Growing up I always wanted a nick name. With a double name like Ruth Marie life is made difficult in the 80s. Most girls only had one name and many pops stars didn’t even have a last name. So I was out of the cool circle. Many people didn’t get the Ruth Marie thing; I was either Ruth Ann or Rose Marie. Heck, my current boss called me Rose for the first six months I work at Space Camp. I tried dropping the Marie, but Ruth wasn’t much better. It was plain, only four letters. I shared my name with old ladies and a dead baseball player. I couldn’t have had a plainer duller name unless it was Pat.
I longed for the day to be cool enough to have a nick name. I am resigned to the fact that, that day will never come. But I do have a call sign. It is a little different, but you don’t have to be cool to have a call sign. The call sign itself is cool. Call signs are typically used in the military and pilot world. The rules are you are issued or assigned a call sign, if you don’t like it, tough! If you whine about it, you will be given an even more unpleasant one. You have no say in your call sign and if you think you can give yourself a call sign, you will be given Pookie.
It took me a long time to earn a call sign that would stick, heck at one point they wanted to call me Teflon. Crosswind, Staple, Pencil, Scully, and Ping were some of the others issued to me during my tenure at Aviation Challenge, a realistic military aviation experience. I received my current call sign in March of 2007 after my first season training the Space Camp counselors. But it wasn’t until September of that year that it officially stuck. Be Ready Camp 2 was the glue!!! I am so proud of my call sign. I smile on the inside each time someone calls me Red Bull.
I am Red Bull because during counselor graduation I give out the wings. Counselor graduation is very special to me. I remember getting my wings as a camper; I thought they were the coolest thing in the whole wide world. When I became a counselor, they didn’t just give them to us, they pinned them on our collar. I always try to duplicate that in counselor graduations. In 2007 following graduation one of the new staff said my call sign should be changed to Red Bull, because “Red Bull gives you wings.” WOW, something that makes sense. I have red hair and I give out wings. A perfect match and since some people think I am bull headed that can be included too.
Everyone has a story behind how they earned their call sign. Chris, my husband, falls asleep all the time; during his stent at AC he earned Gordo, because Gordo Cooper fell asleep waiting to launch during the Mercury Project. Snapper got her call sign call because she snapped at all of us during counselor training. Biscuit is so skinny that she should and could eat more biscuits. It was either that or Lunchbox. Dumpy was a tall lanky guy who worked my first summer. I love Dumpy! Divot loved golf, and it was random, just like him. But all I remember is when we gave him Divot as a call sign we were standing next to the dumpster. I wanted to call him dumpster.
A lot of counselors come to camp and their call signs stick so well that I don’t know their real name. They are forever called Crash, Speed Bump, Safety, or Summit! There are others whose call signs don’t stick like Marlon or Kim. If your call sign sticks you don’t want me calling you by the name your momma gave you. Staff have noticed I have a tell. The staff can read if I am angry by which name I call them by. If I call you by the name on your birth certificate or the one on the waist band of your underwear, I am most likely mad at you or you have done something heinous. Something bigger and more severe than you are out of dress code.
Gordo has even been given an additional call sign. Most of the AC staff thinks his call sign is Punkin, but that is just what I call him. I have told them, I never met Gordo; I most likely would not like the guy. But when I meet Chris he was a sweet man and Punkin is my loving husband. See how fun call signs can be!
So know I have another name other than the one my momma gave me. It too is a double name. Call signs are a great thing. They are one of the benefits of working at a camp and one of those things that make you smile on the inside. You can call me whatever you like, but please don’t call me Rose or Ruth Ann. I might go Red Bull on you!