At the end of the night, one bar patron is in the restroom, and the other is gathering her things. She leans over conspiratorially to me.
“So ah, what’s his name? I always see him, and he knows mine and I just feel SO BAD.”
This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the restroom user is a bartender as well, and I know for a fact the two have weekly interactions. I almost don’t tell her; a wicked one-thirty a.m. mischief. But I do, because come on.
She starts some sort of word association game to help her remember. I give it a 56% shot of working. But if it doesn’t, there’s always “dude,” “guy,” “you,” or most disingenuously, “friend.”
The coffee shop where I write this– where I’ve written many How’s Your Morales– is not a daily stop for me. But it is a multi-times a week, have conversations with baristas about music, sit and write for a couple hours stop for me. I’ve achieved a generally good rapport by being friendly, but not over familiar, always tipping, and not taking up more space than I need.
But I know the names of two of the baristas, and I’m pretty sure none of them know mine. How can I tell? When dropping off my iced americano (a bit early for that right?) the guy said “here ya go, buddy.”
Folks on either side of the counter have a short list of terms they use for people whose names they don’t know, really should, and it’s far too late to ask. Here are a few of the most popular:
Bud: This one is generally applied to male-presenting individuals, often by the same. It’s innocuous, and doesn’t have quite the same East-Coast faux threatening vibe as “buddy.” (“I got your drink right here, buddy!”)
Buddy: I save this one for people I want to leave, or people that I truly love, or people that I truly love and still want to leave.
Sweetie/Baby: Only female-presenting, or perhaps very performatively flamboyant servers/bartenders/baristas can get away with this. I know people who don’t like it for a variety of socio-political and/or personal space reasons, but I suspect it’s here to stay.
Boss: “Here ya go, boss.” I usually hear this at bro-ier institutions. I’ve also seen a couple people do a quick start and say “uh, don’t call me that.”
My Dude/My Man/My Guy: This really is when someone should know you. Maybe you’ve even hung out in a non-customer capacity. But, at least in that moment, they’re drawing a complete blank and so “HEY! My dude! My man! Let me get you a drink, guy!”
Dearie: I hate this one because of how it sounds. Terrible mouthfeel for this word.
Sexy: This person will either lose their job immediately or never get fired.
In addition, there’s a few that customers who are clearly are embarrassed they don’t know much about me. Which is good; I prefer that. Still, I’m frequently greeted with:
“HOW’S MY FAVORITE BARTENDER?”
I don’t know, because I’m not your favorite bartender. Your favorite bartender you’ve probably gone to a potluck with, or gotten a Christmas card for, or at the very least know what to call them. I’m just a guy who makes a damn good old fashioned for you every few weeks, and that’s just fine, buddy.
Also published on Medium.