Back when I was in high school, before cell phones and the internet, I spent my days as countless children have done throughout the ages; I went over to my friend’s house and played video games. One day I happened to be over at Sleeve McZed’s place, when the phone rang. Now, cell phones had not been invented yet, but call waiting had just become a thing. If you don’t remember call waiting, it was when you were on the phone with someone, and then a beeping noise would alert you to the fact that a second person was trying to call you as well. All of our phones have it now, so it isn’t special, but it used to be a big deal.
Anyhoo, Sleeve’s mother was at work, which meant that it was his job to answer the phone. “Hello, McZed residence,” he said, or something to that effect. I wasn’t paying attention. I was playing Final Fantasy III on the SNES.
“Hi, is your mother home?” asked the woman on the other end of the line.
“No, sorry, she’s at work,” he replied. “Can I take a message?” Back before everyone had their own phones with them at all times, people used to take messages for each other.
“Yes, I need to speak with her right away. It’s very important. Please tell her that *BEEP*-ela called.”
Now, what had happened was that, right when she was saying her name, the call waiting had kicked in, obscuring the first half of the woman’s name. So Sleeve asked her to repeat it. “Ok, what was your name again?”
“Yes, it’s *BEEP*-ela,” she replied, and then hung up, with the call waiting timed perfectly again, right over the same part of her name.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“Some lady named Beepela,” he responded, and told me what had happened. Well, we thought this was about the funniest thing we had ever heard, and when his mother got home and asked if there were any messages for her, he said “Yeah, some lady named Beepela needs you to call her back. It’s urgent.”
“Beepela?” asked his mother incredulously.
“Well, that’s what she said her name was. I asked her to repeat it, and she said Beepela both times.”
“Could it have been…PAMela?” inquired his poor mother.
“I don’t know,” said Sleeve. “She definitely said Beepela.”
And so began a running high school gag. Now fast forward to the first day of college. E-mail was still very new. They had not figured out that they should just assign e-mail addresses to people, so when I arrive at school I had to pick my own. Obviously I wanted it to be hilarious, but I did not have any good college inside jokes yet. But I said to myself, oh man,how hilarious would it be for Sleeve McZed to get an e-mail from Beepela! He will laugh so hard! And that is how my e-mail address became beepela.
Now I was stuck with this identity for the next four years, and nobody at college got the joke, and then I would have to tell the whole story over and over again, which really isn’t as funny as I thought it was at the time, and then people starting calling me Beepela as a nickname. Not everyone, but enough people so that when I left college and set up new emails and systems for myself, I stuck with Beepela out of the fear of people online not knowing who I was.
Now, in the church bulletin, where every other person has their name as their e-mail address contact info, I have Beepela. On my professional business cards it says Beepela. Everywhere I go, Beepela. And nobody knows what it means! They pronounce it wrong! (It’s pronounced like “Pamela,” but with a “Beep”) They spell it wrong, causing me to miss important e-mails! (It’s spelled like “Pamela,” but with a “Beep”) And yet, for the past 19 years I have kept it, because changing it seems like a huge hassle.
So from now on, whenever anyone asks me about it, I will direct them to this post. Or maybe I will change it after all. My good friend Rumple Station just changed hers, and she seemed to have a lot of fun with it. But what would I change it to? Tenor Dad is already taken. I checked. Le sigh. If you have the perfect e-mail address for me, let me know in the comments. Otherwise, I will continue to explain a joke from 2 decades ago every time I try to do something professional.