“Hi, My name is Emily Whalen and I’d like to buy 4 tickets to tonight’s hockey game”
“Hold please,” replied a nondescript male voice.
Friends were visiting from Florida and in an attempt to show them some Yankee wintertime hospitality, I wanted to take them to sit on hard seats in an indoor arena where it would be colder inside than outside in order to watch a sport that they neither understood nor cared about.
When I heard the voice on the other end of the line again, it sounded different: husky and a little bit out of breath. It was as if one of the players had been practicing out on the ice and had rushed off to answer my call when he heard the phone ring.
“Hi Julie, this is Troy and I’ll be your customer service representative today. Julie, I am really glad you called because I have some special offers that I want to tell you about. I wouldn’t call them ‘secret’, but it’s fair to say that they aren’t advertised to the general public.”
I had just an instant to decide how to proceed, because, as previously stated, Julie is not my name. I could correct him and possibly lose access to the special deals he had mentioned or just be cool and maybe get the fourteen dollar tickets for eleven or even ten dollars each.
“OK, Troy. Tell me about these ‘special offers.’” Suddenly my voice was huskier too and my speech had slowed like I was auditioning for a part in Gone with the Wind or trying to do the voices in an American Girl book.
“Julie, let me introduce you to one of my favorite products that we offer: Flex Packs. Do you know what a Flex Pack is, Julie?”
Before I go on, I feel that it is important to explain that I pride myself in my ability to make independent consumer decisions. If I don’t feel like cookies, I will flat out turn down the cutest pigtailed beret-wearing girl scout. Sometimes I even only buy one item in a buy-one-get-one-free situation. So I was confident in my ability to resist the pitches of this hunky sounding hockey player-slash-salesman calling me by the wrong name, even if he was throwing around terms like ‘secret’ and ‘flex pack.’ The charade might be tempting and fun, but I knew that in the end, I would buy just four tickets for the game that would begin in just a few hours.
But suddenly I found myself trying on this new identity. Maybe Emily wouldn’t buy a flex pack but who knew what kind of consumer behavior Julie might practice.
“...Flex Packs are our most flexible and fun ticket packages. With a Silver Level Flex Pack, you get thirteen ticket vouchers that can be redeemed for tickets to any regular season game, including Mullet Night, Pink Ice Night and Bobblehead Giveaway night!”
“Bobblehead Giveaway?” He must have sensed a weakening in my resolve.
“Yes Julie, the first 1,500 fans receive a free bobblehead of our Mascot. And Julie, if you think the Silver Flex Pack sounds good, let me tell you about the Gold Level Flex Pack.”
Troy continued, talking all about premium seating, the popular chuck-a-puck promotion and the t-shirt cannon, saying the name Julie over and over, but I was too busy looking for my credit card which I carried loose in my backpacked, twisted among ipod headphones, rubber bands and granola bar wrappers. I was sure that Julie would carry her card neatly in a thick but organized leather wallet, so I tried not to reveal how flustered I was after finally finding my card inside a dirty gym sock.
“I’ll take the Gold Level Package, Troy.”
I scraped a yogurt raisin off the first four digits of the card with my fingernail and listened as Troy congratulated me, like I had just selected a particularly expensive bottle of wine. “Julie, you have made a great choice and it is going to be a great season,” he gushed. “Now, Julie, if you are paying with a credit card today, I’ll just need your full name and your sixteen-digit card number.”
And that was it the end of my imaginary little narrative. I was no longer Julie who purchased flex-packs on a whim after being sweet talked by Troy. I was still just myself, and I still only wanted four tickets.
“Actually, Troy, my name is Emily, and I changed my mind about the flex pack.”
“What? I’m sorry.”
Sorry about the name or sorry about the flex pack, I wondered. The tone of the conversation had changed and I felt a little bit hollow inside because of it. In a pitiful attempt to simultaneously remain true to myself and to experience life as Julie, I ended up purchasing a silver level flex pack and giving away the unused tickets at the end of the season.
In the end, I will probably never buy hockey tickets again. Parking was terrible and the games weren’t very exciting. But I occasionally look back with fondness on the moment that I was Julie, and I was impulsively purchasing an irresponsibly large number of tickets.