All posts by X Teri

A September Saturday in 1991 When A Plane Crashed On Me

Below is the basic accident information.  I spent quite a while figuring this out after being unable to locate the newspaper archives or links.

sdfsdfdfsdNTSB snippet

On a Saturday back in September,1991, I skipped work for the first time while working at Cargill. My supervisor at the time had decided that I couldn’t use any time off, even though miscreants all around me were getting days off without notice. I called in “sick,” as technically I was sick of my supervisor’s nonsense. After taking a long walk, drinking a river of coffee and reading for a few hours, I went to rent some movies. I don’t know what the other movie was but I’ll never forget renting “Predator 2.” My roommate, the owner of the trailer I lived in, had went on a rare short trip with his son out of town. (That day was  a rare confluence of unusual conditions.)

I had started the movie and put on my headphones. In those days, it was high technology to wire a direct connection from the horrible tvs of the time directly to the headphones and add an extra length of wire. “Predator 2” is a very sound effect-laden movie at the beginning. I might as well have been sitting inside a marching band practice. I hadn’t been watching very long when a sound very much like a diesel 18-wheeler thundered even through my headphones. The first thought that went through my mind was that someone had decided to drive a large truck literally through the trailer park. The trailer seemed to jump a little and vibrate. I pulled the headphones off and couldn’t make sense of the sounds I was actually hearing.

I jumped up and ran the length of the trailer, opening the back door which faced West. Looking up, all I could focus on was a grey-silver jacket, supported by a billowing parachute. I looked down and to the right of the small steps off the trailer and saw a human body. It was somewhat mangled and the head had suffered the worst trauma. The window ac unit above him had heat dissipation metalwork and those ridges were full of flesh and other body matter. I honestly can’t remember how long I stood there in shock. When it registered that a plane had crashed and the pilot lay dead at my feet I’m not sure. But it is the first or second most surreal moment of my life.

It turns out that most of the plane was slightly South of my trailer, a few feet away, mostly propped up by a massive growth of shrubs and short trees. (In an unrelated twist, the spot where the plane stopped is the same location where I endured my other horrific surprise in life, years later.)

I don’t know how I would feel if I were a family member of Joseph Frasca reading this, but in some immeasurable way we were connected by the pilot’s death. Knowing now that he was returning home to his family after being honored with being one of the nation’s premier stunt pilots makes it much worse for me. He was flying back from a U.S. National Aerobatic Contest. He was 34 years old and already considered to be one of the premier pilots of his day. When I researched the incident to write this, I was deeply saddened to know that he had been so young. I hadn’t remembered that fact in any way.

Joseph Frasca was also the son of Rudy Frasca, owner of Frasca International, which builds flight simulators for places all over the world. Joseph’s life would have been one full of adventure and opportunity. Many sources refer to the plane that crashed on Arkansas way back in September, 1991 as ‘experimental.’ Most agree that if Joseph would have simply had his chute connected for safety instead of for comfort, his life would not have needlessly ended. But then I wouldn’t have learned just how common it is for planes or pieces of them to fall from the sky.

The plane falling out of the sky had a profound effect upon me. Despite being raised by tough people and having already learned about the frailty of life, I learned anew the stupidity of thinking that any aspect of life could be “safe.” It had been forced upon me to remember that dangers were constantly at my fingertips, around hidden corners, waiting to pounce like an army of gleeful gremlins. It is difficult to explain to someone else who has never experienced something so bizarrely out of tune with normal life. I used to laugh about the coincidences of playing hooky from work for the first time and being home alone – it was difficult to not make connections between total accident and blind providence.

A couple of days after the plane crash I had eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the cafeteria vending machines at work. Coming back from break, it struck me that the color and consistency was very similar to the dead pilot as he laid next to the trailer. Without warning, I projectile vomited in the entryway to one of the huge food coolers. (I felt bad, because I didn’t clean it up.)

Someone associated with the pilot’s insurance sent me to talk to a psychiatrist. Of course, it was more for their peace of mind than mine, even though many who knew me joked “It’s about time” when they heard the news.  But after talking to the shrink for a few minutes, I got up to go to the bathroom. I spewed another geyser of vomit all across her very clean and organized waiting area, along the wall, and even up the wall. It was terrible. The secretary/office person could not have been more surprised. She was seated just a few feet away. Her eyes were incredibly wide. I believe they had to call a professional office cleaner to come deal with my mess. It was a little strange, as I wasn’t one to normally be squeamish or think things like a plane crash would upset me. I had no other symptoms whatsoever, and my mind wasn’t consumed by thoughts of the crash.

(In yet another coincidence, it turns out that the psychiatrist I went to for that single visit was the mother of my next door neighbor not too long after. He had heard of the infamous vomiting episode and laughed when I told him I was the person responsible. I think the volume of my sickness became an anecdotal legend.)

When an insurance adjuster came to visit with me and Ray, the trailer’s owner, he told me that the pilot had not fastened his leg harness or something along that line. He had been returning to Illinois from Texas from a stunt/flying show where he had just qualified to be on the US flight team. It turned out to be common for pilots to do this. A freak mechanical issue affected the plane. It was probably a very quick fall. His body cracked the middle of the trailer when he hit. I’m surmising that he hit the trailer at a very odd angle, turned and then hit the ac unit the rear window with a great deal of force. His terror was undoubtedly real, but also probably very quick and confusing.  I don’t remember him being so young, looking back.

During my research for this post, I was surprised to find group discussions from 1991 in Illinois. Many pilots wondered why he had abandoned the plane, knowing it was headed for a populated trailer park late in the morning on a Saturday. I had remembered him being thrown out of the plane, but perhaps my memory is weak on this point? It is a point to consider what must have went through his mind as he fell to the ground, knowing that his plane was directly above many unaware people.

It turns out that the insurance company paid for the hours of work I missed, the trailer, everything around it, and even offered to pay for ongoing psychological counseling – and also would have paid for up to a year of lost wages without question had I decided the crash had fried me mentally. The adjusters and insurance companies evidently had seen it all at some point and found it to be cheaper to be generous up front. I used to think that I should have taken a year off to read and relax.

Minutes after the plane crashed, people started appearing out of nowhere. A few FBI personnel were among the first to arrive. I don’t know where they had been working, but they had to have been close. In an hour, the scene was crowded with firemen, police, and reporters and dozens of spectators. Even my Aunt Ardith made an appearance at the edge of the NTSB tape. When I called the local news station, it was difficult to convince them that I lived in the trailer in question, mostly because of my crazy name.

For a while after the plane crash, much of our side of the trailer park didn’t have cable and we couldn’t figure out why. It turns out that the plane had penetrated the ground at one point in the exact location where the main trunk line for the cable service was buried, severing the line totally. I won’t write a novel trying to describe how chaotic it was for the rest of the day.

(In another twist, the ex-girlfriend of someone I had worked with knocked on the back door very late in the day. I couldn’t figure out why she was knocking on my door. I’m sure I had a stupid, incredulous look on my face when I saw her standing there, hand raised to knock on the door again. It turns out she was somehow involved with one of the news people taking  pictures. She, of course, verified to everyone that my name really was “X.”)

When my roommate Ray came home to his trailer later, he could not have been more surprised. My reputation for pulling pranks and being crazy might have made it hard for him to initially believe my story, but the look on his face was a strange evolution of disbelief, shock and then bewilderment. It turns out that he had heard of a plane crash in Johnson on the radio and had joked about the possibility of it being in the trailer park.

Reading the pilot’s biography and looking back into the past from 24 years ago, I see what happened from a much different perspective. A great pilot died that day, probably without necessity. Years of expertise were ignored and a strange series of unexpected surprises left him without any luck to fall back on. And it changed me in some way, forever.

I used to have a biography and a picture of Joseph Frasca. His exact appearance eludes me, but the idea of how young he was is really the only important thing to hold close. Sometimes, as I see little dots floating above me, I wonder about Joseph and our crossed path all those years ago. Now that I live closer to an airport, I think of him more often. I’m pleased to know that his family is doing exceedingly well and that Joseph has an aviation scholarship in his honor.

Meanwhile, too, I know that in distinct places all over the world, those dots are falling from the sky with great frequency, disturbing the lives of those below.

05292013 Live-And-Let-Live Is Usually Not Quite True When People Claim It (Update)

Since I read a lot of blogs, status updates and news feeds, I’ve discovered a trend that I haven’t cleverly given a name to. I’ll work on thinking up something undeniable cool to term this trend.

Since I’m committed to avoiding perfectionism (and it shows!), I’ll explain it as best I can, off the cuff.

Many people purport to live a “live and let live” philosophy wherein they don’t criticize other people, judge them, or talk about what they don’t like. They talk about being optimistic, not judging, and giving people the benefit of the doubt. For many of these folks a cursory examination proves their contention of non-criticism to be untrue. Much of their opinion tends to back-handedly criticize what others believe, what they do, and how they live their lives. They use other sources to be the ones criticizing, saying that they themselves aren’t being critical, just that they fervently agree with those doing the criticizing. The people who seem to fly below your radar and get by without being called out are usually people with a better sense of humor or a lot of personality. Their criticism is ofter over-looked or mistaken for something else.

Really good writers can also clearly spell out their disgust at something or someone without being obvious. And while their criticisms aren’t specifically apparent to everyone, if you are paying attention a trend shines through. It becomes quite clear what irritates them and how their opinions fall.

But – if you use someone else as a source and it is highly critical of another person or group, the sting of negativity extends to your hearty agreement, too. There is a strong mathematical theorem that describes this behavior but googling it would exhaust me to no end.

There’s nothing wrong with this tendency – it is how the world often works. But you shouldn’t be disingenuous about not criticizing other people. You shouldn’t try to insist that it isn’t your ‘thing’ to judge or question how other people or groups do things.

To clear the decks, I full well acknowledge that I am a hypocrite and am well aware of my guilt at judging others. There’s no question whatsoever in my mind.

“Pure Drivel” – Steve Martin

“Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” – Steve Martin

“You’re on your way to becoming the next Shakespeare’s brother.”

On writing dialogue: “Simply lower your IQ by 50 and start typing.”

I had lofty ambitions about these 2 quotes but everything I wrote and tried seemed stupid.

I know what you are thinking – that nothing has stopped me from writing stupidity before! Which fits nicely with much of what Steve Martin was writing about in “Pure Drivel.”

I don’t mind writing just drivel, but what a joyous thing to write pure drivel. It might not be glamorous to write average prose, but as dumb and boring as it might be, it is no less wonderful that that feeling that you get when you are eating and burp, creating the illusion of yet more space for even more food to be eaten.

Boston Legal (TV)

I know, it’s not fashionable to talk about a TV show as if it’s art or fascinating.

As you know, though, I don’t care about perpetuating my “fantasy self” and pretending to believe that some TV is not absolutely terrific in every way.

Boston Legal is one of those shows. I was reluctant to give it a try, even though my wife had repeatedly tried to get me to go back and watch it from the beginning. In this Netflix/download culture, it’s so easy and enjoyable to go back and watch every episode of a show. It is something that TV execs never imagined even a decade ago. It’s revolutionized the way we watch television.

Boston Legal is one of those irreverent and funny shows that not only makes me think, but also laugh at the riduculousness of the universe it portrays. And it’s a universe I would enjoy being in.

James Spader as Alan Shore is sublime and preposterous. William Shatner and the rest are great, too, but James Spader is the best debauched liberal person I’ve seen on TV.

Spending so much time getting to know the idiosyncrasies of  the characters, only to have to bury them all intellectually.

(Before I digress, no other show captured the beauty and horror of this intellectual burial better than Six Feet Under. The last episode of that series was too epic to describe…)

02022013 Lucky Husband With Shopping

Most of you aren’t as lucky as I am. Why?

Because my wife doesn’t like shopping. While it might not be as enviable as having 19 cars in the garage, it is a daily gift.

If she needs something specific, we go look for it. But that seemingly undying need to meander from store to store looking for “deals” somehow missed her genetic makeup. This should almost be a Thanksgiving post. That’s how happy her lack of shopping lust makes me.

She doesn’t hoard shoes, nor is she interested in shoeware for appearances. She doesn’t amass 14 pairs of pants, nor a set of clothing for each occasion that she might attend.

While I still hear the tired cliché, especially from comedians, that women shop relentlessly, it isn’t true in my case. It’s not genetically wired into every female. My sister-in-law, however shops constantly. She couches it in “thrift store” mythology and buys an astounding number of small things – death by incremental stuff.  : )

Many women don’t understand that it is not the money spent on shopping. It is just the IDEA of it being important and going from store to store.

01062013 Socks and Underwear – A Metaphor (From early 2013)

In my previous blog incarnation, I wrote a witty essay about the lunacy of folding either underwear or socks. It was lost in the folds of the internet during the changeover.

Last week, another blogger mentioned the futility of folding socks. See how much more dangerously I live? I would prefer to never fold either socks OR underwear. Since I’m not Miley Cyrus, the odds of my underwear being seen in public and not involving me in a horrific car crash are zero. But in what rational world does it really matter if my underwear is wrinkly?

Some of the time-saving tips online are either strange to me, or blindingly obvious. Someone might recommend a particularly quick way to iron and I will wonder to myself “What does the writer recommend for people like me who don’t even own an iron?” I’ve cut out the entire middleman. The person who wrote the article about efficient ironing doesn’t understand how it is possible to live without ironing, even though most of the world seems to do just fine without them.

(On the other hand, I often think one of the best time-saving tips is to simply stop reading or listening to time-saving tips)

A long time ago, someone once looked at me strangely when I had said something about not folding socks, as they wouldn’t match by color. It didn’t occur to the person that ALL my socks might match. I buy a couple of packages of socks and then wear them until I replace them all, simultaneously. I then put the “old” socks in a cabinet and wear then once and then throw them in the trash when I get particularly dirty outside. Having all the same style, color, and type of sock not only guarantees that they will match, but also that they feel the same on both feet. This is quite a luxury you should try for yourself.  As for the person questioning my lack of need to worry about sock color, it also didn’t occur to him that it might be possible to live without even caring if the socks were the same color. Wouldn’t it be a more simple world if you could put any color socks and go out in public?

Try living dangerously for a month. Don’t fold either your socks or your underwear. Call me if this results in famine or tragedy for you.

 

Alcohol Code of Silence

Advisory: some of my blog notes make it sound like certain people are evil or were solely motivated by malicious negligence. No one could be that evil all the time, not even in a movie. The written word doesn’t accurately capture the mood or specifics – it does, however, capture my terrible writing style and at least the basic idea of the meanness I’m describing.

The other day, I heard someone casually mention to another person that they were shocked that their niece admitted that her mom, the speaker’s sister, had driven her home drunk the weekend before. Like so many, I’m sure she had initially claimed to be planning to angrily confront the sister, call the police, etc. As you might guess, this never happens. The alcoholic is let off the hook in order to avoid a confrontation. Alcoholics are the worst people in the world to point out their shortcomings to. YOU will be the offender if you even lovingly try to bring light to the subject.

I know we are in the modern age, the 21st century. However, I think most people are blissfully unaware of just how common drinking and driving is. Certainly, patrol efforts and alcohol education may have made it less likely. Trust me when I say, however, that drinking and driving is as pervasive as Mountain Dew.

I won’t digress into the topic of how profitable the DWI industry is or how much money and jobs are tied up with the subject. 

If we aren’t going to require breath monitors in every vehicle, then if you are pulled over and have an alcohol content above the legal limit, I have another suggestion. Let’s call a second technician to the scene. He or she will then do a breath test AND take a sample of your blood. If you fail the breath test a second time on the scene, you shouldn’t be arrested. No, you should be arrested and taken immediately to a rehabilitation and detention center for 3 months. You will not only be required to do rehab, but you will also be required to work  during your tenure. (the blood test is for confirmation.) There will be no appeal of the rehab. No court appeals, no attorneys, etc. If you choose to get into a motor vehicle after drinking and are caught, you will suffer the same fate as anyone else caught. There will be no preferential treatment, concern about your job, etc. You will have to admit your error and be help publicly accountable for what you have done – no matter who you are. Your name and picture will be published in the papers, on the news, and on the internet. Everyone can and should be able to see it. Only then will the stigma of DWI become great enough to convince people to stop doing it.

We like to get in our metal boxes and drive, content to believe that most drivers don’t want to risk their own lives or their families lives by drinking and driving. Yet everyone has a friend or family member who was killed by drinking and driving, either as the guilty party or the victim. Isn’t this a little statistically ignorant to believe then that drinkers are behaving responsibly?

My dad was driving drunk when he crashed in 1970. It killed another member of my family. He had multiple DWIs, crashes and near misses, several of which included me as an occupant at the time. Statistically, I should have been maimed or killed on several occasions. He failed to learn his lesson. The same is true for my mom and so many other family members, too. 

I’ve always said over and over that everyone deserves a free learning pass for drinking – as long as no one was injured. It takes a tough lesson to get through to us. It’s the way we are wired. But after your one reminder to not do it again, all bets are off and you should be held to the fire for not learning your lesson.

With as much alcohol consumed in the United States, all I’m asking is for you to take note of how many people you know drink and drive. Don’t be confrontational about it, at least for a while.  Just observe. Note how many cars are at clubs, bars, liquor stores. Do the math and then ask yourself not why so many people are killed every year by drinking and driving; rather, ask yourself why there aren’t MORE killed.

Finally, ask yourself why we put up with it. If each of us absolutely refused to let our friends and loved ones drive even after 1 drink, the problem would eventually solve itself. If our family members get angry, tell them to come find us when they grow up. We are all enablers if we aren’t calling the police every single time we witness it.

07072012 The Wisdom of “Fight Club”

(Some from the movie, some from the book…)

Tyler Durden: It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.

Narrator: And then, something happened. I let go. Lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete. I found freedom. Losing all hope was freedom.

Narrator: I flipped through catalogs and wondered: What kind of dining set defines me as a person? 

Tyler Durden: The things you own end up owning you.

Tyler Durden: Right. We are consumers. We’re the bi-products of a lifestyle obsession.

Tyler Durden: Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.

Tyler Durden: Warning: If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it? Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think every thing you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told to want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned- Tyler.

Narrator: This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.

Narrator: On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

Tyler Durden: You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f***ing khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

Narrator: When people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just … 
Marla Singer: … instead of just waiting for their turn to speak? 
Narrator: Yeah. Yeah.

Narrator (novel): You do the little job you’re trained to do. Pull a lever. Push a button. You don’t understand any of it, and then you just die.

Tyler Durden (novel):  Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy shit they don’t really need.

(novel): If you don’t know what you want, you end up with a lot you don’t.

(novel): Today is the sort of day where the sun only comes up to humiliate you.

(novel): Everyone smiles with that invisible gun to their head.

(novel): You’re not getting this back you know. Consider it an asshole tax.

(novel): We just had a near-life experience.

(novel): I am nothing, and not even that.

(novel): The amazing miracle of death, when one second you’re walking and talking, and the next second you’re an object.

05062012 A Relatively Easy Birthday Surprise

If it is the thought that counts, for a birthday, I have a sure-fire way to let someone know that you are thinking about them – and willing to put in a little time to prove it.

Go to any store selling a variety of birthday cards. You can buy expensive one-of-a-kind cards or 2-for-a-dollar. Buy a dozen. Make sure that you get some for someone’s grandson, father, uncle, daughter, cousin, co-worker, etc. The bigger the variety and the more strange the assortment, the more fun you can have.

If you want to make it more interesting, sign each type of card as if you are another person and make up details to go with each fake identity with which you sign the card. Mail 1 or 2 per day starting about 10 days before your person has or her birthday.

As your birthday victim begins to receive the cards, it is likely that it will make them wonder who might be surprising them. As the cards pile up, I guarantee that their amusement will also magnify. By the time their birthday arrives, they will have a nice stack of something to laugh about. It is likely that the person receiving the cards will tell everyone about what you’ve done. You can spend either a few dollars or a lot of dollars to make someone know you are wishing them a great birthday. (Let all the other friends buy your birthday person a lizard feeder or keychain with your name on it.)

It’s good for the economy and the postal service, too.

11102013 What’s In a Name Part 2,345

 “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings (Music Video)

I re-wrote this, as I had several anecdotes spread around my blog posts. None of them were well-written and somehow I’m still not conveying the fun part of my name change. 

Changing my name was one of the best, most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Don’t let the overtone of grouchiness overshadow that fact. It’s like when you get a new car and everyone wants to see it – except that one mean friend or family member who wants to comment how shoddily it was built. 

When I changed my name, I wrote a letter to most of my family, letting them know, giving an explanation. I didn’t have too, of course, but I did. If they got a letter, it meant that I considered them family and close. Not being as dumb as expected, I knew that many people would decide I was crazy, resist, or ignore me. I was a weird person in general. There’s no use attempting to sugarcoat it. Normal wasn’t a word my friends would use to describe me. For most family members, my decision to change my name shouldn’t have been a surprise. I’d mentioned the desire many times during my early life.

My dad named me BobbyDean – one word. He didn’t want it split and he didn’t ask for the “Jr.” to be added to my name, as I was the second son. The hospital clerk made the changes. I was one of 2,347 “Bob / Robert” people in the family. He might as well have been following Johnny Cash’s lead and named me “Sue,” for all the confusion it caused.

Flash forward a few years. My dad died suddenly. Despite his good-natured ribbing about it, dad was okay with me changing my name. It amused him for several reasons. A couple of the family revisionists later foolishly tried to insist that he didn’t like me changing my name. It isn’t true, of course, and each time I hear anyone repeat the idiotic claim I pray for the ability to cause another person’s hair to spontaneously morph into a wombat. Dad laughed about me changing my name and told me at least twice he understood completely. About a month before his death when I visited him, he told me it wasn’t a great idea to give me his name, anyway, because no one used the right name and that there were too many Bobs, Bobbys, and Roberts in the family.

When the family put together the obituary together, they ignored me and my wishes… and those of my dad. They listed me as a “Jr,” with my birth name, both in the obituary and in the funeral arrangements. Instead of my legal name, the one on my driver’s license and birth certificate.

At the funeral, each person opened their handouts and read about my dad, a general description of his life, a list of family, etc. Except in my case, the people compiling the information decided that I wasn’t allowed to use my legal name, the one on my birth certificate, driver’s license and everything else in my life. They decided to ignore my wishes and put my birth name on everything, the name I had categorically rejected. They listed me with my birth name and “Jr.” on it, even though a few years had elapsed and they well knew it wasn’t a passing fad – and my dad’s opinion about it. So, at my own dad’s funeral, I was forced to work to ignore that my own family had given me a stupendous “F – U” middle finger with the obituary information, printed everywhere and in the newspapers.

When I returned home, my friends and co-workers were pissed at my “well-meaning family.” They couldn’t understand why family would be so demeaning to me at such a time in life. I couldn’t explain it to them, either. It was just stupid.

(Sometimes, people will say dumb things like “But you didn’t help pay for the funeral.” To which I reply: “Everyone knew dad wanted to be cremated. Are we really going to go down that road?” Does helping pay or not pay for a funeral give carte blanche to those who are paying to do and so whatever they want to?)

It was weird having people ask my name and me telling them “X” and that I was “Bobby’s son,” knowing that they wouldn’t know what the heck I was talking about if they used the obituary information.

Luckily, I was able to shrug it off at the time as a classic demonstration of stupidity, perhaps even misguided family honor. In the case of one family member, I still consider it malice, based on her words about it- and her ongoing insistence on being sanctimonious about it. I know all of us had just lost a family member and everyone gets a pass to a degree about what they say and do around such sadness and grief. But in my case, it was deliberate, not something brought about by cloudy grief. My dad died several years after I changed my name – it wasn’t the month before or even a year before.

That a couple of my family members decided to pull such a stunt reminded me of how petty and sanctimonious people will be. And to try to not let it poison my opinion of unrelated things in my life.

I’ve written before about some of my trouble with people being spiteful about my name change. The key component is whether a person is trying to acknowledge that he/she knows my name is X. I’m not belligerent about someone who forgets or who switches back and forth between “X” and my birth name. (Despite what some of the revisionists still try to claim.) I will let infrequent or occasional mentions of my old name go by without even a raised eyebrow. I’m not referring to people who knew me when I was very young and who weren’t around me afterwards.

I apologize for sounding grouchy. But imagine if random people in your life decided to call you “DonkeyBreath.” Let’s say it happened because you once had bad breath. But you fixed your teeth and fixed the problem. Fast forward 20+ years to a time where certain people still call you DonkeyBreath. Whether it is by name in an obituary, in church, on the phone, or shouted across the parking lot. Try as you might, as politely as you ask, people still call you DonkeyBreath. They do this even though they know that you still find it offensive. What kind of people are these exactly?

But I will give you a real example which demonstrates how spiteful some people can be. At church near my hometown, a family member was telling a story that involved me. She called me by my name, of course: X. My Aunt Ezra (name changed to protect the guilty) turned toward her and spitefully said “You mean Bobby!” The first family member turned toward and said “No, I mean X !” The key component of this story is that Aunt Ezra not only tried to intimidate someone in public at church, but also was showing deliberate spite about my name, decades after I changed it. Is this what you would describe as good behavior? It’s fine, though, as I practiced some spite of my own. During more than once church discussion, I’ve used my aunt’s name to talk about behavior I don’t like.For words such as “pious, sanctimonious, or hypocritical.”

(No one who knows me, works with me, or interacts with me, etc calls me anything except X.)
My birth name sounds stupid to me and to my wife. I don’t turn when people yell “Bobby” behind me. It’s alien to me. People who are in my daily life just don’t “get” why people would be stupid enough to persist in using the wrong name. To everyone except the offenders, it is immediately obvious that a factor of disrespect and rudeness is motivating people who try to call me by my birth name. When my wife and I get around family members who don’t even try to call me by name, it gets tedious and annoying very quickly. If I am not noticing it, my wife does. I appreciate her trying to ignore it and I also appreciate it when she finally has had enough and starts questioning people. It annoys her, too. We do the right thing – we never go on the attack about it. However, when enough abuse about it has piled up, we start politely pointing out the error with the name. If I choose to start disengaging and walking away, no one is going to tell me that I’m the one being rude. I’ve asked, asked again, made videos, asked again, explained and asked again. Many outsiders hear it or hear of people doing this to me and ask why I tolerate it, especially why I continue to put up with it for so many years.

“It’s not a big deal” or “You take it too personally” are both weak and rude ways to say that my feelings and right to be who I am doesn’t matter. “You shouldn’t be rude like that” is another way of attempting to mitigate other people’s rudeness at choosing to ignore my wishes. “Don’t be an ass about it” is a another idiotic method to insist that I don’t have a right to be irritated in the face of decades of this abuse. And believe me, it is abuse. The choice is yours whether to honor my right to be who I am or to engage in interpersonal warfare by convincing yourself that you are being anything less than an ass by calling me by a name that hasn’t been my name for over 2 decades. Well over 2 decades. Whatever claim my birth name once had over my life is surely long dead. Now that both my mom and dad are gone, it is more comical and depressing than ever that there are doofuses who still deliberately use the wrong name.

Several years ago, I made a video with captioned pictures, set to “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings. I sent it to several people and posted a copyright-free version to Facebook. Online, people laughed and laughed, all giving me praise for my lighthearted effort to get my point across. Many were incredulous that family members were still being so mean and thoughtless so many years after the name change. Several people went so far as to message or tell me directly that if they were in my shoes, they would disown anyone who continued to be mean to me about it, ESPECIALLY after I had put hours of work into the dvd explaining my point of view. They could tell that for many of my family members, I had asked them nicely up to 100 times. That’s beyond what anyone would claim to be reasonable. I had family screaming at me, sending angry emails or causing public rifts about it. I guess I don’t need to keep mentioning that – any family that would go so far as to publish the wrong name in another person’s obituary needs to seriously examine what kind of people they are. On those frequent occasions when my mom would get both angry and drunk, she would lash out about my name.

My wife, her sister and her mom all knew me by my birth name when I was younger. None of them had any real problem treating me like I deserved to be respected in regards to my name. Neither did my childhood best friend, several of my close cousins, all my co-workers, etc. Several of these people knew me by my birth name and had just as much claim toward difficulty toward adapting to my new name as anyone else did. But it didn’t occur to any of them to be an ass and try to be mean about it. That tells me that either some of my family members aren’t good people or just didn’t really care about me as an individual.

You have to try to respect me for who I am, even if your are convinced I’m a fool. If you want to interact with me, I meant. If you don’t like me or my name, then don’t feel obligated to pretend to – as none of us have enough time left in life to waste it on people who don’t really matter to us. Move along and have a good, rich life without me in it. You can’t claim to like or love me and still stupidly insist on calling me by the wrong name.

I only write about it because even though I now have lived over 1/2 my life as X, there are still “loved ones” in my family who still call me “Bobby.” They are getting to be rarer now, and not just due to time and age catching up. Rather, it gets old trying to defend such an indefensible attitude. They know they were wrong but can’t lash out much about it now, given that other family members will call them out on it. That wasn’t always the case.

People get a pass for a while, a year. Even 10 years. But 25? I don’t think so.