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This Post Brought To You By The Letter K

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

When I was in school, I decided in addition to needing money I desperately needed to expand my cooking repertoire beyond grilled cheese sandwiches and scrambled eggs, so I applied to be a cook at a steak house restaurant. After three years of part time work in a kitchen, I came away knowing a lot more about meat, fish, and vegetables.

A funny thing happened along the way, and it started the day I was hired. It went something like:

Manager: So, ahhh, Kenneth. Do you prefer to go by Kenneth or Ken?

Me: Actually, I use my middle name, which is Scott.

Manager: Oh ok. Well, I’d like for you to come in for some training next Tuesday at 3. Can you make it?

Me: Yes I can!

Manager: Ok, see you then, ahhh, Ken.

Sure enough, when I arrived for training I had a brand new name tag with “Ken” emblazoned on it. I tried over the next few weeks to get a new name tag and convince people to call me Scott, but it never worked, and eventually I gave up trying.

I sort of enjoyed my alias. I’d throw on an apron and instantly transform from Scott the Student to Ken the Cook. As I worked up the ladder from making deep fried cheese to actually putting filet mignon to the flame, Ken became more of an alter ego. Ken made the best blackened prime rib in the East.

If you’ve ever worked at a restaurant you’ll know it’s actually as much of a social institution as it is a place of business. You work late hours. The dinner rush is stressful. You scream and yell at your co-workers, and to relieve the stress you pull pranks when they are not looking. You put Tabasco sauce in their ice tea, or put fish heads on their car’s hood ornament* (it’s a lot like software development, right?). All of this activity forms a close bond between people, and you end up spending time together outside of work at parties and such.

Eventually, people who knew me as Scott the Student would end up in the same room as people who knew me as Ken the Cook. At least half the people in the room would be confused when any one person was talking to me or about me. This is an awkward social situation, but geeks get used to these, or learn to ignore them completely and go about enjoying ourselves. To this day there is still a subset of people who only know me as Ken (but I never see them anymore).

Anyway, in case you ever wondered what the K stood for (and you probably haven’t, but I can always change reality to suit my needs - it's fashionable, you know), it stands for Kenneth. My parents named me after an uncle who passed away before I knew him, but they wanted me to go by my middle name of Scott.

I throw the K in front of my name here because there seem to be a plethora of Scott Allen’s around. I wouldn’t want people to confuse me with the Scott Allen who wrote ‘A comparison of the Washington Naval Arms Treaty of 1922 and the Strategic Arms Limitation Agreements of 1972’. That is not a topic I can even make conversation about at a dinner party. There is also the folk singer, the rodeo announcer, and the golf pro. We’re everywhere!

*Not that I’ve ever done this. I just heard rumors. It wasn't me. Quit looking at me like that.