I have a name. There’s not much to say about about the name Andrew, so this will be short.
I didn’t start out as “Andrew.” Growing up my family called me, Andy. I was Andy for a long time. In grade school I learned that I actually had three names, Andrew John Reynolds and that Andy was just a nickname, a diminutive, and something I could actually spell as a six year old. “Andrew” is a long word when you’re six. I took me a long time to learn to spell Reynolds and fortunately these days my web browser’s autofill feature means that I no longer have to be embarrassed by misspelling my own name.
I’m a bad speller – always have been. Spelling rules never made sense to me and brute force memorization didn’t help. Likely the most embarrassing event in my fourth grade year was the first day of class when the teacher had us make name tags for our desks. We were to carefully write our names on the card stock we were given and then bring it up to the teacher for approval and a piece of tape to secure it to our desk. She corrected a few of wise guys who just wanted to use a nickname or the kid who insisted that his name was really Spiderman.
Me? Well she quietly said, “You’ve misspelled your last name.” I was sent back to my desk with a blank name tag and my name correctly spelled on a bit of note paper. Years of therapy haven’t erased that badge of shame. I still cringe when asked to write my name.
My grandfather was also an Andy. I knew him as Grandpa Phillips and the man who’d give a five year old a full roll of peppermint lifesavers. Sadly he died when I was nine and I didn’t get another full roll of peppermint lifesavers until I was 12 when I landed a lawn mowing job with my elderly next door neighbor and could afford to buy my own.
Early in life, my father confirmed that I was in fact named after my grandfather. Father said that mother wanted to name me John Andrew, but father didn’t want a son whose initials were, “JAR,” so I became, Andrew John Reynolds. Father was greatly satisfied with this as it would be a good business name and gave me a lot of options I could use when I became a major force in the business world. I could be Andrew Reynolds, Andrew J. Reynolds, A.J. Reynolds, A. John Reynolds or even the simple friendly Andy Reynolds.
It was shortly after my father first told this story that I decided to learn how to spell my full name. “Andrew” wasn’t too bad as it’s phonetic, but the “H” in John constantly confused me – before the n or after? It was only as an adult that I learn some “Johns” don’t use the “H” and just spell it “J O N.” I never understood the need for a silent “H” in the middle. Reynolds has a similar problem with the “Y” – you don’t really pronounce it, but if it’s not there the teacher will make you do it again. For years I annoyed my brothers with the question, “Why is there a Y?”
I never asked my father this question for fear that he’d actually answer the question with one of his famous two hour lectures on the subject.
When I entered the working world I waffled over what name I should use in my professional life. Andy or Andrew. My first job after technical school didn’t make that decision any easier. That job was as technical support phone dispatcher. It was a bit of a new idea in ’79 to have a technician answer the phone and see if he could help customers resolve issues without sending out a field engineer.
We were a small company and two of us were teamed up to provide seven day coverage. I worked Sunday to Wednesday and my partner worked Wednesday to Saturday. We were on 24 hour call and had to leave a phone number with the answering service if we weren’t in the office. The Wednesday overlap day was intended for training and for me to write up the weekly reports – I was the one who could type.
My partner’s name was Andrew J Rodrigues and liked to be called “Andy.” I liked to be called “Andy,” and it turned out that over the phone we sounded alike. Our customers were often confused why Andy didn’t remember on Friday what we told him on Monday. Explaining that there were two Andys didn’t help. For awhile we tried changing our names, he went by AJ and I went by Andrew. The he went by Andy and I tried to go by John.
That didn’t work – turns out we had an engineer named John and customers wanted to know why John had be demoted to the call desk.The final solution was to transfer me to the repair depot and hiring a woman named Jill to take over my call shift.
Over time I felt more like an Andrew than an Andy and most coworkers and friends now know me as Andrew. I mean, Andrew is a dignified name. The name of Jesus’s first disciple. Being dignified sounds good. I’m not really that dignified, but we all have our illusions. My brothers still call me Andy and show no signs of accepting me as Andrew.
While thinking about this essay, I did look up what the name Andrew means and most sources say it means, “strong and manly.” Strange – I’ve never felt either. Sometimes it seems like I’m strong as I can open jar lids that my wife, Heather can’t or that I seem to be able to move heavy things. Now I weight over 200 pounds and can move a refrigerator by just leaning against it – never confuse strength with counterweight. Sometimes Heather will say to me, “you’re a big strong man.” It’s not a complement – it’s an invitation to engage in heavy lifting or deal with a dead animal in the backyard.
As I get older I’ve noted how many other people have the same name. Turns out that in America there are close to a million Andrew Reynolds. I never met another one, but there used to be an Andrew Reynolds in San Jose with a horrible credit score that I was constantly having to explain to lenders and credit card companies and once or twice to debt collectors.
Then there was the day I got a letter from a grade school student wanting my autograph and a photo, plus any freebies he could get. Turns out that Andrew Reynolds is also a world famous skateboarder and this sixth grader had an assignment to write a business letter to someone famous as ask for an autograph. Actually it was a class assignment and the return address was the child’s school. Somehow this kid had managed to search public records and found my address in property tax records.
I had the joy of writing to his teacher complementing this student on the quality of his letter, but advising the teacher to be careful about letting the kids find addresses on their own.
According to Amazon Andrew Reynolds has also written a number of books. Including an interesting one titled, The Children of Harvey Milk: How LGBTQ Politicians Changed the World. Sounds interesting. I might actually read that one. This one is kind of intriguing as well: The Third Lens: Metaphor and the Creation of Modern Cell Biology. Now I have to read that book – just to find out what metaphor has to do with cellular biology. Actually I can see myself writing a book with that title.
Oh and finally, apparently I also teach math at Moorpark College and have a really good rating on rate my professor dot com.
So, there you have it. Andrew is just a boring old name with not much to say about it.