Publisher's corner: If a name isn't personal, what is it?
There is nothing more personal to someone than their name.
So when we run into someone with the same name we have, I think most of us can't feel but a little violated.
People with really common names are probably used to it, however. For them it is kind of like going to work one day and finding out that one of your co-workers is wearing the same shirt you bought last week for $1.99 at the local Z-Mart.
But for most it is not usual for us to run into someone who is called by the same first and last name.
Personally I even get confused when there is another Rick in the room.
My experience in these matters is somewhat limited. In my life I have only actually met face to face one Richard Shaw. I think it was a little weird for both he and I. At the time he was a guy in his 50s, somewhat chubby, and rapidly going bald. I was 32, somewhat fit and had a head of hair like a jungle vine.
Now I am the guy in his 50s, somewhat chubby and going bald.
Obviously, what goes around comes around.
But every once in awhile I do run into someone, in some way, that has my same name. A few weeks ago I was on the web looking for some information about marine animals and I came across the name of a professor who works at Louisiana State University. He is an expert on gulf marine life.
That's right; his name is Richard Shaw.
So that made me begin to think. How many other Richard Shaws could there be on the web. And I had to wonder what my place would be in that universe. So I punched in my name.
Up popped literally thousands of hits. I remember the first one was about an actor with my name. I never knew there was an actor that had my name. This guy was never a big star, but he did act in literally hundreds of movies and television shows as a character actor. For instance, he was in a 1987 episode of Matlock as a security guard. He also was in some real blockbusters like "I am a Groupie (1970) and "Morrie don't lose your head (1967)." Kind of a "B" movie actor, like I am a "B" story writer.
As I scrolled through the pages the guy I ran into the most was an artist who is a professor at Berkeley. He seemed to be in every other listing with art spread all over the world. Despite the fact the first guy was in hundreds of films, I think this guy is the most famous Richard Shaw.
As I went through I began to realize, despite 25 years of writing articles in magazines and five years in the newspaper business, I was not in the first few pages. Not that I really expected it, but when I didn't see my name on anything until the 35th page of the listings, I began to realize my place in the world. That first listing was for an article I wrote for the Sun Advocate a couple of years ago concerning Nine Mile Canyon.
But nonetheless the universe of my namesakes is large and diverse. My name is attached to everyone from a star soccer player in England, to a guy that was poisoned by his girlfriend in Michigan via a chocolate milkshake. In the first 55 pages of hits, he actually had more listings than I did.
Other persons included with my name were a conservation officer in Orange County and two musicians, one a flute and piano player with the Sacramento Symphony, the other in some kind of strange rock band in London. There must have been a dozen different college professors, ranging from experts in English to law, in places ranging from Oxford to North Dakota State. An obviously intelligent group, unlike their namesake who lives in eastern Utah.
There were also many religious figures with my name, from priests to ministers. That made me feel a little humble, especially since I belong to the Church of the Uintahs. I also found the name of a lot of dead Richard Shaws. Of course there are some people that believe, after reading stuff like this, I belong on that list.
One of those dead guys was a well known felon and burgler who was prosecuted and convicted in the Old Bailey in London on July 11, 1677. Well the listing didn't say he was dead, but I'm sure living on British prison food for more than 300 years would not be good for your longevity.
In the group of names was also a master rolfer (if you don't know what that is, neither did I, and I'm not sure I still do) and a member of the staff on the New Jersey Chenfu Tai Chi Chuan Center.
Heck, I can't even say that much less work there.
Other than the felon who got time from the Old Bailey, my favorite was a guy who is a soil scientist in Manhatten. The listing was an article about how this gentleman takes soil samples all over New York City for the National Conservation Service. He said it's a little hard to get diverse samples because there is so much concrete. A man of my heart, just like a reporter; always looking for dirt in the hardest to find places.
I went up through page 55 and I was only listed on a total of four pages. One of the listings was from an article I wrote 10 years ago about how to keep rats out of a church. Really, it was a pest control article for a magazine called Your Church.
Some of the listings also had photos with them. All different kinds of faces, none of which looked remotely like me. Lucky guys.
So my advice to you is to take the tour yourself. It is eye opening, even really humbling, because you come to realize how many people with your same name have such vast experiences.
Most will not be like you at all, but with that little tie of a name, they are still your brothers and sisters in the human race.