The Game of the Name

I stop by Kaffe 1668 pretty much every morning, so the folks there started remembering my name. I was at a disadvantage, though, because I didn’t know theirs. When someone says, “Hi, Erik,” it feels weak to respond, “Hi.” So I began asking their names—not more than one per week, because my memory has its limits. Now when I go in, I can greet Betsy, Jessica, and Joey by name, even if Joey recently forgot mine, and who knows, I might add more there. At La Colombe, I know Angie. (“I know you as Tribeca Tribune,” she said, which is a start.) At Whole Foods, I know Harrison. (Fist bump!) At West Broadway Cleaners, I know Jay and Ray (whose first instinct is to call me Adam, because I put our account in my husband’s name). And at Salon M, I know Evan (who gives the best chair massage around).

This strikes me as a way to measure one’s engagement in the community—not just your neighbors or your social set, but the people who work here, especially in service industries. Of course, as more of the city gets overtaken by national and international chains, which seem to have quicker employee turnover—and are automating jobs—this notion will likely become quaint. In the meantime, ask yourself: How many staffers at local businesses do you know by name?



  1. I too like to know the people I interact with regularly. My Dad however, takes the cake on this. He introduces himself (and everyone else at the table) to every single server at every single restaurant. By the time I’ve conducted a simple transaction at the bank, he’s chatting with the manager. The only time I’ve seen this backfire, is when he insisted on introducing himself to every security guard at the UN (during our tour). They looked at him as though he had 3 eyes and feigned deafness. Didn’t stop him from trying though.

  2. I love when I see my customers and they address me by name! I try to return the favor as best I can. The neighborhood camaraderie in Tribeca is the best!

  3. My husband’s Chinese, and we’re a gay couple, and we have the same name, so we tend to get regaled with “Mr. Will & Will!” a lot, often followed by some friendly chatter in Cantonese that I can only make out bits and pieces of. Feels good, each and every time. The ladies at the Lung Fung Bakery giggle when I order buns in Cantonese, then turn to hubby and tell him how much I’ve improved (I can never make out a word of what they’re saying to him, which might not be accidental…)