Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ginkgo at the Grotto

Yesterday, I was at Scooter's bike shop, and the mechanic who works there had a tattoo on his forearm that said "Scoot." So I asked if that was his first name or last, and he said that was it, just plain Scoot. He had several tattoos, mostly sprockets and lightning and was busy fixing the chain on a bike, but every customer that came into the shop gave him a nod and a recognition like, "Hey Scoot, how's it hanging," or when they were leaving, "Later, Scoot." Everybody seemed comfortable with Scoot-the-bike-mechanic being just plain Scoot.

This was pretty alright. Here was a regular guy with sprocket tattoos and a gift for understatement who could pull off having just one name like Sting, Moby, or Bono. So I figured I'd like to try something like that. After sifting through a grocery list of choices, I decided my new name would be "Ginkgo." I'd tell every new person I met that my name was Ginkgo, and if it worked, maybe, I too, would be spared the trouble of filling out both lines on forms and job applications and just write "Ginkgo" in the space provided. And everyone would say, "Hey Ginkgo, how's it shakin'," or "What's the haps, Ginkgo?" I was looking forward to a lifetime of cool (or at least a couple of days).

The first time I used it was to order pizza from the Singing Gondolier Pizza Grotto on the far north side of Chicago. It's really just a storefront with four booths, but they try in earnest to make it seem like a grotto by stringing all sorts of plastic grape vines on the walls. When the girl on the phone asked for my name, I hesitated, and in my mind I was thinking, here goes. I said, "Ginkgo."
And she replied, "Like those little lizards? They are so cute."
"No," I said, "Those are geckos. I'm Ginkgo."
Then she said, "What kind of lizard is that?"
"It's not a lizard. It's my name," I replied.
"Oh, sorry, Mr. Ginkgo."
"No," I said, "no mister, just plain Ginkgo," and I spelled it for her.
"Oh," she said, "like the tree. My neighbor has one of those in his yard. Those fan-shaped leaves are lovely. Is that your business name?"
"No, just a name, my only name. I'm Ginkgo."

When I went to pick up the pizza and gave the girl my name, she yelled it back toward the kitchen, and there was laughter and someone making the sound of a loud squawking bird. I don't know the identity of that person, but they have no knowledge of the flora and fauna of the world. They should know that a ginkgo is not a squawking bird, nor any kind of bird.

With the pizza box in my hands and a cacophony of squawking to accompany me, every step I took toward the door echoed the humiliating end of Ginkgo. There is more to this one-name thing than meets the eye.

Once outside, I made a mental note to ask Scoot if he ever ran into this kind of trouble.

They should rename that place "The Squawking Gondolier Pizza Grotto."