This is Tom

I was tired of exchanges like this at Starbucks:

“Large, unsweetened, black iced tea, please.”

“Can I get your name?”

“Conlan.”

“Conley?”

“Conlan.”

“Conland?”

Conlan.”

“How do you spell that?”

So, a few months ago the question came again. As I began to form the hard ‘C’ in the back of my throat—dreading the inevitable follow-up—I stopped; then I said, “Tom.”

Tom. Simple. Easy. Unambiguous. It was the perfect crime. Those sucker baristas never knew what hit ’em. I was riding high on the euphoria of sticking it to the man.

Since I’ve been back in Fresno, I’ve been going to Starbucks a lot, for lack of an alternative, and using my clever pseudonym every time. The problem is, now that I’m going to the same place all the time, they’re getting familiar with me. Now when I walk in, I’m greeted by name. But it’s not my name.

“Hi, Tom. Want the usual?”

It’s awkward. “Yep.”

But I don’t have the heart to tell them.