Don't be surprised if someone -- not a cop -- stops you Saturday and asks if you'd like to identify yourself. That's when about 180 volunteers are planning to fan across the city distributing nametags for "Nametag day," an effort to increase the friendliness factor in one of the world's most anonymous cities by distributing up to 200,000 nametags.
"We want to encourage people to have positive interactions," with all the strangers they pass each day, explained Michael Morgenstern, 27, a Williamsburg film maker. Williamsburg will be documenting the event via crowd sourcing, just like he raised money for the pro-social project. "This is only for one day," but the effects will, he hopes, be felt forever, said Morgenstern.
No worries if you don't want to give your real name. The idea is to foster connections and conversation, so you wear a sticker that says, "Yogi Bear," if that's your preference, Morgenstern said.
"You could put your phone number on it - and then stick it on someone cute," suggested Chrissie Mayr, 29, a comedian from Astoria and volunteer nametag distributor. Mayr is contemplating writingg "Ask Me About Nametag Day" on her ID tag.
"Williamsburg is the place that needs this the most," said Mayr, as residents there are "all mad about paying $6 for a cup of coffee," and particularly grumpy.
Regardless of what your nametag says, wearing one "is like an invitation to talk," said volunteer Carole Honig, 58, an entrepreneur from Woodcliff Lakes, N.J. Not that Honig needs any help. "I make conversation with anyone and thought this would be a fun way to meet people."
"These sorts of social engagements are what makes New York more unique than other cities," said Joel Smith, 25, an account consultant from the Lower East Side who will also be volunteering. Smith wants to see if people behave better wearing nametags, as people often feel less accountable when cloaked in the urban veil of anonymity. "You'll be much more conscious of who's engaging you as well," said Smith.
Volunteer Kel Huang, 28, a business developer from Soho, hopes to learn the names of all the people he routinely passes and nods to in his building and at work but whose names he's never learned. Too, he figures Nametag Day will be a godsend for anyone mortified by their inability to remember the names of coworkers and neighbors they once learned but have since forgotten. "I'm not suggesting everyone should wear them all the time," he said of nametags, but if they prove useful, "that could be the next step."