Got a name that falls into the 'too hard' basket for many? Perhaps it has Greek roots or a spelling/pronunciation that baffles the masses? You've probably used a 'coffee name' (a fake name used to order goods and services) in your time. Perhaps you have one you use all the time?
I've long been a fan of using an oh-so-famous celebrity name whenever I visit a café for the first time. I love the look on the barista’s face when you're ordering, I love how something like 'Prince', 'Bono' or 'Lady Gaga' sounds when the barista is calling it out over a crowded café, but most of all, I love that no one ever argues or asks any follow-up questions about heritage to someone who might be a couple of cards short of a full deck. It entertains plenty, the service is seamless and quick and everyone comes away with a story without impacting me directly. When you have a name like Dilvin, it's the little things that get you through.
Ordering coffee under my real name has been a problem for as long as I can remember. Do you remember the iconic "I'll have a half double decaffeinated half-caf… with a twist of lemon" restaurant scene in the 80s classic, L.A. Story?
When you have a name like Dilvin, it's the little things that get you through.
I've yet to sell the rights to the move in my head (tentatively titled, 'Wog Story') but I've often thought my own coffee ordering moments are on par with the movie lead, Steve Martin's. I say this because any time I visit a new café, the order always, always goes like this:
"I'll have a soy flat white please."
(After we go through the looong process of spelling ie: "Dolphin? Dylan? I'll just call you D, yeah?') "So, that's an interesting name… where are you from?"
I name my current suburb.
"No, where are you really from?:"
I offer the suburb where I grew up.
"No, where are your parents from?"
"Right, so you're Turkish."
"What's the matter? Are you ashamed of your heritage?"
(Sighing). "Nope! I just want to grab my coffee and get on my way."
Now, to a certain extent, I get it. Aside from the one barista in a regional area who muttered, "Huh, we never really get your kind around here", most Australians are a friendly bunch with a genuine curiosity about others who share their space.
We want to get to know our neighbours and the people who buy flat whites from us and I'm not immune to that. In fact, on days when I have all the time in the world, that's cool and I'm happy to oblige, but other days when I'm on the fly or something is testing me with work, friends or family? I'd like to be able to order a coffee quickly, without the session turning into one long episode of Who Do You Think You Are?
Truth be told, it isn't carving time out of my busy workday to address my heritage that bothers me the most, it's having to address my heritage several times a day, every single day. No one needs to think about their identity that often.
So, it is over time that I have also introduced a serious 'coffee name' to get my hit of caffeine that much faster and avoid the whole identity discussion fiasco. Telling a barista your name is Sarah (or Jane, Jo or Lee) ends conversation flat (unless it's your local, of course). So, on days when I just want to get in and out, I do exactly that. In fact, I’m known as Sarah across cafes I'll probably never frequent again across the globe.
The one problem with that? "Love, is that Sara without the 'h' or Sarah?"