Safeway and Mr. Chen

You know how Safeway has this loyalty card programme. So when they hand me the receipt, they like to be polite. It’s creepy as hell.

“Thank you Mr. Chen.”

The first name on the card is also Chinese. I’m blonde and blue-eyed. When I was a baby I looked like I’d been bleached.

One of the cashiers was clever – she squinted at me and said, “that’s not your name.”

“Yeah, I changed my name when I got married.”

I continue.

“I took my wife’s ex-boyfriend’s last name.”

It really is my wife’s ex-boyfriend’s last name. It’s not his phone number (or ours).

“It makes her feel better. And you know, I love her and all that stuff, so I thought why not.”

I used to use the phone number of another friend’s card. She registered as Jenna Jones. It still works. For a while I was Mr. Jones; every time I bought groceries I started humming Counting Crows.

Before that I was a big, big star: Fred Flintstone, phone number 1234567. Every now and then a cashier would say, “Is that your REAL phone number?”

I guess the computer figured it out one day and ditched Fred. A friendly cashier suggested 222–2222, and from then on people thought I sold pizza.

You gotta wonder sometimes.

I’m probably better off being Mr. Chen.

It’s all true. Except the bit about changing my name.