Say My Name

Panera Bread

The other day, I was at Panera to get my favorite soup and sandwich combo.1

It was the usual process: the cashier asked for my order, I gave her my order, and I gave her money. At places like Panera, however, the cashier asks for a name.

I hesitated. She wants to know my name?

I regained my bearing and said, “Howard.”

She smiled, thanked me, and handed me the receipt. I noticed a twinkle of suspicion in her eye. What kind of person has to think of their own name?

Apparently the kind of person named Ace.

I used to give restaurants and coffee shops my first name. Because my name is unique, I usually have to repeat myself or spell it out. Then I brace myself for the reaction.

Typically, there are three kinds of reactions when I introduce myself. I get interrogated, complimented, and/or denied.

Some reactions are easier to reply to than others—it all depends on whether someone wants to make my life difficult.

Interrogation

“Is Ace your real name?”
“Is Ace a nickname?”
“Like Ace Frehley?”
“Like Ace Ventura?”
“Like Ace Young?” 2
“How did you end up with that name?”

Most of these questions lead to single-word answers: Yes. No. Yes. Yes. Yes.

However, the final question requires a history lesson about my family.

Once upon a time, I had a great uncle named Asa whose nickname was “Ace.” My dad thought the nickname was neat, and I happened to receive that name. I lived happily until a cashier interrogated me.

Sometimes I don’t want to give a history lesson.

Sometimes I just want some food.

Compliments

The following is not a complaint against compliments. As a culture that is obsessed with bad news and obsessed with feeling outraged towards bad news, it’s nice when we acknowledge something positive.

With that said, I don’t feel like I deserve compliments for my name.

I appreciate the thought and I always say “thank you.” But what else am I supposed to say?

I didn’t do anything to earn my name—it was given to me at birth.

Should I call my parents so you can personally compliment them on their taste in names? Should I tell you about my family history before you interrogate me? Should I make up a story about how I earned my name in a past life as a WWI fighter pilot?

Am I thinking too deeply into these compliments?

Probably.

I should just say “thank you.”

Denial

The most frustrating but, thankfully, the most uncommon response to my name is denial.

I’ve met skeptical folks who refuse to accept my name. After I introduce myself, these people would assume at least one of the following:

  • I’m joking.
  • I’m trying to be cool.
  • I’m trying to force a nickname.

Thankfully, I don’t have to interact with these people for more than a few minutes. It’s not worth the effort to convince them otherwise, especially if I never see these people again.

It’s easier to smile and nod.


Whenever I must surrender my name, I use my last name: Howard.

I’m not a pilot, I’m not a poker star, and I don’t “ace” everything I do.

Why is my name Ace? It’s because my parents named me Ace. But unless we’re going to interact for more than a few minutes, my name is Howard.

Now…

Say my name.


1. The Sierra Turkey sandwich and broccoli cheddar soup. ^
2. Thanks to the ephemeral fame of American Idol contestants, I don’t hear this one anymore. ^

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