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The Year I Had No Name

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A name is something that defines you. It leaves your mark on the world. Without it, you’re just a face within a sea of other faces. Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” Let me tell you, Will, there’s a heck of a lot in a name – but it only becomes apparent to you when no one seems to know yours. 

It all started a few years back when I first began working as a waitress. I walk up the stone walkway, through the glass doors, into the bright lobby, and up to the smiling hostess dressed in black. I ask for an application. Then comes the mistake that would haunt me for years to come.    

On the crisp white paper are the words “Full Name.” Since I’ve never gone by my full given name in my entire life, I nearly write my preferred name, “Christy.” However, I figure the words “Full Name” imply that they mean business. After all, I don’t want to confuse the IRS and go to jail just because I don’t give them my birth name. Reluctantly, I write “Christina.”  

Soon, the nicely dressed manager comes out to grant me an interview. He is a very nice-looking man and I must make a good impression because he offers me the job right away. The only thing that doesn’t seem to leave much of an impression is my name. Though I make quite sure to tell him, somehow I can tell it just isn’t going to stick.     

Here’s what I’ve learned in recent years. People very rarely listen when others introduce themselves. Consequently, they need a “cheat sheet” afterwords, such as a name tag. Unfortunately, at this particular job, we weren’t so lucky to have such a “cheat sheet.”  So the manager forgets my name. Naturally he does what any normal person would do and looks at the application to remind himself. Thus, the Christina Catastrophe is born.     

Now the only person who has met me is calling me by the wrong name. The problem only escalates after that. I introduce myself to the other employees, who naturally don’t listen, and I have no name tag to help them out. So what do they do? They look on the schedule, which the manager made from the dreaded application. Occasionally, someone remembers that I had in fact said “Christy” and the heavens shine down for a brief instant. Of course, then that person hears everyone else calling me something else, starts to think that maybe they heard me wrong, and the next day they become a convert to the pack of Christina-callers.     

By now it has gotten to the point that when I address once of my tables, I can almost feel the ears of other servers incline toward me as I tell the table my name. Soon everyone just gets confused and stops calling me anything. I become the one known as “hey, you.” People either poke me or shout in my general direction to get my attention. I am the girl with no name.    

I begin wearing bracelets and necklaces with my name on it. Sometimes I even catch myself spelling “Christy” with the croutons in people’s salads. Nothing, I repeat, nothing can repair the damage that has been done.  On one particular day, I finally reach my wit’s end. No one should be subject to being awkwardly nudged as a substitute for being called by their rightful title! I must do something to end this madness. If not for me, then I’ll do it for the other nameless faces in the world.    

I am standing in the kitchen, waiting by the food window for my order to come up. My table surprisingly remembers my name and I can hear them ask another server to fetch me for them. I hear the server ask, “Who is Christy?” I snap. I yell, “It’s me! I’m Christy! That’s right, Christy! Not ‘Christina,’ not a poke, and no, people, when I was born my parents didn’t decide to call me ‘hey!’” I realize my speech might just be a little louder than I intended it. Eyes all across the restaurant are fixed on me and mouths hang open in surprise.

Feeling I may have made my point a little too well, I quickly walk up to the manager and give him my two weeks' notice. He tells me, “I understand if you don’t want to come back in.”

That’s how it ended.

Though I can no longer show my face at this particular restaurant, I learned a valuable lesson. People will forget your name. So unless you want to spend a year dealing with a catastrophe such as mine, above all remember this: the name on the application means everything. Potential employees, beware

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About Christy Shuler

  • We’ve been going to a favorite restaurant for years now, and the waitstaff never give their names. It’s a great place, and there’s not much turnover. Instead of saying “Say, what’s your name?” we would get the information from our bill, then use their names the next time.

    However, it’s bad when your own employer doesn’t know your name. Especially after a year. Of course, it’s nice you weren’t called a name you’d rather not have.

    But don’t feel bad. I have an employee who has been here 10 years and he still doesn’t know how to pronounce my last name. It’s not that hard!