Giving My Real Name

“And what’s your first name?”

I gave the girl at the cash register my best engaged-but-neutral expression, a look I’d perfected in Indonesia and had thought I wouldn’t have to use anymore. My first name?

It did dawn on me that she wanted my name so that she could later call me to come pick up my sandwich. Of course the first name I tried to say was my Indonesian name—because that’s the name I give to strangers in shops. This was what caused the engaged-but-neutral tick: I’d managed not to blurt out a random Javanese name, but my brain was taking a bit longer to churn out my actual name.

Finally, after what felt like quite a long time but was really only a few seconds, I spat out my real name.

The girl smiled and told me where to pick up the sandwich.

I sat down and then started cackling quietly to myself. I’ve been doing this a lot lately—I’ll expect something that’s just slightly off form the way things are actually supposed to go in the US, and this realization will induce giggles and occasional proclamations of, “I love America!”

And I especially love America because no one seems to notice.


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