One of the things you soon collect when moving in academic circles is name badges in little plastic sleeves, courtesy of some conference or other.
You can tell an academic on the train by either a) the pile of essays they’re marking, b) the fact they’ve still got their name badge on (“look at me – I’m important!”), c) the number of pin holes from said badges or d) the look of desperation on their face as they realise their rare day out is coming to an end.
A particular bugbear of name badges is when my name gets spelt incorrectly. My own fault, I suppose, for having one of those names that no one seems to be able to agree on.
Two conferences spring to mind in this regard. One insisted on getting my surname and forename mixed up, which meant I walked round all day as Mr B Jonathan. The worst, however, managed to get my name mixed up with my menu option, which meant that (for security reasons) I was forced to go through the whole event as ‘Mr Vegetable Lasagne’.
I thought it might at least help to break the ice (the worst part of any conference is lunchtime where people who became academics largely because they don’t like talking to other people are forced to talk to other people while trying to hold a plate in one hand and a glass of orange in the other). In actual fact, people just avoided me altogether, clearly thinking I was some sort of weirdo, which suited me down to the ground as I still haven’t got the hang of small-talk over mysterious fried spicy things.
Looking back it would probably have been quicker to have nipped to a local judge and changed my name officially to Vegetable Lasagne than it was to get the conference organisers to eventually change my name on the stuff they kept sending me.