The Virtues of Being a Number

People just don’t seem to understand the name Brandon. By that I mean they literally never can get it right when they hear it. Anytime I go anywhere or do anything where some stranger feels the need to ask me my name and I say “Brandon”….they always come back and mistake it for some other name.

Them“What was that? You said your name was Fred?”
Me“No it’s Brandon actually”
Them“Oh, okay hi Randy”
Me“No, it’s Brandon.”
Them“Oh Brian. I thought you said Fred”
Me“It’s Brandon…

I experience conversations like this multiple times on a daily basis, and I just don’t get it. While I have a fairly soft spoken, “vaguely prepubescent” voice I certainly don’t talk like I have marbles in my mouth and can enunciate with the best of the 1970’s game show hosts or at the very least the level of a veteran mid-tier telemarketer. The name which I am speaking should not even be remotely in doubt.

It’s not as if the name Brandon is so uncommon as to not register in the realm of possibilities of the human psyche when heard. It’s not even one of those weird made-up spellings, insisted upon pronunciations or oddball offshoots of a proper name that parents often use to give their precious child an annoyingly unique name.

“Well hello there Tara (pronounces it like terra)”
“Actually it’s Tara (pronounces it Tar-uh like tar the gooey stuff they use on roads)

“It’s nice to meet you Shana(pronounced Shay-nuh)”
“Despite how it looks my name is really Shana(rhymes with banana)”

In actuality when I was a kid there were very few Brandons(maybe one other one in my whole grade school), and as a child I remember being self conscious that I had such a weird name. It wasn’t until about 5th grade that I finally even met a kid named “Brendan.”

Almost any Brandon from that era can trace the origin of his name to the child character on the show “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” (in the same way that the once teen idol Jason Priestley character “Brandon Walsh” on 90210 undoubtedly spawned a plethora of progeny born in the early nineties.)

I however was not lucky enough to be named after the boy from “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” but was instead named for the hero in a sleazy drugstore romance novel called “The Flame and the Flower”…a book my mother had apparently been quite fond of.

Nevertheless, I digress. The one thing that all the people who hear and say my name wrong have in common is that they really have no need to know it at all. It’s simply unnecessary for the level of interactions and transactions that are taking place. It is in fact, completely irrelevant in these situations in any capacity other than to make sure that it matches up with whatever is printed on my debit card.

Most notably this seems to happen at Starbucks, where often my name is repeated several times sometimes even within a single sentence.

“Thank you Fred, I’ll have that right up for you Fred”
“One venti hot chocolate for Fred please”
“okay venti hot chocolate for Brad coming right up”
“I have a venti hot chocolate ready for Brett”

While I have nothing against the friendly and awesome employees, I find the whole thing rather insulting in the sense that it’s just so phony. It’s all just a ploy for a gigantic empire to appear less corporate, more local and personal. If my choice is between being a carefully market-researched target demographic statistically happy customer and anonymous, 3 digit, no-need-for-this-nonsense grumplicious random dude…I’ll take the number every time. We’re all numbers to them any way you look at it.

I won’t say that I’ve quite reached the level of dissatisfaction as say, Michael Douglas in the contemporary classic “Falling Down” in the memorable scene that takes place at the fictitious “Whammy Burger”…

Bill Foster: I’d like some breakfast?
Rick: We stopped serving breakfast.
Bill Foster: I know you stopped serving breakfast Rick, Sheila told me that you… why am I calling you by your first names? I don’t even know you. I still call my boss ‘Mister’ even though I’ve been working with him for seven years, but all of a sudden I walk in here and I’m calling you Rick and Sheila like we’re in some kind of AA meeting and… I don’t want to be your buddy, Rick. I just want a little breakfast?

In fact, one of the only good things about mega corporate outlets like Target and Walmart is that you can shop anonymously without being bothered, pressured or chatted up by employees the way you would be at tiny local boutiques. Good customer service isn’t just about being fake friendly, but rather about reading people and determining how each individual customer would like to be treated.
Some customers like you to remember their name, what they usually get, and ask them if they need help finding “something” every time they happen to accidentally make eye contact with an employee. Other people are in a hurry and would prefer for you to keep the lines moving with minimal interruptions. Still others would rather just be awarded a cloak of invisibility when they enter an establishment, careful not to make eye contact with any busybodies and avoiding personal human interaction at every turn in favor of just getting what they came there for along with possibility of some brilliant idea or sexual fantasy coming to them in the course of a wandering daydream.

Unfortunately, even at a place like Target, I tend to come off as way too weird of a dude to get away with going to the same place more than once and expecting to still be treated like an anonymous face in the lonely crowd…even by some 16 year old Mexican cashier who is busy sexting pictures with spanglish captions to the young men in her life while ringing me up:

“So sorry I forget your name.You want your usual? small diet coke?”
“Yes, please.. and thank you very much. “