Back before I had any idea what law school would be like, when I was still living in California, I decided that for a successful law school experience I should make sure that my professors all knew my name right away. I decided this would be best achieved if I were conspicuously labeled, so I thought about how best to do that.
In the end I opted to get a hat with my name on it. But from where? It's not like you can just walk into any store and get a hat with "Cathy" spelled out on it. So I thought about getting it custom made, but all the hat shops I found wanted $30 to do it, and there was no way I was going to pay $30 to execute on this admittedly silly idea.
But then I found this tiny little one-man shop in a South Bay strip mall that normally made custom uniforms for little league teams and such. He had a drawer full of blank hats that cost about $7. I picked out a blue one, and then paid about 50 cents (10 cents per letter) to have some nice, yellow block letters ironed onto it. He did an expert job - aligning all 5 letters neatly and trimming down the serifs so that all the letters would fit. And it the whole thing only ended up costing me about $8.
But once I arrived at school for the beginning of my 1L year I discovered that not only was it not at all difficult for my professors to learn my name without the aid of my hat, but the name they preferred to use was "Ms. Gellis." Helping them all immediately learn that my name was Cathy was therefore of only marginal utility.
Until today, two and a half years later…
The other day my crim pro professor (who, being from a different school, had never met me before this semester) cold called on me. I ignored him, and not just because I wasn't prepared… I ignored him because he called me "Catherine," and it just doesn't occur to me to respond to that name. I've spent my entire life eschewing its inherent formality and insisting on going by Cathy. So even if I were to decide it might be nice to be a Catherine for a change, I'm just not conditioned to respond to it. When people say "Catherine," it's always several moments that pass before I eventually look around bewilderedly and ask, "Oh, you mean me?"
Fortunately, I had the perfect fix for this problem, and today when the professor called on me I was ready. And I don't just mean because I'd actually done (most of) the reading.
It was actually kind of a ream that he called on me at all, since he'd also called on me Tuesday. But I think he wanted to refer to something I'd said in an earlier class. "Catherine, what do you think about this?" he asked. There was a pause before he found me sitting up in the back row. "There you are. You usually sit in the front row, but I see you back there."
"Yes, and do you see my hat?"
"The hat that says 'Cathy'?"
"I guess this means that I should call you 'Cathy' and not 'Catherine,' huh?"
"Did you wear that hat today just for me?"
"Really!" I think he was touched.
Anyway, I still had to answer the question. And I imagine I'll have to answer more questions as the semester goes on. In fact, I suspect he'll make a particular point to call on me, now that he knows who I am. And now I'll have no excuse to ignore him, since he'll be using the right name.
But other than that, my plan worked perfectly.