Please don’t let me be misunderstood, by The Animals. (Click for YouTube)
Worse than being misunderstood, is being misidentified. Those of you who know me, know that my name is not John Smith, but it’s almost that common.
I once worked with a young woman named Kauffeldt, a very non-common German name meaning ‘a purchased field’. She came to Kitchener from a town north of Ottawa, the equivalent of a 6-hour drive, because – that’s where the jobs were.
She started dating a guy, then they were ‘going steady’, then after a year, they got engaged. I thought that I should show at least a little bit of interest, and asked his name. She told me that he was Barry, but managed to pronounce it more like Bawry, than berry.
As the wedding approached, I asked what her married name would be, and she told me that it would be Kauffeldt. “You’re not going to keep your maiden name are you??” A hundred years ago, two brothers settled on opposite sides of a lake….and the families lost contact.
Barry was a 4th or 5th cousin, who lived in a different township. They went to different elementary and secondary schools. He also came down here for a job, and they met in Kitchener. Talk about not even needing to change the monograms on the linen – she didn’t have to change her driver’s licence, or any other official paperwork.
My more common name though, has caused misunderstandings, if not actual problems.
I went to my dentist, to have some work done on a lower, right molar. The tech bustled in, and gave me a shot of Novocaine in my upper left jaw. When I asked why, we found that another ‘John Smith’ had moved into the neighborhood. She had his file, and I got his shot. Then, of course, I got my own Novocaine shot, and spent the rest of the day with my face falling off. I’ve since learned to provide address, Social Insurance Number, telephone, and/or birth date, to prevent this sort of thing.
On a street I once lived on, a house was built on the last empty lot, 8 houses past mine. One day I got a letter from a lawyer, threatening to sue ‘John Smith’ for cutting down a tree. John Smith the contractor was from a small town, 25 miles away. Shouldn’t someone know this? When I called the lawyers office, the clerk alibied that, “We thought it was a work-site address.”
About 2:00 AM one Saturday morning, as the wife and I were watching a late movie, the phone rang. “Hey, this is Guido. I’m checking in.” That’s nice Guido. Why are you calling me? “Ain’t you John Smith, my parole officer? I lost my contact information, so I looked you up in the book.” Shortly after that, we put the phone in the wife’s name, and list it with just her initials.
One evening the phone rang, and when I answered it, a very irate man threatened to come over to my house and “punch your f**kin’ lights out.” Why would you want to do that? “Halfway to the next town, my f**kin’ transmission fell out.” And what does that have to do with me? “Well, aren’t you John Smith, of John’s Transmissions?” No sir, and next time, take a business card, or better yet, take your car to Mister Transmission.
Fifty years ago, when I took my Government-operated Academic Upgrading/Business Practices course, I may have been a bit more intelligent and educated than the run-of-the-mill factory/fisheries/ lumber crowd. I was dragooned into being the Acting Office Administrator for two weeks, while the real one (finally) enjoyed a much-earned vacation.
With a strong, independent Mother, it was amusing yet disturbing, that there were still bastions where a 22-year-old kid made executive decisions and directed 3 competent middle-aged female clerks – because men ran offices, and told women what to do.
Later, I found myself supervising and teaching several classes per day of a Basic Business Machines course, for six weeks, while they located and hired a replacement for a teacher who’d found a better job.
Shortly after I graduated, my Adult Education Program was absorbed, and officially renamed Conestoga College Continuing Education. About ten years ago, just before we put the phone in the wife’s name initials, I answered it one day. A man queried, “John Smith?” ….Uh, yeah. “From Adult Education?” What do I respond to that?
It turns out that it was a new student, trying to reach a newly-hired instructor named ‘John Smith.’ Apparently, unofficially, the old Adult Education name was still being used, to encourage mature students.
Call me anything you want, just don’t call me late for dinner – but please be sure, when you do call me, that I’m the Me you really meant to call. 😳
My apologies! I should have posted this under the title A For Alzheimer’s, or F For Forgetful, or wait and publish it under R For Rerun. I knew it sounded familiar. We did it before, and, apparently ‘we’ (I) did it again. This is an almost word-for word repeat of ‘Oh Yeah? Name One!‘ which you can click on below if you want to leave a comment, ridiculing my memory. Sorry about that. New material coming soon. 😳