Tambourines and Elephants: What’s in a Name?

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

By DeeDee Corbitt Sauter

I nervously stood in Starbucks, peering out the window and waiting for my coffee. I am always nervous at Starbucks. For me it’s like DeeDeetraveling to Middle Earth without a tour guide. I am in a foreign land and any misstep will identify me as a stranger. As it is, my apparel makes me stand out, like any non-native. I do not have that carefully cultivated look that simultaneously says “I look casual and together even though I am hopped up on caffeine.”

I recently learned that there is a difference between “non-fat” and “skinny” drinks at Starbucks. This was explained to me in great detail, in hushed tones to make it sound vital to my existence. The already confusing menu wavered in the refected sunlight and all the letters morphed into alien hieroglyphics that mocked my coffee ignorance. Just the fact that such a distinction exists created a void in my gray matter where all that information fell, clearly never to be used in a practical setting. Already, I fear my next trip to this Mecca of caffeine will send me right over the edge with anxiety. I will just have to order the exact same thing I have ordered, in the same way, for the past six years. No need to start tranquilizers while trying to order coffee.

The only reason I have actually ever gone to Starbucks was to meet my cool friends. These are the people I keep near and dear so they can guide me through the perils of adulthood. Not only do they help me with gourmet drinks but they also assist me with fashion accessories, the color of shoes I should buy and even tell me how to match my clothes. I have no sense of modern, up-to-date anything, and these people are as necessary to me as a red-tipped cane is to the visually impaired.

I shifted from foot to foot, searching for my friends through the window and mumbling to my husband on the phone. I don’t like listening to other people’s conversation while in public so I desperately try to keep my volume low. Naturally, the most respectful and easiest choice would be to not talk on the phone at all. But remember, I was in a palace wearing my peasant clothes and I needed the reassurance. I hung up the phone and wondered what was taking the barista (“barista”… I have no idea how or when I learned that word) so long to make my drink. An attractive, well-dressed woman walked by and referred to a topic she overheard from my phone call. OH GEEZ! I was too loud. Wait… She was making small talk and chatter. She was clearly at home in this place. “Do I know you?” she asked. This question is near the top of my list of anxiety-producing phrases—right next to, “Welcome to Starbucks. What can I get you?”

How would I know her? She seemed familiar. Oh, I think I do know her. Yes! What was her name?? Nuts, I just saw her at a party last month. Name… Name… Name…. She ended the staring contest by asking a few questions to pinpoint our potential connection and finally just telling me her name. Amazing how quickly telling someone who you are can end that guessing game.

We laughed at the fact that both of us lack the ability to recognize people we have met a dozen times; even long-time friends are not immune to my recognition problems. We shared stories about previous missteps and suddenly the coffee shop seemed more intimidating. Now I was worried about potentially insulting other people who expect me to know them.

Just a couple of months ago I was at dinner  with two of my friends. Another friend approached the table, joyously shouted my name, leaned in for a hug and asked me several personal questions. Obviously, she knew me very well and as I studied her, I recognized her too. I knew where our lives intersected and what boards we sat on together. I knew what projects we had shared and what meetings we had attended. The faces of her children even floated in my head but I COULD NOT REMEMBER HER NAME! How can that happen? While flushing a crimson hue, I chatted with her before the appetizers arrived. I never introduced my two sets of friends to each other. Is it because I was rude? Probably. Mostly though, I just can’t remember anyone’s name.

We said our goodbyes in Starbucks and “we’ll talk soon” and “ha-ha, we’ll recognize each other” and I continued to wait for my drink while she went to order. In a matter of those 10 minutes. And that 10 minutes can seem like two hours.

DeeDee Corbitt Sauter is a resident of Prince William County. Her column, Tambourines and Elephants, appears monthly in Prince William Living.


Leave A Reply