I don’t believe in magical qualities, but, there are names we take and hold to ourselves, and names we let others know us by. Many bloggers hide behind some sort of pseudonym, myself included.
Fake or changed names are very common within the entertainment industry. Frances Gumm became Judy Garland, and Marion Michael Morrison got to be John Wayne. Norma Jeane Mortenson emerged from her chrysalis as Marilyn Monroe. Singers like Cher and Madonna get by with a single name. Gowan did it for a while, but finally became Lawrence (Don’t call me Larry!) Gowan. Eileen Edwards re-invented herself as Shania Twain, and Reginald Kenneth Dwight legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John, and let’s not forget Meat Loaf.
At my son’s plant there is an Andre, and they just hired an Andrej. You can see the difference when you read it, but whenever anyone is referring to one – which one? I had a woman named Laurie Embro at my plant. Her younger brother had a girlfriend named Lori, whom he eventually married. When times were good she applied to the company for a job and got hired. Fortunately they placed her down the street at Plant II. As times got tight, they amalgamated the two plants. Now we had Laurie Embro, and Lori Embro – which one are you paging?
In a plant of 200 workers, three of them were Smiths, no two related. Tony seemed to be the most common male first name. We had six. Of a three-man part-forming team, two of them were Tonys. One time, a Tony on another shift traded places, so, for a week we had a crew of Tony, Tony, and Tony.
When we got new union cards, there were two names that had problems. One was a Newfoundland fella named Junior. Not Robert Jr. or anything like that, just Junior. The union phoned three times to verify that.
The other guy’s first name was Chuck! Again, not Charles anything, CHUCK! He was a huge, foul-mouthed buffalo biker. When he received his union card, it read Church. “Do I look like a f*%#in’ church??!”
Number three Tony, above, was another Newfoundland boy. He named his two sons Robert Russell and Michael Russell and never noticed the duplication until Tony number two pointed it out to him.
I went to school with a girl named Venetia – venn eeh sha – didn’t seem difficult. I ran into her at a plant I worked at. It must have been more difficult than I thought. Now she was addressed as vanessa.
I’ve admitted the Scottish lad is saddled with the English name of Smith, even if it is really German. My half-sister was born a Hepburn, but changed to Smith when Mom remarried. She went out and married another Smith, not related to us. She was throwing a Christmas get-together one year. There were my parents, the other set of parents, the sister and her husband, myself and my wife, my brother and his wife, and my two adult nephews, each with a wife. The phone rang, and a telemarketer asked to speak to “Mrs. Smith.” “Which one do you want?” We got a snotty, “How many do you have?” Seven in the room at this moment.
My first name isn’t John, but for the sake of this post it is. I’ve come to know about a lot of local John Smiths. The wife and I were watching a late movie one Saturday morning around 2 AM, when the phone rang. “Hey. This is Guido. I’m checkin’ in!” Who in Hell is Guido and why is he calling me? Seems there’s parole officer named John Smith. Shouldn’t Guido have his contact number? Did he lose it?
I got an angry call from some guy promising to come over to the house and punch my lights out. Why would you do that? “I got half way to the next town and my transmission fell out.” Again, so? “Well, ain’t you John Smith of John’s Transmissions?” No, and next time take a business card.
When I first came to town, I took an adult retraining course from the community college. A ten month course took me sixteen months to get out of because I worked as acting office manager for three weeks, and taught a class to others, for four months. I got a tentative call one evening. Is this John Smith? Yes. From Adult Education? How do I answer that? It’s been years. Turns out there’s a new teacher named John Smith. We finally decided to put the phone in the wife’s name, listing only her initials.
I went to the nearby dental clinic for work on a right, lower molar. The technician stuck a freezing needle in on the upper left. Another John Smith had moved into the neighborhood, and picked the nearest dentist. I got his anesthetic shot, and then I got my own. I walked around for the rest of the day with my face falling off the front of my head. Since then I’ve learned to double-check birth date and/or address before any procedure.
Once, I lived downtown, five blocks off the main street, where there was a bank on the corner. Since it was handy, I opened accounts there. Two old century-houses directly across the street were torn down, and a ten-storey apartment building went up. John Smith from Kingston, five hundred miles away, came to town to find work and moved into an apartment.
My street number was 250. His was 251. He went to the nearest bank and opened accounts. Our checks and deposit forms both had account numbers in magnetic coded ink at the bottom, but the tellers would scratch them out. If I made a deposit, they put it in his account. If he wrote a check, they took it out of my account. Despite promises to straighten the mess out, they bounced my rent check three months in a row, and couldn’t understand why I went to another bank.
Smith is an easy and common name. I once worked with a girl from three hundred miles away, by the name of Kauffeldt. She met, here, and married, a 42nd cousin from the same area, also named Kauffeldt. Talk about not having to change the initials on the towels. I’ve got it under control now, but, for a time I thought of taking my little buddy’s name, Bftzplyk, and just pronounce it Smith.