Recently I enjoyed reading a very fine blog post called "Identity Theft" by indispensable New Zealand author Peter Wells.
Peter Wells in himself (that is, 'our' Peter Wells) wears many hats. He's not 'just' a writer, he's an anthologist, and a literary mover-and-shaker. Another string to his bow is that, with Stephanie Johnson, he co-founded and co-directs the marvellous Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. And he is of course so much more than that besides, including now, "blogger". But I'm not writing a bio! Go see the Book Council entry on Peter Wells if you want to know more.
The Peter Wells Blog is relatively new, and in an early post he talks of having discovered, in the course of setting up the blog and choosing a name for it, how many others there are out there in the ether, with the name Peter Wells. (Can he really be so unselfconscious as not to have already Googled his own name? It seems so!)
Now I too have my doppelgangers, so I was particularly interested in his response. I hadn't heard anyone else on this subject before.
I first knew there was someone else with my exact same name, exactly 20 years ago, when I was convalescing in a hospital ward after major surgery. Some friends came to see me, and enquired at the ward desk, as to my whereabouts. When they said My Name the nurse on duty said, "She's not here this week, she's away on leave."
But, but, but. It turned out that a nurse in the exact same hospital ward where I was recovering, had my exact same name. But for the exact same term of my stay, she was not there, so I never met her. I had a strange feeling, like one of us was matter and one was anti-matter, and that we had to be kept apart or the universe would implode, or one of us would disappear.
But that wasn't enough. Some time after that, I had a phone call from a local rest home. They enquired after My Name, and then said, they were very sorry to tell me, that my father had died. Fortunately for me, they named the poor deceased man, and it was not my father's name. (My father was fit and well at the time, so his death would have been a terrible shock.)
I don't know if it was the nurse's father who had passed away. Because I went on to learn that there are more people (in my city!) who have my name.
I am occasionally telephoned by someone searching for one of the other ones, so I have learned quite a bit about them. There is one who had a milk run; one who ran a service station; one who went to the Olympics; one who teaches English; one who plays in a brass band; and of course the nurse.
I don't think there are as many as six, I mean seven, of us though. But there are at least three of us, because apparently the nurse did not go to the Olympics. (It's a little like those children's page riddles where you have to match up the names and the attributes, only in this case all the names are the same!)
One of the others with my name attends my same GP and two of them bank at my bank, so I am always asked "which one" I am.
I suppose the other My Names also get phone calls looking for me, too. Some of the enquiries are probably just as interesting as the ones I get. Last year someone from the BBC was trying to contact me by phone, and when they finally found me, they said "Did you know there is someone else in your town with your name?"
Occasionally we get each other's mail. I have spoken to one of them once, on the phone, but I have never actually met any of them. We could form a small club, I guess.
Since I've been the Internet, I've discovered there are a lot more out there, with my name. One of them was even the head of state of a small nation. Many of them are authors and academics. One is a famous Hollywood actor, and she's the Google Queen. There are so many of them on Facebook I even forget which one is me.
I find it strangely comforting to know I'm just one of an army of me. And if there is any bad publicity or a terrible rumour, I can just say, "It wasn't me, it was one of the other ones."
The disappearing lake
17 hours ago