Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My name's Michael, by the way

"My name's Michael, by the way."

"Welcome, Mr. Bytheway. We've been expecting you here at--"

"No, no, no. My name's Michael, by the way."

"Yes, Mr. Bytheway. I understood you the first time."

"No, you didn't. My name's not Bytheway. It's Michael. 'By the way' is a crutch writers use when they need to introduce characters to one another. It's often done in romantic fiction as part of the 'meet cute.'"

"The 'meet cute'?"

"That's a different post. Stick to the subject."

"So why do they do it?"

"Because it's easy. Writers use this crutch when they can't or won't take the time to be creative. There must be a zillion ways to have one character introduce himself to another without resorting to 'by the way.'"

"A zillion? Surely you're exaggerating."

"Maybe I am. And don't call me 'Shirley.'"

"Yes, Mr. Bythe-- Michael. Perhaps you could share a few examples."

"I can."

I introduced myself and stuck out my hand.
"Pleased to meet you, Michael," he said as he grasped my hand. "I'm Steve."

He glanced at the name tag pinned over my badge. "Nice to meet you, Officer Bracken. I'm Bob Smith, attorney for the plantiff."

"The name's Bracken. Michael Bracken. Yours?"

I handed him my business card and waited. He moved his lips while he read so I waited longer than usual. Finally, he looked up and, as if to confirm what he had just read, asked, "Mr. Bracken?"

We'd been talking for ten minutes and I still hadn't told him my name. I decided I would wait until he asked. If he asked.

I interrupted him. "I didn't catch your name."
"I didn't throw it."
"So what should I call you?"
"Don't call me. Don't ever call me."
"I think 'Meathead' will work. You can call me 'sir.'"


"Well, you should get the idea by now."

"I do, Mr. Bytheway, I do."

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