I sauntered over to Urth Caffe this morning for a couple of large cappuccinos. I gave my order to a short Latina named “H. Celso.” She asked for my name and I said “Jeff.” I didn’t slur or mutter it — I said my name as plainly as a Kansas wheat farmer saying the word “fence.” Naturally she misheard and wrote “Bret” on the order ticket. Which of course was my fault because WHITE GUY.
Five or six minutes later a young Latino waiter was roaming around with two large cappuccinos and calling out “Brad? Two cappuccinos…Brad?” I went up to him and said, “Uhm, I may have ordered these but my name is Jeff, not Brad.” He took my word for it.
H. Celso’s order ticket told me about the “Bret” misunderstanding. My hearing “Brad” rather than “Bret” when the waiter called it was, no kidding around this time, definitely my fault. His pronunciation of “Bret” became “Brad” to my ears, what with the clatter of the cafe and the waiter’s lack of interest in emphasizing a hard “t” sound after the first three letters.
The last time I even heard “Bret” was 26 years ago, during that Pulp Fiction scene when John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson pay a visit to the apartment of Frank Whalley‘s “Bret” (technically spelled “Brett” on the Wikipedia page) and his young pallies. Correct me if I’m wrong but the first Bret in the history of U.S. entertainment industry was James Garner‘s gambler character on the original Maverick series, which ran on ABC between ’57 and ’62.