Sunday, July 20, 2008

Does Someone Named Barak Still Need a Restaurant Alias?

"Hi, I'd like a table for two at 8:30."

"That should be no problem. Can I have your name?"

"Uh, Fred."

"All right, Fred. That's a table for two at 8:30. See you then!"

That was me. For about 15 years I faked my way into places as someone I wasn't, just to save time. To reduce. To simplify. To abbreviate.

I chose Fred as my restaurant name because it makes me laugh. Unlike Barak, Fred is a funny name, despite the fact that Barak ends with a "k" and Fred lacks comedy-enriching consonants. You, reader, blessed with an easily recognized name, have probably never considered suppressing your identity to reserve a table. But had you been dubbed something as obscure as Adipose or Lubricious or Metonymy, you might well have turned to simpler monosyllabics such as Bob or Tom just to save time on the phone.

(Of course, celebrities conceal their identities at restaurants and hotels all the time. What must Barack Obama be saying to the hostess at CPK these days? Maybe he's still announcing himself as Fred.)

But things are different for me lately. I state my own name with impunity. "Barak," I say. And there's a pause. Followed by one of three responses:

"Uh, like the candidate?"

or ...

"Is that your first name?"

or ...

"Well, THAT's a popular name lately."

Not as popular as Hussein.

Do I care how they spell Barak? Of course not. Let them spell it F-R-E-D ... I'll be OK. The best part is when they want "the last name." Just in case another Barak -- or maybe a Barack! -- calls in. (Of course, if I were to succumb to the temptation to offer his last name as mine, I'd be dismissed as swiftly as if I'd called to ask, "Do you have Prince Edward in a can?" To say nothing of Prince Albert.)

So now I spend as much time talking about my name with passing strangers as I did when that name was a challenging unknown. But now that's it's a known known, such content-free encounters are a little more entertaining. They provide endless opportunities to test people's responses to referred celebrity. Kind of like walking down the street flaunting the point on my head after years of wearing tall hats. All because some star finally revealed the point on her head, so now it's fun to clock all the double-takes.

Someone like Madonna. Or Hester Prynne. Or Barack Obama.


Adina said...

Of course, my name is more common than Barak or Barack, but I feel your pain.

I do the same thing with my name at restaurants, Jamba Juice etc.. I use AJ. I gave up! NO ONE gets my name. They don't hear it, they mess it up and occasionally, they'll go, Oh, I know someone by that name.

My favorite restaurant name is Mercedes, but alas, it is owned by Sally Kushner and I give it over to her.


AmyS said...

I suppose this means, in fact, that you will never again have to explain your name for members of the service industries, though it also means that you are doomed to having it misspelled in one way only (as opposed to the myriad ways I'm sure it's been misspelled until now). And I wonder how long it will take before hearing "Oh, like Barack Obama?" will make you want to scream.

Lord Zim said...

Right you are, Amys. This blog is my way of screaming. I thought it best to invent a way to sublimate the screaming before things get out of hand.