“I’m sorry?”

The girl is blonde with a lilting voice, Norwegian or something.  I’m too startled to speak. I’ve asked for a Caramel Macchiato and a blueberry muffin and she wants to know my name.

 I pause. I’m a bit funny about names. It’s because I’m a teacher and from another planet – the one where you used to say Miss/Mrs So-and-so until the relationship got to the point where someone said, with a rush of warmth, “Oh, call me Beryl”. And you’d say “Oh thank you…Beryl” and the new name as well as the friendship would roll around with you pleasantly for a while, signifying the beginning of something. But we went abroad for 10 years and when we came back, surnames had been deleted. So I hesitate, just for a second and the man in front turns, points to himself helpfully and says,

“My – name – is – Andrew? Your – name- is…?”

I glare at him and at exactly the same moment I see someone walk past with a plastic cup saying “MARY” on it. I turn to the girl and tell her my name. The trouble is I’m still thinking about the Mrs Thing as well as the First Name Thing so I end up saying “Mrs…Deborah”. And she writes it on the cup. Mrs Deborah!

By this time I’m flushed and hot and my padded coat feels like it’s strangling me so I rip it off while Andrew, who is tall and stripy,  points out the pick-up area – or whatever you call it – and I suddenly realise, with another rush of embarrassment, that he’s not being sarky at all. He thinks I’M Norwegian or something.

So I wait for my coffee studiously avoiding eye contact with Andrew in case he tries to talk to me and I have to pretend to be foreign. And I’m thinking two things: –

 1) Is there anywhere in the world where I could actually be addressed as Mrs Deborah? (West Africa? Borneo?)

2) We grow into our names. At school when I call the register, each name is the name of a doctor or secretary, banker or florist.  I like to imagine them all folded into those little chairs with their I-phones and car-keys where their pencil cases are (and when I’m with my doctor – scary person, scary name – I do the opposite).  Early naming ceremonies supposedly gave children souls. I like that – the power of a Name to unlock the unique.

So when the guy at the machines says, “Caramel macchiato?”   I really look at this person who’s made my coffee and I see that he has beautiful olive skin and smiling eyes and is wearing a badge saying, “My name is Marvin”.  I take my drink and I smile and I say clearly, in my telephone voice just so Andrew knows that I am in fact fluent in English and have been for some time,

“Thank you Marvin.”

Andrew stares. Marvin’s face splits open when he grins. He shouts back in a warm West African accent,

“You’re welcome Mrs Deborah!”                                                                       


10 thoughts on “Name

  1. I’m a teacher in a private school in Cyprus and I’m known as Mrs Sue. It’s more personal but still respectful.


  2. Mrs Deborah …. You have made my rather boring evening into such a happy one ….Hannah and I laughed so much reading this post. It was hilarious …and so ‘you’!
    Keep smiling Deborah – you are a breath of fresh air!!!


  3. Reading this gave me the sort of warm feeling I get from P.G. Wodehouse. And, as a teacher, I can relate to the name issue!


    1. Thanks Anna 🙂 I love P G Wodehouse. Yes, the teacher thing does kind of give you a different identity name-wise I think. Thanks for commenting. Will visit you too (after marking 30 Science books).


    1. Thanks ole buddy 🙂 I can’t imagine being called by my first name in school. In fact I’ve decided I like Mrs Deborah. Might get all my mates to call me that. Thanks for all your comments.


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