What is it about guys and nicknames? Even Dearly Beloved, in his younger days, had friends with weird nicknames…really strange ones that made no sense, like Dirty Pierre and White Bear. For the most part, nicknames are a guy thing, aren’t they? Oh sure, Judith might be Judy, but I don’t remember my high school girl friends having strange nicknames and don’t think we called the boys by their guy-generated ones. Generally, we called them whatever the teachers called them, which allowed for the occasional family-designated nickname. I remember one boy even our teachers called Brownie. You had to figure that his given name was something that shouldn’t see the light of day.
My best friend went to the prom with a Peanut, a really nice guy who was a lineman on the football team. But surely, no father would let his daughter date someone called Dirty Pierre. I assumed that nicknames were something guys outgrew. . . until we had our house remodeled by the Apple Dumpling Gang.
I’d contacted several well-known contractors who turned their collective noses up at our modest plans. One day I looked in my neighbor’s yard and saw a bearded, long-haired, tatooed man in a Harley-Davidson t-shirt which didn’t come close to covering his obviously long-cultivated beer gut. He directed two other men as they pirouetted up a narrow metal spiral staircase while maneuvering a large, telephone pole-sized beam round and round. It was a fascinating, artful spectacle and I was impressed. It didn’t occur to me until much later to wonder why they didn’t just take it in another door. I called him over to the fence and asked would he come and look at our project. He gave me a wide grin which revealed at least two missing front teeth–an unfortunate encounter with a jumpin’ jackhammer, he told me. We hired him that very week.
The first day on our job the contractor introduced me to his two helpers: Darrell and Darrell. Yes, I’m serious. Now if anyone was going to have a nickname, wouldn’t you think. . . ?
The job kept expanding weeks, then months, until he joked (I think it was a joke!) that he should add his name on our mailbox. His beat up, rusted, tool-packed Volkswagen van with its long-dead battery remained on our parking pad for so many months I suggested that he put up an awning and window boxes to spruce it up. He felt free to raid my fridge for leftovers if one of his guys forgot his lunch and answered our phone when we weren’t home, identifying himself as the butler. He brought me figs and rose bushes. He rebuilt our deck stairs three times because, as he explained, he wanted to make sure our aging dog could use them easily. His smile grew fuller and lost its gap as we kept writing checks.
The Double Darrell crew expanded: Squirrel, Squarehead, Smurf, and and my personal favorite, Pecan Tan, a delightful man who didn’t want to be known as “the black guy” on the crew. In the interest of accuracy, he’d specified the skin shade by which he preferred to be identified. PT educated me in the art of making strawberry cheesecakes, a dessert he prepared regularly for his church suppers and which rendered him, however unintentionally, a chick magnet. He confessed that the chicks were mostly old biddies.
The contractor had no shortage of acquaintances. There were the Heads: ‘Nanner Head, ‘Mater Head, and “Tater Head, no relation to Squarehead. I believe it was ‘Nanner Head who lived in his house for seven years before he learned it had a bathroom on the first floor. Someone had shoved some large boxes in there the day they moved in and they never got around to unpacking them. They thought it was a closet until the toilet sprung a leak. By then they had had a couple of kids and were moving because they needed a house with an additional bathroom.
During that period the contractor had recommendations for any service I needed–people he knew, he explained, from The Country Club. Eventually I learned that the Country Club was a rather seedy bar where maintenance there took first priority over any work here. Everything would halt at our house while the contractor went over to replace a toilet, a frequent Code Red Emergency, at The Country Club.
A dog groomer? When I needed one, TC (The Contractor) telephoned “the best in town” which he just happened to have on speed dial. I put my dog in the car and as I was leaving, TC leaned in the window and told me to ask for Big Nasty. OMG!!! No way was I going to ask someone with such a nickname to bathe my dog; I’d find out his given name when I got there. When I arrived at the Purple Poodle, I was surprised to see a large, shiny pickup truck with the driver’s door professionally painted in elegant script; Big Nasty.
Holy crap! What kind of guy would not only put up with being called Big Nasty, but identify himself by such a name? I weighed my options: return home with a stinky dog or turn her over to some hairy ogre. Cocker spaniels can REALLY reek sometimes, so I timidly opened the door and stepped inside to check out the ogre option before making my decision. It was worse than I thought:
Big Nasty was a woman.