There is this trend recently where you need to surrender your name in order to buy lunch or a latte. I miss the good ole days when I was just a number.

Number 17 your order is up.

I guess people were too stupid to read their number off the receipt. Now numbers are being replaced with our names.

Michael your order is up.

After years of lunchtime dining in the Mira Mesa section of San Diego, I’ve learned something. Almost nobody working the register knows how to spell MICHAEL. Never mind that it is the most common name in America. I’ve had the spelling of my name butchered so bad that it appears to be an Eastern European word.

Mikal…Miesha. Who entered this order? What is this name? Michael. Really? Michael your order is up.

My first thesis was that maybe the Hispanic cashiers would prefer to spell the Spanish version of Michael. So I told them my name was Miguel. That worked some of the time. Often a non-Hispanic would call out the order and screw up saying MIQUEL.

Ma-kwel. What’s this name? Really? Miquel your order is up.

Back in college, I had a pal of mine that used the name JESUS when ordering. That’s funny as hell in Ohio in 1990. That doesn’t work in modern-day SoCal. You and two other guys may be heading over to see whose order it is.

Jesus. The Jesus with the fish taco. The Jesus with the fish taco and the Diet Coke.

For a while, I experimented with names of competing businesses. When I went to Baja Fresh, my name was RUBIO. When I was at Starbucks, I was PEET. After a while, I felt like a spy with too many aliases. Then you forget your cash and suddenly you’re using Michael’s Mastercard. Oops.

I still had the issue that they couldn’t spell my name. My last attempt was to tell the cashier my name was whatever their name was. Just read back their name tag. The Baja Fresh on Mira Mesa got a hoot out of this. For over a year my name was JEAN KARLO (pronounced John Carlo). They even hooked me up with free drinks. Sadly this technique failed elsewhere. Most cashiers are female and giving a woman name just causes confusion and slows the line down.

This leads me to finally pick and stick with a single fast food name. My name is Sam. It’s my initials backward. Nobody has misspelled it. Nobody has mispronounced it. And I’ve never bumped elbows with another guy named Sam who thinks it might be his order. That’s something that often happened when I was MICHAEL.

Sam your order is up.