14 July, 2018

Saigon and Cinnamon

Amongst the many part-time jobs I held throughout college (Lego merchandiser, barista, receptionist), one of my favorite gigs was in the box office at the Center for the Arts on George Mason University's Fairfax campus.

I applied for the job during the winter of my sophomore year. After a four-year streak of consistently holding a part-time job, I had decided to take that fall semester off to focus on my insane course load (I had just started the process of double-degreeing) and disorienting personal life (I guess I was double-degreeing, in a manner of speaking, there, too).

After four months of nothing but studying, rehearsing, and zig-zagging between Fairfax, Alexandria, and Pittsburgh, I'd reached my limit. I decided to get a part-time job and resume being a more or less normal college kid. With no car, my only option was to get an on-campus job. As a music major, working at the concert hall was understandably attractive.

The job was straightforward. I would be expected to answer phones for a few hours a week, handle walk-up ticket sales, and work will-call on performance nights. Surrounded by other undergrads, with performances piped in to the box office speakers, it was a fairly low-stress and enjoyable job.

At that time, George Mason had a generous student ticket policy. It was quite easy for students to get free or heavily discounted tickets to pretty much any performance. Thus, many undergraduate arts and humanities professors required nominal performance attendance, the playbill or program or ticket stub serving as proof. We would routinely get calls at the box office from students and professors regarding ticket availability, particularly towards the end of the semester, when everything came due.

During our slow times, in addition to stuffing envelopes and folding programs, we would be expected to clear the backlog of voicemails that accumulated in the general mailbox. When returning calls made from on-campus numbers, we were often greeted with George Mason's standard outgoing message, homogeneously recorded by housing services: “You have reached the voice mailbox of [name 1] and [name 2]. To leave a message for [name 1] press 1. To leave a message for [name 2] press 2.” In larger dorm rooms, there could be four, five, or even six names on the menu.

One afternoon, I returned a call from an on-campus student. I was greeted by: “You have reached the voicemail box of Mahogany and Sangria. To leave a message for Mahogany, press 1. To leave a message for Sangria, press 2.”

Hearing this outgoing message absolutely made my day. I was beyond tickled that, not only were there two girls out there with the names Mahogany and Sangria, but that they had found each other, become friends or just roommates, and they were together. It just seemed so perfectly fitting.

I have since maintained an attentiveness to harmonious name pairings. I was baking a blueberry pie last week and the recipe called for cinnamon. I dipped my measuring spoon into my bulk cinnamon bottle and noticed the label: Kirkland Ground Saigon Cinnamon. It reminded me of my box office days and left me wistfully hoping that two girls named Saigon and Cinnamon would find each other, cohabit, and seek free admission to a concert this season.

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