Saturday, March 17, 2012

Identity

My friend D and I had coffee today in a bookshop. The coffee shop is run by a well-known chain and we were served by a young man with a big name badge on his lapel. "Good morning," he said to me. "My name is Bradley. What's your name?"
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"Don't tell him!" said D, who's a strong-minded person. "It's this new thing that they ask your name so that you think they're your friend."
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Bradley looked nonplussed. "I want to write it on your cup," he said. D gave him a further little lecture about globalisation and marketing and so on.
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They've up till now managed to unite me and my coffee without knowing my name but it didn't seem to be Bradley's fault so I told him my name, which isn't Isabelle and which, in the shortened form I gave him, has only three letters. It's not uncommon.
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"How do you spell that?" asked Bradley. We sorted this out. I can imagine that coffee queues must be getting longer all over the world if people called Phoebe or Mairi or Aoife are trying to buy coffee.
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Then he looked helplessly at D. "Just put her down as [my name] 2," I suggested. So he did.
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D and I sat down on two of a group of four armchairs and started chatting. She decided that in future she would just claim that her name was the same as the server's, even if this were Bradley.
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Very shortly afterwards, someone asked if the other two chairs were taken and, when we said no, this person sat down in one of them. I'm saying "this person" because it was very obvious that (s)he had started life as a man, but (s)he was wearing a shortish skirt and blouse, tights, high heels, pearl earrings and quite a lot of eye shadow. (S)he sat there for most of the two hours that we did, presumably listening to our fascinating talk about our children and grandchildren, about work (D still works at the college), holidays and so on. Eventually s(he) got up, smiled very nicely at us, said goodbye and departed.
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It struck me that D and I were not really taking full advantage of our freedom to dress in a feminine way. We were both wearing black jeans and flat shoes. I was wearing a checked shirt in green and black and D had a tee-shirt, though admittedly that was pink.
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After this person went, we had a bit of a chat about it all.
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Including that the fact that the name written on our companion's coffee cup was - as we were surprised to notice - Alan.

13 comments:

  1. I always give my first name in full....it's my name, after all, and I don't like having it shortened unless the shortener is a friend. But if I wanted to I could be Ermyntrude......or Williamina......now that might flummox them. Perhaps you and your friend need to wear your tiaras next time you are out, for a bit of glam.

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  2. I always give my first name in full....it's my name, after all, and I don't like having it shortened unless the shortener is a friend. But if I wanted to I could be Ermyntrude......or Williamina......now that might flummox them. Perhaps you and your friend need to wear your tiaras next time you are out, for a bit of glam.

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  3. Now how did that happen twice? Gosh, I'm so clever......

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  4. hahahaha.... love it !!! Especially... Alan... thanks for a great post !!

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  5. This probably didn't occur to you Isabelle, being Scottish and all, but that "person" might very well have been a Leprechaun, given the day that's in it....They are notorious for playing tricks on humans! I'm betting the name was "Alainn", the Irish word for "lovely," which could very easily be mistaken for "Alan," and [s]he was lovely was [s]he not?

    BTW, very sporting of you to wear a bit of green!

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  6. When I was a uni student we used to fly under false names, no purpose, just because we could. I have boarding passes that call me "Dierdre Rottweiler". Can you imagine that in these days of aviation paranoia?

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  7. I used to be Madeleine Braithwaite when it suited me. I think I will go to Star**cks just for the pleasure of revisiting her.

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  8. I can't understand why some people dislike giving their names when asked. What's the problem with that? The world becomes a friendlier place when instead of someone in the service industry just looking through you while they are taking an order, they can address you by your name. When I'm served by people wearing nametags in shops, I always say "good morning/afternoon, Sally, I would like...", and I usually get a smile in return.

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  9. Peter CS2:51 pm

    It's really slowed down the service in London, where the average queue comprises people of half a dozen ethnic origins, and the average barista is Ruritanian and hasn't (up till now) had to learn the alphabet in English.

    But in another chain which has been doing this for a while, the Chinese girl in front of me gave her name to the equally oriental server, who instantly wrote her name on the cup in Chinese characters. It caused a bit of a problem at the other end: 'Small latte for ... umm'.

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  10. Once upon a time, I was filling forms relating to the two people sitting alongside me. Official forms. The sort where there is a M/F box. The person sitting next to me was not the M/F as I thought! How was I to know?

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  11. Usually when someone like that uses my name when they don't know me I look down and discover I have forgotten to take my name badge ( from Patchwork and Quilting group ) off.

    I would have been tempted to say my name was Siobhan!

    I am glad to say that trend has not reached our fair city ( yet ), but I don't go to the chain you didn't mention...someone else did.

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  12. I had to help an Important Person fill out a form recently and under the gender section there was a choice of three boxes to tick: M, F and U. Presumably the U was for Unknown or Undisclosed. We had a bit of a giggle over that, but you know, sign of the politically correct times.

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