What’s in a Name?

By: T. F. Stern | Self-Educated American

Years ago, while working day shift for the Houston Police Department, one of our regular assignments was to take suspects charged with a felony offense in front of a County Court Judge to have his legal rights read to him.  The jail division would have these individuals placed in the Paddy Wagon, driven across town and dropped off in front of the County Courthouse.

As a matter of historical interest, there was a safe zone for unloading prisoners in the lower level of the County Courthouse; but it was reserved for use by Harris County Sheriffs Department Officers.

Imagine if you will, unloading dangerous prisoners out of a Paddy Wagon on the street, taking the jail-issued handcuffs off and replacing them with our own handcuffs on the sidewalk and then escorting them inside the courthouse, up the elevator and into open court for the sole purpose of having them read their rights and then reversing the order to return them to the city jail.  I’m not saying this was a bad idea; that would be a form of criticism directed at those who were our supervisors; no, this was a very bad idea.

So, each afternoon around lunchtime several of the police officers, including myself, would stand around waiting on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse, waiting for the Paddy Wagon to arrive. This being a regular event, we had a following of interested citizens; a polite way of saying these young women wanted to get cozy with police officers.

One fairly pushy young woman would get up close and personal with officers, handling their name tags as she read it aloud and then tried to make a big deal out of each name.  She reached for my name tag and read it slowly back to me, “T.F. Stern…What’s the T.F. stand for?” she asked in a sultry voice.

I shook my head slightly, not wanting to make conversation; but instead explained, “The city got my name wrong, it should be, T.B. Stern”.  I’ve no idea where these ideas come from; they just blossom and I make the best of whatever comes out.

“So then, what’s the T.B. stand for?”  A couple of my fellow officers were curious, seeing as how they’d known me long enough to know I was cooking up a good one.

“Theophilus Bastardo Stern”, I responded.  “Some folks call me The-old Bastard, but you can just call me Theo”.  It must have worked; the woman walked away saying something insulting under her breath. 

The best part about this story, from that day on, one of the officers called me Theo.  

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