Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Name Game

Sometimes, when I'm in the mood, which is usually, I'll give a fake name at the coffee place, or Jamba Juice, or any place they ask for a name. Back when I was actively pursuing a variety of soul-deadening "careers," I did it most every day.

I enjoyed the few minutes I'd spend as someone else, and loved the idea that this person making my hot chocolate, my Jamba Juice, whatever, looked at me and saw not someone saddled with my real name, but instead a streamlined, easy-to-understand "Pete" or "Chuck."

Then I'd get back to work and IM my friend the Connie Monster, who'd always insist that next time I tell them my name is "Furious."

On Mondays, days I'm not supposed to be working at the big biotech but have been, I like to stop off at a Starbucks near work -- only because it's the only hot chocolate outlet available in South San Francisco -- get my hot chocolate and use a fake name. Last week I was "Frank." I went in this week, though, and panicked: same counter worker.

See, I have a rule. I can't use the same name twice. And believe me, it's a tough rule to follow. There was a stretch when I wanted to be "Marcus" every time, but you've got to have boundaries. So I went in there last Monday and realized that if I continue going to that Starbucks, eventually that counter worker is going to realize that I have a different name each time. And she'll start to wonder about my sanity, which is pretty funny, because her wondering would be based on ... truth. Yes, I am a guy who makes up fake names when he goes to Starbucks. As for what kind of person would feel the need to do that, I'd really rather not spend much time thinking about that.

Backed into a corner, I relented and went with my real name. I figured that she probably didn't remember me yet. What happened moving forward was more important.

Connie Monster insisted that I would never pass for "Matty," anyway.

My proper San Francisco friends would be loathe to hear it, but I love television. While they work to eradicate the hated "idiot box" from their lives, I bemoan the fact that I don't watch enough TV. On a good week, I only get an hour a night, more if I stay up to watch "Sportscenter."

Not only that, but I know and value the people in my life who are good TV-watchers. To me, that's as important as being a good co-pilot on a road trip, or assuming the responsibility to be gremlin-like if you are the one stuck sitting in the back seat.

Here are some people who are great to watch TV with:

My mom, who knows the name of every actor who ever appeared in anything, and who went on and on about how obvious Charlton Heston's toupee was while we were watching a "Planet of the Apes" marathon.

Either of my sisters. My older sister likes to talk to the TV as much as I do, and my little sister, well, during the summer of 1984 we watched "Valley Girl" so often that we started deconstructing it to the point where we felt it could have been taught in an undergraduate literature class.

Fred Luna, who once even made "Star Trek" funny.

Roger A. Hunt - he loves TV more than I do, but sadly, doesn't get as many chances to watch as he'd like. He could teach a graduate-level class in 1960s and 70s sitcoms, however.

Sandra Bullock, when she's not absorbed in some catalogue.

Mike Westover. Poor Mike. He's been living in some unpronounceable third world country where I doubt they have television, and if they do, it probably exists only to broadcast verbal attacks on Jews by the local Imans.

Flush Puppy: Oh, there were days of glory, when we all lived in the same apartment building and had "Melrose Place" potlucks each Wednesday. I hope her new home comes with a TV room.

Peter O'Toole, especially if there's Ben & Jerry's in the house and you're watching the red carpet prior to the Golden Globes.

Special sports-watching category for Ken Dunque.

One of my roommates when I lived in Boston. I can't remember her name but we made a commitment to watch "Doogie Howser, M.D." together each week.

Will I teach the Jawa to love TV like I do? Probably not. It's not like being an avid TV-watcher is something I'm proud of. I understand that it's base and crude, and that I'm supposed to be too sophisticated to sit and watch 9 hours of football on a Sunday.

I once paraphrased Allen Ginsberg to a teacher I had in grad school. "I saw the greatest minds of my generation," I began, "Memorizing the lyrics to the 'Brady Bunch' theme song." I pretend like it's heart-breaking, because I know I'm supposed to. I'm trying to hold on to whatever intellectual street cred I was supposed to grow up to have.


Anonymous Roger A. Hunt said...

That play on Ginsberg kills me.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

You need TiVo. It's like TV only better. Very sophisticated.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

thats funny you mention valley girl, e.g.(elizabeth) daily was on howard stern last week. she does alot of voice work. and i agree whole heartedly w/ dave k. we have a dvr thru our cable co. and it is the awesomest ever, like totally!!!!!!!!

4:36 PM  
Blogger Sluggo said...

Your mom watched a planet of the apes marathon with you? She may be the coolest mom ever. I am impressed.

6:18 PM  
Anonymous zelda said...

okay lefty i hate to burst your bubble but i do that at starbucks all the time. you could either interpret that information as a) disappointing because you thought your idea was so novel or b) alarming because what are you paying thousands of dollars in tuition for if one of the teachers at the jawa's school is actually crazy and gives fake names at starbucks?!

my best friend alef (itself a fake name) once reassured me about the multiple names/same barista (let's please use the preferred term!) conundrum: you could be out, helpfully getting coffee, for someone else--and when you take it back to them at home/the office/in the park, etc., you don't want them to feel unimportant by having a coffee with YOUR name on it! they should get to have a coffee with THEIR name on it! so i use this line of reasoning to give boy names for coffee drinks sometimes. "one grande drip with room for cream for eli, coming up..."

ok i notice i am the only person so far to comment on this post's earlier content, i.e. the whole name thing, which i think is likely to be a result of the fact that i do not have television and haven't since 1999 so i don't have much to say about the latter content.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

the name thing at starbucks is weird.... tivo/dvr is the greatest invention since satellte radio and the ipod, and i think i watched a planet of the apes marathon with you, your parents AND your grandparents one thanksgiving. there were bars and free drinks involved later that night, but we watched at least 2 1/2 of those movies before that....

10:48 PM  
Anonymous anotherlefty said...

We just came home from a 4 day trip with old folks, and I can't wait to watch my DVR to catch up on all the shows I missed.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Butter Goats said...

Just got an HD-DVR through Comcast. What a great little machine. Upgrade to it. I've tried giving a different name a couple times, but I usually get distracted, forget the name I gave, and hope I'm grabbing the right coffee. Usually I just go to Scott's shop and they know my name and drink, so I don't have to worry about it. Glad I didn't make the list of TV watchers. I limit my TV....REALLY I DO!

10:29 AM  
Anonymous the hammer said...

Let's return to the name thing. You focus on coffee places but I know a few folks who take it a step further to the restaurant wait list. My problem is that I'm lucky if I can remember my own name, let alone an alias. Maybe next time I visit Starbuck's (or a restaurant) I should give the name "the hammer" and see if i get an odd look.

Welcome back to the blog, Zelda.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous zin gal said...

The baristas have such a hard time with my real name I just say ok to whatever they come up with.

Love my TIVO. Love TV.

2:53 PM  
Blogger P.G. said...

Sadly we do have a dvr which means that Peter O'Toole has been able to watch every episode of that dreadful show you introduced him to, for which I have an alternate name that is not fit for publication here.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

Yay to P.G. commenting! And Lefty! A crazy quirk I knew nothing about?!! Very unsettling. God bless the DVR machine.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous zelda said...

to the hammer: oh, yes! i was fairly sure the restaurant fake last name was a standard practice. at least it always was in our family growing up. anderson, party of four please...and knowing what my real-life last name is, you can probably appreciate that.

and yes, i make my name a spelling word the first week of every school year, not just to be an egomaniac but also as a public service to the parents so they at least address their correspondence to me accurately over the course of the year. although as proof that such narcissism doesn't *always* work as it is intended, i will say that i have one family whose third of three kids is in my class currently and even still, after half a dozen years and all their children, they think my last name starts with "G."

7:30 PM  
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