Dear Dr. Boli: Last night I was in a certain chain restaurant where you place your order for blandly mediocre food at the counter, and the teenage clerk asked, “Can I have a first name for the order?” All sorts of possible responses flitted through my head (such as “I don’t know—can you?” and “No”), but I ended up just giving her my first name. I understand that they ask for first names because last names are often difficult to pronounce (mine is Brown). Still, I don’t really like this whole culture of nobody having last names anymore, and I don’t really like some fourteen-year-old addressing me by my first name. What should I have done? —Sincerely, Mrs. Brown.
Dear Madam: Dr. Boli also objects to being addressed by his first name by strangers who are less than a tenth of his age. But you will notice that the establishment you visited—and this is commonly the case—did not ask you for your first name. The exact words you quoted were “Can I have a first name for the order?” And since it is your order, you may in good conscience name it anything you like. The next time a clerk asks you for a first name for the order, have an interesting name ready, such as “Ashshurbanipal” or “Mioquacoonacaw.” Speak it clearly and distinctly, ending with the sort of icy smile that says, “I dare you to make fun of my name.” If you can persuade enough of your neighbors to do the same, the management may reconsider its policy of asking for first names for orders.