Thursday, January 10, 2008

Called Out

Appearing at Events Update: I'll be speaking on the workings of the space shuttle at 10 AM on Saturday, January 26, at Our Lady Of Hope Catholic Church in Potomac Falls, VA. Following that, I'll continue the lecture beneath the nose of Enterprise at the Udvar-Hazy wing of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. All of this involves a blowtorch and the phrase "mating the tank," so you pretty much have to be there.

To business. Today I was reflecting upon Teller of Penn and Teller--and don't we all, at some point?--and thinking very deeply about what his visits to the DMV must be like. Teller, whom I otherwise respect, has legally changed his name to... Teller. I mean, when when he (silently) signs himself in at the dentist's office, that's what he goes with. It's on his passport.

As a person who married and moved to a completely new geographical area at the same time, this has created a great deal of furrowing. Since to splay "By Mary Beth Ellis Hunter" across a book jacket would leave little to no room for an actual title, I'm legally changing my last name to Josh the Pilot's, but will continue to write as Mary Beth Ellis. This has resulted in total bureaucratic Armageddon, with junk mail hailing me as Mary Hunt, telemarketers calling for Mr. Joshua Ellis, and three different driver's licenses at once. I would have quite the little side industry in gateway documents if I so desired. (Damn yoooooou, basic ethics and morals!) That fourth horse bearing eight change-of-address forms in triplicate? He rides for me.

To demand to be addressed by one name is mind-boggling; even Jesus Christ had two names, not to mention a middle initial under certain circumstances. We are left, as a culture, to the Rise of "Dude."

In my days working backstage security at Riverbend (I mean this quite literally; I did it for two days), this created a great deal of angst: What if Cher booked a show? Sting? My parents raised me to address new acquaintances as Mr., Ms., or Mrs. unless otherwise invited, and here I'd be bereft of a last name with which to polite the client. To refer to another human being as "Ms. Madonna" called for a sense of the ludicrous I left behind the day I discovered that when Boomer Esiason was with the Bengals, his team nickname was his actual name: Norman.

Fortunately, Cher stayed far, far away from the banks of the Ohio, and I was left to totally and accidentally offend the Gentry half of Montgomery Gentry by not recognizing him and refusing to allow him backstage until I saw a pass. By then, though, I was able to issue a full and proper apology, as opposed to, "Hey, I'm really sorry about that... you!"

but kix brooks was totally cool about it at:


Red Pill Junkie said...

Well, best of lucks on your Shuttle presentations, and with your proceeds to legally change your name, too ;-)

BTW, I once read an article about Teller's house in Vegas, and it is like the dream of a 12-year-old come true. He even has a talking bear (mechanical of course) in his back yard who can play card tricks with the guests! And he's also a book-worm too. He should be doing the talking part of their act.

Mike Marchand said...

One of the very few benefits of having a bizarre name is that I can usually weed out people I really do not want to talk to. So if you have telemarketers asking for Josh Ellis or Mary E. Hunter, then you know you can hang up on them with a clean conscience.

(By the way, tip for everyone along those same lines: always put a name slightly different from the one you're normally called in the phone book. I do it that way so whenever I get mail addressed to "M.J." I know I can ignore it because they just pulled my name and address out of the phone book.)

Oh, and once upon a time, Teller's first name was Rudolph. If my name were "Rudolph," I'd probably want to change it, too, unless I were Rudy Giuliani, who has enough clout to not be made fun of because of it.

Anonymous said...

MB -- I did the opposite -- I didn't legally change my name to my husband's and I use his socially. Of course, he gives me a hard time about not going frome from a 12 letter last name to a 6 letter last name (as do others) and the main reason was the paperwork. I was 32 when we married and known professionally by my maiden name so that was part of it but I told him if he would do the paperwork -- I would change my name. Ten years later -- still no name change. =)

Josh The Pilot said...

I think MB is beginning to think about doing the same thing. She's been avoiding going to the DMV simply because of the mountain of additional paperwork required for the name change on top of simply getting her license changed.
I must admit I've thought of suggesting she keep her maiden name because, like Mike says, it's easy to pick out the telemarketers. The instant I hear "I'd like to speak to Mr. Ellis" I say "He doesn't live here" and hang up. It's true: MB's dad doesn't live here. lol

Adrian said...

Yes, I've noticed that America is very unforgiving when it comes to names that don't fit nicely into the little white boxes with black lines. For instance, in our family, there is a totally bizarre tradition to address the child by the middle name instead of the first name - as in my name is Elaine Adrian, but I have always been called Adrian. (I have NOT chosen to pass this silly tradition on to my own children.)

This creates utter havoc with any type of bureaucracy because they cannot conceive of someone not using a perfectly good first name. I have tried E. Adrian, just Adrian and Adrian E., but it manages to trip me up every single time. I even gave up the fight for a while and just went by Elaine for a few years. In high school, it seemed more glamourous, but it just never sounded like "me" for some reason, so I switched back. I didn't want to end up being married to someone who would call me that for the rest of my life.

I keep thinking I should just bite the bullet and go down to city hall and change it, but it never seems worth the hassle to try and fight that argument with the bureaucrats. I'm not sure you can ever win such one sided contests!

Anonymous said...

Oh E. Adrian you made me laugh with your post. Our daughter was going to be Emma Claire until my husband said "...and if she doesn't like Emma she can go by Claire. Then she will be E. Claire." The name was pretty much ruined for me at that point. So we saddled her with Mary Claire instead - and use both names. I suppose it's better than being named after a pastry.

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