I have what I like to call a Starbucks Alter Ego.
Whenever I step into my neighborhood coffee chain, I become Paul Duquense, freelance journalist and lover of grande, non-fat white mochas.
For the few of you who have accompanied me on a caffeine run and been lucky to witness my slight split in personality, you know why this is. I simply have lost patience with the baristas who continue to misspell or mishear my name whenever they request it to later shout it out across busy the room of morning commuters and textbook-toting college students.
It was about a year ago when I decided to give out my middle name to avoid the hassle of carefully spelling out my four-lettered first name (4 letters!). Ninety percent of the time, no one will hear the "H." It's always "Kiko," "Nico," or "Pico" instead. So, asking myself, "How can anyone f**k up Paul?" I chose another four-lettered identity that would be more widely known among the Hooked-on-Phonics set.
My surname only came to me recently. I thought Duquense (that's "doo-cain") sounded worldly and cosmopolitan. It's a city located in Pennsylvania, the name of a South African solider who worked for the Germans and kicked some British ass in 1916, and a famed ship in the French Navy named after a popular admiral (Thank you, Wikipedia). It's also the perfect soap opera name for a guy whose evil twin is the mastermind behind an international mafia responsible for the disappearance of his true love.
If only I could use Paul Duquense in my everyday life. I've lost track of how many times people have misheard my name after meeting them for the first time at one of the countless mixers and cocktail parties I've attended here in L.A for the past several years:
"My name's Hiko."
"Nice to meet you, Kiko."
"Hiko. With an H."
"How do you spell that?"
"Oh, cool name."
It's not like I suffer from a speech impediment. I was a star on my high school's speech and debate team for God's sake. Diction is what I do best.
Don't get me wrong; I'm proud of my name. I don't hate my parents for blessing me with a name that many Americans believe belongs on the marquee of a sushi buffet. I like to think that it stands out among the Matts, Mikes and Marks here in Los Angeles, a place where a name can mean everything. "How many Hikos do you know?" I ask my friends, and they're answerless because they know there's only one (well, according to the MySpace universe, there's a Hiko residing in Studio City who's a father of two and hasn't changed his profile picture in the three years we've been "friends," but let's move on).
Perhaps I'll develop another personality within the year, just to mess with the baristas at Starbucks once they've gotten to know me and greet me by first name the second I walk through the door. Maybe I'll become Francis Oliver, the son of a Japanese tycoon who recently purchased a condo in Century City and is now an efficiency expert at a Santa Monica law firm. Or, there's Takahashi "Hash" Goldman, a Japanese-Jew from Orange County who's in UCLA grad school studying podiatry.
Still, all of them lovers of grande, non-fat white mochas.