For the last 19 years, I have rewarded my wife for putting up with me by getting her an espresso drink every morning. No matter where we lived, no matter where we were, and no matter what the weather, I’ve managed to come through almost every time. The only times I failed, I was out of town working. Yes, I really, really, love my wife. Recently, we were in the Cascades in Oregon and the nearest espresso was 30 miles away…I went. It’s an obsession to come through for her, even though she doesn’t expect it, especially when we were in the Cascades.
For the past 5 years or so, I’ve been using the same espresso stand located at my favorite grocery store. I’ve gotten to know all the baristas and watched them come and go. I’ve even run into some of the former baristas and we talk like time never passed. It was about 2 years ago that I seem to take an extra step in my relationship with the baristas, one in particular. She’s a sweetheart and never fails to make me smile when I see her. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all sweethearts and treat me very well, but this one began something that lives to this day. She gave me a nickname.
One day, I went in and they were trying to guess my name. I let it be a mystery, so I was given the nickname “White Chocolate,” after the drink I get my wife every morning. It took them nearly three months to figure out my name…it was my debit card that betrayed me…and even some fellow customers knew me as White Chocolate.
At first, I was touched, but as time went on, I began to feel funny about the nickname. It made me think of something dark and dirty, like I was a star of questionable movies or something…
GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Hi, I’m Candy.
ME: Why hello (I say in a deep smooth voice), I’m White Chocolate.
GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Ohhhhh…
See what I mean? It could be taken totally out of context! I’m a good loyal husband! I would never be in one of those movies…unless, of course, the pay…wait! No! Never! Besides, I do not have a deep smooth voice! I’m blessed with an old southside Milwaukee accent! It would ruin the whole movie!
GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Hi, I’m Candy.
ME: Hey dere! (I say in a thick southside accent), I’m White Chocolate. Wanna head down dere ta da lake and have a buncha beer, hey? Wait! Let’s get a barrel-a-beer and get all da guys down here!
GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Ummmm…
It just wouldn’t work. I’m not cut out for that line of work.
As time has passed, I’ve found myself liking the nickname. It creates a lot of conversations in the coffee line. Walking into the store unannounced usually doesn’t happen anymore. The minute I walk through the doors I’m greeted with, “Hi White Chocolate!” Then everybody and anybody in hearing distance has to stop and take a look at who this person is that gets such a greeting. I can live with most of the looks of disappointment (what were they expecting?) but sometimes I get a talker.
TALKER: White Chocolate, eh? (said while leaning in a little too close into my personal space).
ME: Um, yeah.
TALKER: Why do they call you that?
ME: Well, it began…
TALKER: That’s a strange thing to call a person.
ME: Yeah, well it…
TALKER: I had a milk chocolate once.
ME: Oh, well, they call me white choc…
TALKER: Not sure where it was made, but it gave me the trots quite awful, know what I mean?
ME: Oh, I’m…really? You got the trots from chocolate?
TALKER: Happens all the time (he says while grabbing his drink).
ME: So that double pump chocolate mocha you just…
TALKER: Yes, sir. Good chance it’ll run right through me in the next half hour or so.
TALKER: Hey? You want to hang out or something? I’m a good listener!
So, I guess I have mixed feelings about the nickname at times, but when it comes from the baristas, I know it’s meant in a good way. Besides, it’s nice to be greeted so warmly every morning.
BARISTA: Hi White Chocolate!
ME: Good morning!
OLD LADY IN LINE (whispering to her friend): I think I saw him in a movie once…but I think his voice was different…