(Originally written August 17, 2009)
I get great customer service.
At the Borders near campus, where I stop and get a chai latte once or twice a week, the teenager working the counter addresses me by name. I’ve never introduced myself. He must have gotten it off of my credit card.
(08-09 school year, Borders near SFSU)
I walk up to this gate agent, to check about some detail for the flight I’m waiting to board. She answers my question, addressing me by my legal first name. I’m confused for a minute, wondering, illogically, if I’ve got my name on me somewhere. I think for half a second that maybe I forgot to take off one of those name-tag stickers from a workshop, even though I haven’t been to any workshop recently. I wonder, in a flitting second, if she’s got amazingly good eyesight and is reading my name scrawled in little print on the paper luggage tag on my backpack. I glance down to see where the telltale tag is that’s giving away my name, and think about how they tell little kids now not to wear shirts with their name on it, so that some grownup can’t address them by name and pretend to know them.
And then I realize that she must have been working at the ticket counter earlier and checked me in – and saw my ID, with my legal name. And remembered me.
I find it odd that, even after this has happened to me several times, the first few explanations my brain comes up with are pretty far-fetched.
(summer 2008? Some non-CA airport. FL maybe or OH?)
“You were here about a month ago, right?” the woman in the box office at the museum asks me in a friendly voice as I pay my entrance fee.
“Yeah,” I reply, in a half-questioning, half-amused tone. This time I’ve picked up quickly on why she remembers me. But still, I’m surprised. Last time, I bought my tickets online, and I distinctly remember that a different woman took my ticket on the way into the museum. So I didn’t interact with this woman last time.
“You were down at the big coral reef tank, right? I saw you there.” She’s friendly. A nice 20-something white brunette, indistinguishable from any other other cute young presumably-straight girl.
“Yeah,” I say, smiling mildly but chuckling inside. I had been there a month before, with D and her daughter A. It was a weekend. The place had been packed. We’d barely had space to squeeze in to see the big reef tank for a few minutes, peering over the tiny shoulders of wiggly children. So, she had to have noticed me from within a pretty big crowd. I wonder what she thought of me.
“Cool.” A pause, with a smile with no particular meaning. That’s all she had to say on the subject. “Here are your tickets. Enjoy the museum.”
I wish I had a way to dip inside someone’s head and see what they think of me. What their judgements are, yes, but also just what they make of me – how they interpret things, whether they think of me as a ‘woman with a beard’ or a ‘person with tits and a beard’ or a ‘guy with tits’ or what. And what they assume. What explanations pop into their heads before they can think – like the illogical ideas that I’d forgotten to remove a name tag popped into my head. In this case, I also wonder what else she noticed – if she even saw D and A, and what she thought our connection to each other was.
(December 2008. Going to the California Academy of Sciences with Mike from Pomona.)