It’s only a beginning:
I made small talk with the floor supervisor Gary until we saw Lindsay come onto the shop floor with two people. Lindsay was in Sales, and I had taken her and perspective customers on factory tours many times. As I was the youngest of the process engineers, factory tours fell to me. As the three people walked towards us, I scanned them to make sure that they were gowned correctly. As we were a high-tech manufacturing facility, we worked hard to prevent dust and hair from getting into the air.
When Lindsay joined us, she started making introductions. “This is Veronica Shugar, a buyer from Garza-Tech, and Bob Anderson, one of their design engineers.” Veronica was a white woman in her forties, Bob was a black man in his fifties. As all of our hands were gloved, Gary and I raised our hands in welcome to Veronica and Bob. They returned the hand raise.
“This is one of our floor supervisors, Gary…I always have problems with this name…Gary Gschwendtner.”
“You said it perfectly, Lindsay”.
“And this one of our process engineers, Winston C.”
I nodded and said, “Welcome to RDL’s factory floor.”
Veronica asked, “Is your last name S-E-A or C-E-E?”
A confusion filled Veronica’s face. “What’s your email address?”
“Winston, dot, C, dot, at sign, the company name dot com.”
Veronica looked even more confused. “What is your last name then?”
Lindsay said, “Winston is the only ‘Winston’ in our company, so we never have to mention his last name. Isn’t that right, Winston?”
“Indeed.” In fact, HR had made it clear to all employees that they were to never say or even discuss my last name.
To preclude anymore discussion of my last name, I started the factory tour. “This is the start of our manufacturing process. All of our raw materials come into the room through that door.” I pointed to four foot by four foot door that one of the floor workers was removing material from. “The door on the other side can’t be opened while the door is opened.”
Veronica asked, “Is your last name ‘Churchill’, by any chance?”
I was tempted to say that my last name was not ‘Churchill’, but a very, very rare English name, but HR had instructed me to never give any hints about my last name including answering yes/no questions about it.
“When I was in college, I put ‘Winston C.’ on my resume when I applied here, and that got me eventually hired. I’ve used ‘Winston C.’ ever since. Kind of a good luck thing.” That was all HR allowed me to say.
Before Veronica could say anything more, I resumed the factory tour. “The raw materials come to this machine, where they are ultra-cleaned.” I described the cleaning procedure.
Veronica asked, “Is RDL afraid companies will hire you away, so you can’t give your last name?”
Lindsay said, “Something like that. The heart of our manufacturing process is a company secret that our employees sign very stringent NDA’s to never discuss. Winston is a rising star in our process engineering department.” Lindsay smiled at me. It was a nice compliment and I wished it was true, but wasn’t.
What RDL was afraid of was sexual harassment lawsuits. HR brought up with me that Miller Brewing company got sued when one of its managers talked about a Seinfeld episode where Seinfeld’s character can only remember that name of his date rhymed with a body part but couldn’t remember which one. After his friends make several ridiculous guesses, Seinfeld remembers that his date’s name was “Dolores”. A female direct report didn’t get the joke. The manager showed her a photocopied page of a dictionary and pointed out the body part referenced by the joke. She filed for sexual harassment. My last name was a term for a body part that couldn’t be said on the company’s premises. Hence the ban on my last name.
I heard from behind us, “Winston, that’s a big block you’ve got there.”
I turned and when facing away from Veronica and Bob I rolled my eyes. “We’ll get out of your way shortly, Teresa.” Teresa was one of the floor workers, and she was pushing a cart with raw material on it. She was the type of person that HR had in mind when they said no one could say or discuss my last name.
As I turned back to Veronica and Bob, Teresa said, “This raw material is fresh off the dock.”
I resisted rolling my eyes again. I finished telling Veronica and Bob about our cleaning process and moved away from the cleaning machine. “There you go, Teresa.”
“Thanks. You didn’t set me too far back on the clock.”