who was jonesin' for a caffeine spark
When he ordered his coffee
he said "Marc with a C"
But the barista made a latte for Cark
That's certainly the legend spreading across the vast Internet superhighway, anyway. My name is Cark and I am Internet famous. Or, rather, my name is Internet famous. One year ago, on an ordinary Tuesday, I ordered my regular fancy coffee drink from a popular fancy coffee chain, like I do on ordinary Tuesdays. I recall this particular Tuesday because I made a special trip to renew my gold status in the rewards program, which was set to expire that week. In the months prior, I'd shifted my loyalties to the independent coffee place in my office building. But I still like to treat myself during birthday week to a free frothy mocha drink, courtesy of the rewards program. So I went in, queued up, placed my order for my grande, half-caf soy cinnamon latte with caramel drizzle, picked it up at the end of the counter, then continued with the rest of my boring little day. Three days later, my sister sent me a link to a photo posted on snapchat that was going viral. It was my cup with my name and the code for my complex concoction with the caption "i said my name was marc with a c."
Suddenly, it was everywhere. My cup was being shared by strangers on Reddit, Tumblr, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, and even the long neglected LiveJournal. Every man called Marc is now being forwarded a photo of my Starbucks cup with the caption "I said my name was Marc with a C." People comment to complain about baristas forever bungling simple names. There are Tumblrs dedicated to sharing cups with mangled monikers. It was through one of these blogs that I happened to see the "I said my name was Stephen with a PH" meme featuring a receipt spelling the name "Phteven." Phteven predates my meme by several months. It seems that some social media expert must have deduced that Cark is catchier, zippier than Phteven, and has better traction for virality several times over.
I am no stranger to being misidentified. Throughout grade school, my teachers called me Clark. My first girlfriend called me Carl for three months. My supervisor's boss insists that my name is Kirk. My own Starbucks cup has come up as Carla on several occasions. This meme, however, is a first.
Cark is an old family name. When the last of the Carks perished, new generations elected to honour the memory by bestowing the former surname onto newer generations. The rest of the men in my family leave the name safely buried in the middle, reducing it to an initial and going about their life Cark-free. My parents were saddled with the chore of paying homage to two great dead men, which is how I came to be known as Evelyn Cark Schmutzfänger. I've pleaded with my mother to let me change one of my names but family tradition was more important than the relentless torment of her precious child. For a few glorious years—thanks to high metabolism and a pallor befitting a guy with a proclivity for staying indoors with television and video games—I was given the slightly cooler nickname Carcass.
Now I'm just plain old Cark. Or, I was until Carkbucks happened and every guy called Marc who's ever had to say "It's Marc with a 'C'" suddenly gets this Cark cup meme from people they haven't heard from in years—school friends, distant relatives, the ex-girlfriends of guys Marc doesn't even hang out with anymore. I know what the Marcs are going through because some of them have tracked down my email and complained, at length, about how they're getting this "joke" sent to them. A couple of them have sent nasty messages telling me to stop mocking them, to stop encouraging the meme. They believe that my name on my social media profile is taking the "joke" too far.
On my Instagram, I posted a photo of my most recent Starbucks cup with my name hastily scribbled on the side and my cherished gold card, with my name clearly printed on the front. Cark Schmutzfanger — member since 2013, long before this stupid meme. People just laugh, tack it onto the original Snapchat image and claim Sbux just gets it wrong everywhere.
Is it fair to blame the employees of an international coffee chain? Sure, baristas are notorious for getting names wrong, but who wouldn't, with the din and buzz and whirring blenders at the height of the morning rush. Coffee cups aren't the only way our names get screwed up. In general everyday conversation, people are constantly misunderstanding each other and using their internal—frequently faulty—auto-fill and auto-correct functions. They only listen to the first part of a name, question, or answer to a basic inquiry, and fill in the rest automatically under the assumption that they know what you mean. Sometimes they believe they misheard you—or you misspoke—and adjust what they heard to what they believe you meant. Hilarity ensues. Embarrassment abounds. Cark becomes Clark and Carl and Kirk and Carol and Cartman and Corky and Cook and Mark. And when you try to correct them, they'll make excuses like, "Well, you look like a Carl" or "I guess I'm thinking of someone else this guy's introduced me to." The coffee industry isn't a threat to personal brands—it's the whole human race.
I changed my name on Facebook for a while, at the height of Carkbucks. When I shared a link to a news story about how there's so much garbage in the ocean, we pretty much definitely have plastic in our diet, an aunt posted a comment underneath that said "Yikes. Hey, why did you change your name? I didn't recognize you and almost unfriended you." This from the woman who, for my last birthday commented "HBD Cerk." What hope can we have for humanity when our Facebook friends can't get the spelling of our names correct while wishing us happy birthdays when the name right there next to the box they just typed hbd into?
Look, it was my cup. It was presumptuous of that Marc guy to lay claim to it. Now Marcs the world over are getting Cark cups and I'm getting harassed because a lot of people have a banal sense of humour. I can't even order fancy coffee drinks with my own name anymore because the baristas are hip to the meme now. When I give my name, the kid scribbling on my cup gives me a knowing smirk, like I'm trying to trick him. I can't go to other cafes with pick-up counters where they shout your name for fear of a Marc encounter. My gold reward membership status is in serious danger. The worst part is that neither I nor the originator of the meme can parlay this Internet fame into monetary gains. Hashtag: first world problem.
Eventually the meme will be forgotten by the masses. Aunts and acquaintances will pass along another viral LOL they picked up from their cousins and church buddies. They won't understand the lingering resentment, irritation, fear, and pain caused by their clueless Carkening. My friends will go back to ridiculing my top knot and my keytar instead of saying, "Hey, did you see that meme? That's hiLARious!" But I'll never again be able to meet a Marc without apologizing for my own name. At least I know my name isn't Phteven.
[The above was a work of fiction. Here's a YouTube video from the "original" Marc (with a 'C') about The Carkening.]