I got a postcard from my dentist yesterday. I like getting postcards. It makes me feel like someone out there cares about me. Even if it is from someone who wants to stick sharp instruments in my mouth. It's still a postcard.
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Usually, I don't even know why I'm going. I told my wife Jane about my appointment.
"What are you having done?" she asked.
"I don't know."
"Why are you going, then?"
"They sent me a postcard," I said and held it up for her to see.
"Ooooh, a postcard," she said.
My dentist's name is Dr. Tinney. I like him. I've never been fishing with him or anything, and he's never offered me a beer, but as dentists go, he's pretty good. The only thing I don't like about him is that I have to refer to him as Doctor Tinney. Not just me either. Everyone calls him Dr. Tinney; even his wife, who also happens to work there. Of course I've never seen them outside of his office, so for all I know she calls him Hercules when they're alone.
The thing is, he's only a few years older than me. Why do I have to call him Doctor Tinney? It basically amounts to calling him sir, which I don't appreciate. Why not Edward? Or Eddie? I'd even settle for Butch, or Skip.
Truth be told, I've always been a little bothered by the whole title thing. Why are certain occupations worthy of a title and others not? Were those extra years of college so grueling that we have to be forever reminded of the hardships they endured?
I started working when I was fourteen. I worked full time and went to school full time all through college. I even managed to get a degree. I'm still working, by the way, and the only thing people call me is Dave. Not College Graduate Dave. Not Amazing Working Guy Dave. Just Dave.
Some people will tell you that titles are used out of respect, but I don't buy it. Lawyers get to attach a few extra letters to the end of their names and no one respects them.
I'm not looking for a title, you understand. If fact, I already have one. My business card says "Creative Director." I'm a director, which if you think about it, sounds a lot like dictator, which ought to be worth something. But it's not.
A lot of people have titles. We just don't use them in casual conversation or to greet people. You rarely hear someone say, "Hey, Sales Manager Keith! How's it going?"
Technically, I'm also a Senior Vice President in my company, but this doesn't seem to have the same effect in business as it does in politics. In politics, there's always an outside chance some nut will shoot the President and you'll get the good office with the red bat-phone. In business, however, some companies have hundreds of Vice Presidents. Somebody shoots the President of your company, and you just might get the day off.
The sad truth is, no one calls me by either title. I've tried. No Director Dave, or Vice-President McCarty. Sometimes the President of the agency will refer to me in general as his Creative Director, but this usually makes me sound like a Schnauzer.
In the old days, people like doctors and lawyers got a lot of respect for a reason. They were the only ones in town who could read. When your day revolves around cow manure, tractor tires, and whether or not it's going to rain, you're bound to develop a healthy respect for anyone who made it past the eighth grade and can tell you how many bones are in your skull.
It's not just that I don't like titles; I don't like the fact that apparently, people get to choose their own. I had a job once where I picked my own title because I was the guy who designed the business cards. That's really all there is to it. If you can put it in ink, people will believe anything. I decided I'd be the Advertising and Promotion Director. And I was. But the person who had the job before me was just called Sue. I don't even think she had a business card.
Grandparents are always trying to dictate what they want to be called. They dream of the day they can be Pop-pop or Grandma. But the reality is there are far too many Noonie's, Uppie's and D's for that tactic to be working out real well.
Everyone starts with good intentions. We introduce our babies to their relatives as Grandma, or Aunt Jane, and a few years later you have a two year old calling you Dudu.
Some people don't have to work a day in their lives to get a title. In Britain, you can be a Lord, a Duke, or even an Earl just because you were born at the right time to the right parents. And if you really impress someone in the Royal Family, you can even become a knight. Anthony Hopkins, an arguably talented actor, got to be a knight for acting like a guy who ate other people. Now we're supposed to call him Sir Anthony.
I have to believe it used to be a lot harder to become a Knight back in the old days. You had to win a war or kill a dragon or something. Not just memorize some lines and lie believably about eating someone's liver.
In America, you can also get a title of sorts on the whim of your parents. The country is full of John Smith, the third's and Anthony Jones, the second's. It doesn't seem right to me that you should get a title just because you come from a long line of unimaginative people.
If you rise high enough in political office, you not only get a title, you get to keep it when you leave. Senators, Congressmen, and Presidents all get to keep their titles long after their service to their country is over. Former presidents are referred to not as Mr. So-and-so, but as former President So-and-so.
Military personnel also get to keep their titles. They don't even have to say former. For instance, the commander of Operation Desert Storm, Norman Schwartzkoff, is introduced as General Norman Schwartzkoff, United States Army, Retired. This leads me to believe that Norman remains a General. He's just retired.
There are other titles that annoy me. If you become a lawyer and hang around the job long enough, and have dinner with enough politicians, one day they might call you, "Your Honor." This sounds a little too much like royalty to me. I thought we dumped a whole bunch of tea into a harbor just to get away from that kind of thinking. It's just a guy in a black robe, who memorized some old law cases. Not that being a judge is easy, but do we really have to call them, your honor?
But it's not just politics and the military. The church has gotten into it as well. Catholic priests expect you to call them Father. I already have one father to keep track of, and I don't need any more. I'm not about to call someone Father just because he swore off sex and drinks wine in church.
Between you and me, I think the whole thing is a scam. I'm not sure how or why, or what exactly these people are up to but I'm going to get to bottom of it. For now, however, I'm off to my dentist appointment. Maybe I'll ask Ed if he wants to go grab a beer afterwards.