THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED TO ME BECAUSE MY LAST NAME IS ALSO A DEADLY VIRUS
Remember the SARS virus from late 2002-early 2003? That was a fun time. It stands for 'Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome'. It was especially a big deal in East Asia (it originated in China), but it did cause global panic. Well, it's also my last name.
- •The virus broke out when I was 13 years old, and had just started middle school.Or junior high? I honestly don't know exactly how it translates. Just whatever it's called in your country when you're 13.
- •The most popular move of my classmates was to cough around me and laugh.Because that was a symptom, get it?
- •And this one's so clever: "So, I guess you're infectious now, right?"Classic.
- •Also "Ahhhh, don't come near me! I'll get sick!"Often accompanied by coughing.
- •"If we hang out at your house, I'm definitely getting sick, right?"
- •"Shouldn't we all be wearing face masks around you?""Yes, you probably should be." I'm honestly surprised, and slightly disappointed that nobody went through the trouble to bring one to school.
- •My responses would generally be along the lines of "I've had it all my life though, so it's fine," or dramatic coughing.I usually just kind of laughed along, even though it got pretty old, pretty fast. It was more annoying than anything else.
- •What was a bit hurtful though: at some point we got a new English teacher, ms. Schippers. She did a roll call at the start of the first class, and when she got to my name, and called it out, she asked: "isn't that just like the virus?" And then burst out laughing.Like laughing to the point of tears, I might add. This actually did hurt my feelings a bit. I was used to hearing stuff from my classmates, but I felt (and still feel) like teachers should be above that stuff. She clearly was not. I probably could or even should have filed a complaint, but I didn't, because I didn't want to make a big deal out of it.
- •This may come as a surprise, but I didn't like ms. Schippers very much after that.
- •A year or two later, I had a German teacher (ms. Schützendorf - to this day, the most German name I've ever heard) who called me by my first and last name (always emphasizing the last name) during every roll call, while she called everybody else by first names only.I'm not sure if it was connected, but it certainly did feel like it. It was very strange. It's not like there were more people named Frank in my class. In that case it would have made sense to also include my last name. There were, however, two guys named Sander in my class, and she always had to be reminded by them to specify which one she meant. It was odd.
- •People would get a very weird look on their face when I introduced myself.This still happens every now and then. I don't blame people for this. It's a very uncommon name, so the virus is often the only thing they know the name from. I believe I might even be the only person on the internet named 'Frank Sars' (which I suppose is both convenient and inconvenient at the same time, depending on who's looking for me).
- •It's usually pretty entertaining nowadays.
- •Especially when someone asks me to spell my name for a form or something: "It's F-r-a-n-k and then Sars like the virus."
- •That's often met with a nervous look and weird laughter.Nice and awkward. The sweet spot.
- •I kind of wonder if they'd look at me weird at Chinese customs when they check my passport, if I ever get to visit China.
- •I don't really get teased about it anymore, because it's not exactly topical these days. A lot of people have either forgotten about it, or are too young to really remember it.
- •It's all probably nothing compared to what people called Isis are going through right now, but I thought it'd be interesting to share this.