dick Story he walked up to my booth and said, “What do you know, Jimmy Joe?” I was surprised. I said, “How did you know I was Jimmy Joe? Nobody has called me that since I was a kid!
He said, “Well, you look like a Jimmy Joe, don’t you?”
A year later I was living in Austin and the name fit like a glove.