This morning I had to call Verizon for help resetting my voicemail box.
Customer service representative: Hello, my name is Ed and I'm here to help you today! Who am I speaking with?
Me: Pamela Goldsteen
Ed: Is it okay if I call you Pam?
Me: No; it's Pamela.
Here is how the conversation could have gone:
Me: WHY DON’T YOU CALL ME SUE, ED? AND I WILL CALL YOU GEORGE. BECAUSE PAM IS NOT MY NAME. I WOULDN’T MIND IF YOU’D ASKED ME IF I PREFER PAM OR PAMELA, BECAUSE THEN I WOULD THINK YOU ACTUALLY GAVE A SHIT, AND WERE REALLY LISTENING TO ME. BUT WHY WOULD YOU CALL ME PAM? WHY DO PEOPLE INSTINCTIVELY LOP OFF HALF MY NAME? ARE YOU TRYING TO CREATE A FALSE SENSE OF INTIMACY SO THAT I FIND THE TRANSACTING OF OUR BUSINESS MORE SATISFYING AND GIVE YOU A POSITIVE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION REVIEW? BECAUSE YOU STAND A BETTER CHANCE OF THAT IF YOU CALL ME PAMELA . SO NO, IT IS NOT OKAY IF YOU CALL ME PAM.
When I was in my twenties I actually said things like that, and not just in my head, but to real people. But the intervening years have civilized me. At twenty I was insufferable: angry, snarky, confrontational, cutting and suffused with a sense of superiority. I don’t know how I ended that decade with any friends, let alone a husband.
My forty-year old self knows that Ed was just trying to do his job, and it would have been unkind, and unnecessary to let him have it. If I met Ed at a party I would probably hate him, but that is not a good reason to spew venom in his direction.
Now, when someone calls me Pam, I do some mental calculus. If I am never going to see you again I just cringe and keep my mouth shut. But if our paths are going to continue crossing, or we may perhaps even become friends, I will correct you. Unless it's gone on entirely too long, and you are in now in the habit of calling me Pam, and at this point I feel awkward, scolding and schoolmarmish for doing something that is entirely reasonable.
And so Ed and I went about the business of resetting my pass code, and parted ways. But for the rest of the conversation, he called me Pam.