So on one of the evenings of my vacation in Hawaii, it was my turn to pick where to eat dinner. My traveling buddy John was gracious enough to let me decide. Ron, our newly married friend was going to join us later after our meal.
I chose Ciao Mein, an eatery that purported to skillfully mix Asian and Italian cuisines. Since I am Asian and John is Italian, it figured to be a safe choice. Ciao Mein is located in the Hyatt hotel right off Waikiki Beach. Upon finding the restaurant, the host asked me a series of questions. First, was if we had a reservation. No. They secondly asked what name they could put down for our table. I answered, without pause, with “Bob Wong”.
If you know me personally, you might already know that I give “Bob” or “Bob Wong” as a name whenever I’m asked for a moniker that’s purely for reference purposes. Such occasions include giving a name for take out food, table requests for restaurants, or orders of a non-food variety. The reason is quite simple. After decades of giving out my real name, I’ve just gotten tired of repeating myself at least once more, then having to spell it out, letter by letter. All of this effort, for what really? So someone can differentiate my order of twenty hot wings from some other dude’s calzone?
It didn’t used to be “Bob Wong”. At first, I had real fun just choosing different names. I remember I was once Rudiger but that didn’t really make it easier for the person on the phone. So over time, I evolved my “reference name” to something that was the easiest thing I could think of. The name had to be short, pronounceable, easy to spell, and easily distinguishable from other names. “Bob” was an obvious choice. Later, I encountered times where I was asked for a last name. I briefly toyed with choosing “Smith” but only in certain lighting conditions do I look like a “Bob Smith”. Using the same criteria, I chose “Wong”.
So here I was at Ciao Mein, having just given the host my name as “Bob Wong”. We were asked to wait as they needed to prepare our table. After a few short minutes, we were taken into the dining area. Once seated, our waiter for the evening came by to greet us.
“Hello Wong party, it will be my pleasure to serve you tonight.”
Dinner was uneventful, yet delicious nonetheless, with John and I choosing a set dinner course. If you’re ever in the area, their Petti Di Pollo is excellent. Anyways, when it came time to pay the bill, it was my turn since John had paid for a meal previously. As I pulled out my Visa card to pay, John reminded me of one thing.
“Your real and full name is on that Visa card.”
Hmmm… in all my years of using “Bob Wong” I had not encountered these exact set of circumstances, namely (no pun intended) using my credit card with a person that knew me as “Bob”. I looked into my wallet and I did have enough cash for the meal. I did, however, want to save my bills
for strippers for convenience store runs over the next few days. I debated over it briefly before I came to the conclusion our waiter probably hadn’t really paid all that much attention to my name and probably wouldn’t pay attention to the name on my Visa card either. So with that, I gave my Visa to our waiter. Soon, he returned to our table with my card and the slip.
“Thank you Mr. Tang, I hope you have a pleasant evening.”
As he left our table, I had a blank expression on my face as this was the first and hopefully only time that “Bob Wong” had backfired on me. John thought it was pretty funny and wondered if this would wind up on the blog.
Since that evening at Ciao Mein, I have continued to use “Bob Wong” but I am now acutely aware of circumstances that limit Bob’s effectiveness.