Joe Raedle/Getty Images
That guy in front of you at the coffee shop might not actually be named "Bob."
That guy in front of you at the coffee shop might not actually be named "Bob." Joe Raedle/Getty Images
When Shefali Kulkarni, a reporting fellow at the Village Voice in New York City, is asked for her name while ordering coffee at Starbucks, she tells the barista a little fib. She uses "Sheila," her "coffee name."
"I was in line at Starbucks, and they asked for my name," Kulkarni says. "And spelling 'Shefali' just took forever. And I think at one point, somebody in the line — in the back of the line — was saying, hurry up — like, let's go. And it's when it dawned on me. I'm like, 'You know what? Forget this. I'm just going to use a fake name. I can't take this anymore.' So the next time I ordered coffee, the first thing that came to mind was Sheila."
Kulkarni says the name stuck. Then, on a return trip to Starbucks, she noticed that most of the names written on the drinks were like Tom, Sue and Joe — other "American" names, she says.
"I noticed the people that were waiting for the drinks didn't really — I mean, maybe this is totally racial profiling, but they came across as not Toms or Sues or Joes," she says. "And at one point, this woman picked up a coffee and she said, 'Oh, this is just my coffee name,' and it shook me up. I was like, oh, my God, I'm not the only one."