Remembering Names

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“Vanessa’s having her usual,” the Starbucks’ barista shouted.

I’m not much of a Starbucks patron. For one thing, I don’t drink coffee. But this morning, before heading downtown for the day, I didn’t have time to make breakfast, and I had a Starbucks gift card in my purse.

I envisioned a cinnamon scone with my name on it tilted coyly on display in their glass pastry case. It was drizzled with sweet white icing.

“Vanessa’s having her usual.”

The barista, a tall thin man in his early twenties, wearing a black logo decorated baseball cap, repeated the order. He called down the counter to two other crew members, two women, who were even younger. They were similarly decked out in black slacks and long-sleeved button down shirts, black baseball caps and green cotton aprons.

The girl closest to the coffee machine, with a fresh from the farm complexion and four piercings in one ear lobe, giggled then pulled out the appropriately sized cardboard cup.

“This is the second day in a row that you remembered her name now, isn’t it?” she teased her co-worker.

“Yes,” he replied as she started the process of filling, frothing and flavoring Vanessa’s standing order.

“I have a buffer of about seven hundred names,” he went on. “I am sure the names of most of the people we see all the time are in there. Somewhere.”
I confess being pretty impressed with his recall. When the other girl rang up my order and deducted the day’s purchase from the balance on my gift card, I didn’t even think about the more impressive demonstration of information retention I witnessed.

How did the young female team member remember what Vanessa’s usual was? Did she like her coffee strong or weak? Creamy? Black? Sweet?

Vanessa, a short thirty-something with black and blond streaked, spiked hair, started fumbling through her handbag looking for her wallet. The big, black leather number would barely have qualified as acceptable overhead storage according to any airline’s policy.

She seemed happy. She looked up at the three servers and smiled. She must have been happy that they remembered her name.

Calling someone by their name is an incredibly welcoming gesture, a small way to say, “Yes, you matter.”

I know that when I do appointment-setting or other types of phone work, I always make it a point of repeating the contact’s name. Even when just leaving a message and callback number, I repeat their name.

Before hanging up, I’ll say “John,” or “Lorraine,” or “Bob,” … “I’m looking forward to talking with you.”

Seeing this short scene at the mother of all corporate controlled experience providers was really heartening. And it wasn’t even about me. It wasn’t even my “usual” that everyone seemed to know.

It got me thinking. If I did drink coffee, if I did visit a specific café practically every day, like Vanessa did, I imagined how happy I would be to be remembered.

Hearing someone call you by your name is no small thing.

Re-printed with permission.

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  • Deborah Hawkins

    Deborah Hawkins has been blogging on gratitude and mindfulness for over a decade, posting over 500 essays. In December of 2019, she brought out two books, The Best of No Small Thing — Mindful Meditations, a collection of favorite blogs, and Practice Gratitude: Transform Your Life — Making the Uplifting Experience of Gratitude Intentional, a workbook on her process. Through her books, classes, and coaching, she teaches people how to identify things to be grateful for in everyday experiences. New blogs are posted every week. Visit her website: Follow her on SM.,

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