Thursday, November 8, 2012

FEMA Corps Van Names: A Glimpse of Our Culture

If you want to understand the unique NCCC/FEMA Corps culture, look no further than our transportation. The ubiquitous 15-passenger vans, our transportation from Gulf Coast to East Coast and everywhere in between, are pretty much central to the program. They’re also our home away from home away from home; mine, for example, has carried my team from Mississippi to Alabama to Georgia, then up through the Carolinas and Virginias to Maryland, into Pennsylvania and out again and up through New York to Connecticut before doubling back to New York City. Other teams have spent as much or more time in their vans as we have, so I guess it’s only natural that most of us would eventually name ‘em. Last night, I went around and polled members of every team about their van names. Enjoy the results!

Summit One: (No name)

Summit Two: “Petunia”.

Summit Three: (No name, although “CB” was suggested)

Summit Four: “Smokey” or “Smokey the Bear”.

Summit Five: “Hildegard”, or “Hildie” for short.

Summit Six: “The Govvie

Summit Seven: “Funk

Ocean One: “Big Bertha Blue

Ocean Two: “El Fuego

Ocean Three: “Snow White

Ocean Four: “Sandra Ocean the Fourth”, or horribly inappropriately at the moment, “Sandy” for short.

Ocean Five: (No name)

Ocean Six: (No name)

Ocean Seven: “The Mystery Machine”; apparently their team leader resembles Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.

Bayou One: “Big Nasty

Bayou Two: “Big Blue

Bayou Three: “The Mastodon

Bayou Four: “White Noise”, or occasionally “Chuckles”.

Bayou Five: “Vinnie

Bayou Six: (No name, occasionally “The Govvie”)

Bayou Seven: “Betsy

For those scoring at home, that’s 16 out of 21 teams (possibly 17) with a unique van name. I thought female names would dominate, but they only accounted for six (Petunia, Betsy, Hildegard, Big Bertha Blue, Sandy, Snow White). As common were Monster Truck-style dominator names (Funk, El Fuego, Big Nasty, Big Blue, The Mastodon, White Noise). I have to say “The Mastodon”, put to the Corps’s only black van, is still by far my favorite name. However, “Sandra Ocean IV” and “White Noise” aren’t far behind. 

This might sound like a frivolous exercise from an outside perspective. They name their vans? What kind of silliness is that? But I think it’s important to know if you want to understand Corps culture, because it speaks to our playfulness and our excitement about work. When Summit Five climbs into our beloved Hildie and heads out to do actual, legitimate work, we’re excited. We want to be there. We want to serve. We’ll spend eternities in our van to get to a project site, as long as we know we’re going to actually get out and do something good. That enthusiasm and that energy are strong assets to FEMA, if they’re used and used well. That part is out of our hands. 

1 comment:

allison said...

Last year we were devastated when our van for half the year, the Millennium Falcon, ran out on its lease and we had to replace it. We submitted new names (ranging from "EVA" to "Apollo") but our office manager ended up choosing the name. It was a Bond reference that I can't remember. We all missed The Falcon (mostly because my 8 member team had adopted Star Wars nicknames).

Travel is so much a part of our job that the vans become yet another team member.

I really liked The Mystery Machine although "vinny" cracked me up. I'll always associate it with that new york crackin' wannabe lawyer.

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