Either way, writers often try to make a name for themselves, even if that name is difficult to remember or is uncommon. Like the name, “Herb.” Just sayin’. Sorry, Mom & Dad, it turns out “Herb” wasn’t the “Brittany” of the 60’s.
In today’s day and age, my name is uncommon. Mostly because the people named, “Herb” are very, very old or very, very dead. Or, they may be a self-aware, mischievous Volkswagen, but that’s another story.
Nevertheless, our name—whatever our name—is inextricably linked to our identity. I remember as a kid, wishing my name was David. That was silly. David Dalgart? Yawn. I don’t think David Dalgart would have had a blog, suffered from cartoon-brain, or been nearly as annoying as I am. You may have liked him. Probably shouldn’t have mentioned that.
But, now that I’m an adult (or a passable facsimile of one, governed by that cartoon brain), I’ve grown attached to my name. It was my grandfather’s name, and he died before I knew him. So, I owe it to him to carry the name forward with some dignity (okay, I messed that one up). Do I get a do-over?
Still, it’s my name, too (John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt? Was he Jewish?). But I digress.
When I go into a Starbucks, I sometimes play a name game with the barista without realizing I’m playing it. Note to those of us over 30: Remember before Starbucks took over our language, before we called cashiers, “baristas” or referred to our medium cup as a “grande”? Don’t get me started!
The Starbucks game I play goes like this: I order my drink (venti iced coffee with easy soy) and they ask my name. I answer, “Herb” and the game begins.
The barista furrows his or her pierced brow and considers their move:
BARISTA THOUGHT: “Do I pretend I know what that little man just said and write it on his cup with my sharpie or do I ask him to repeat himself?”
I watch this play out over the barista’s face and then cross my fingers. I hope they don’t ask my name again.
The reason I hope this is that, nine times out of ten, I am rewarded with a funny name on my cup, usually phonetically similar to “Herb” but not usually my name…or for that matter, not usually a name at all. This makes me laugh because somewhere between their furrowed brow and their sharpie scribble, the barista decided that “Kurb” or “Burb” was my name.
It’s as though the barista said, “Your name, sir, is as nonsensical to me as calling you, ‘Burb.’"
Now, I grant you the barista is often someone with a facial piercing, or droopy ear lobes with doorknobs in them, or geometric hair, or some other outward example of their lack of good judgment. And, I’m often left with a nagging desire to say, “Your face is more nonsensical to me than the ridiculous name you wrote on my cup."
You’ll be pleased to know I’ve never said that to a barista. Sometimes my filter does work, but don’t get used to it. I haven’t.
Nevertheless, this little game is enough to make me pause and wonder how antiquated and irrelevant I am becoming (or at least my name is becoming) in this new Starbucks world. When the geriatric Herbs are all gone, and the soon-to-be-geriatric Herbs like me are less common than “Burbs” and “Kurbs,” who will be left? How soon before they come for your name and create a bizarre facsimile on your cup?
I should’ve seen it coming when they replaced the Small, Medium, and Large with the Tall, Grande, and Venti. They start with your name, and then take your soul. Of course, you get a hot cup of mediocre coffee in return, but your soul is worth it.
Maybe I should start a new game like this:
ME: “I’d like a venti iced coffee with easy soy.”
BARISTA: “What’s your name?”
Then, the barista would be forced to write LARGE on my venti cup—GOTCHA! A small victory for cups everywhere. But we could all do it! Or maybe we can offer other names that will mess up their little system. Try offering the following names and see what happens.
[“I have a venti latte for you…” Mass confusion in the shop. Who? You? No, you! No, him!]
[“I have a double espresso for me…” Hello, Starbucks customer service? Yes, you have a barista here that just keeps making coffee for himself.]
[I have a caramel macchiato for diabetic children…” What are they doing? Somebody stop them!]
[“I have a tall espresso for free… Oh yes, I am the bringer of chaos.]
[Never mind. You can do this one in your head!]
My point—is there a point?—is that we don’t have to wait for Starbucks or anyone else to take our names or feed us new language. We can take it back for ourselves. Or, we can try to make our names count for something.
One piece of advice: Before you start your blog, get yourself a cup of coffee.
© 2013, Herb Williams-Dalgart