Tuesday, July 17, 2007

(or a shout-out to my gails...)

Dear Gail and Gail and Gail, etc:

Like you, my name is Gail Siegel.

I happen to be a writer, and every once in a while I google my name to make sure that a story has been published, or to see who is linking to my work. Inevitably, I run across one or another of you other Gail Siegels out there. I get your emails, inviting me to a golf game, or a luncheon in New York. I politely decline.

This is not a new problem. Decades ago, in college, Gail Anne Siegel’s grandmother called me one night. I knew it was a grandmother, but she didn’t sound like my grandmother. She seemed a kindly old woman, and I trust she eventually found her granddaughter.

On-line, I will sometimes see a reference very close to what I've done in a past job, and wonder, just for an instant, Is that me? Once upon a time, I, Gail Siegel, worked on child product safety issues! Many years ago, I, Gail Siegel, took photos of an art exhibit for the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations in Ann Arbor! I have been to Israel. I had a boyfriend named Lonnie, in 6th grade. My daughter—whose last name is not Siegel—considered attending Evergreen, where Gail Siegel works.

But the woman out there who is married to Lonnie, or taking photographs, or living in Israel or Olympia, or working on a safety newsletter is not me. They are likely not each other, either. They are some other Gail Siegels, who very well may be living lives just a few degrees removed from my own, like a fraternal twin or fraternal quadruplets, separated at birth--or a postulated parallel universe. Or they may be some Gail Siegels with less in common with me than, say, an Ed Schwartz.

I do know a man named Ed Schwartz who convened a club of Ed Schwartzes years ago. These Ed Schwartzes all had a propensity to write letters to the editor. The potential for confusion was enormous. They get together now and then, and I’m sure they can keep each other straight in the flesh, if not in newsprint.

Indeed, at the local newspaper, I often have to deal with two John McCormicks. There is the young, crabby, John McCormick who has cursed me out in the hallway of the County Building. There is the older, jovial John McCormick, who peppers his chit-chat with jokes. I never mix them up in person, or on the phone.

But the internet—it guarantees bewilderment. Thus, it is because of you, you legions of Gail Siegels out there, that I generally remember to use my middle name (Louise) in order to keep from being confused with you. Certainly, you are kind and decent people, who do honorably by my/our name. Yet, you may prefer to be differentiated from me.

Since your names pop up from time to time, I wanted to acknowledge you, and to wish you well.

And to note this: I'm pleased that I haven't yet read any of our obituaries.

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