Allow me to introduce myself. I am Tim Jones. I’m unique – just like the other 58,730 people in the world with the exact same name. No, wait. I’ve just been informed that another Jones family in Topeka, Kansas has christened their newborn Tim. Okay, so make that only 58,731 Tim Joneses.
Having such a common name is more of an annoyance than you might think. First, it is utterly uninspiring. Do you recall the Civil War hero Tim Jones? Or the movie star? I thought not. Great men throughout history possessed distinguished, memorable monikers – like Alexander the Great and Stonewall Jackson and Winston Churchill – not that I’d have preferred being a “Winston”, mind you. But you get my point.
It’s just that the typical response to hearing the name Tim Jones is an irresistible impulse to yawn. Let me prove my point with a short story:
Once upon a time there was a poor, old Italian fisherman. Every day he would row his crusty rowboat out to sea, in hopes of catching just enough fish to feed his family. He did this for several years, fighting the high winds and rough waters, until finally, he no longer had the strength to do it anymore. So, he decided to retire, began collecting social security and moved to a condo in Arizona to be close to his grandkids.
Okay, that’s a pretty lame story. But let me ask you a question: If you had to guess, what would you say was the fisherman’s name? Take your time. Aha! I bet you concluded it probably was Tim Jones! Didn’t you? Wrong. The fisherman’s name was Antonio Vespucci. Why in the world would an Italian fisherman be named Tim Jones? Not exactly a Sherlock Holmes, are you? Which reminds me, now that’s a memorable name! But I digress.
My last name is so prosaic that my own wife, a world-class artist, opted to keep her own – refusing even to hyphenate it as Rushworth-Jones. And who could blame her? Which would you rather own, an original Rushworth painting or an original Jones? It’s kind of an oxymoron anyway – an original Jones.
Having a plain name makes me a target for anyone checking ID’s. Tim Jones is so nondescript (the name – not the person) that I am routinely asked for additional identification to prove it is not an alias. That’s why I always carry my passport, birth certificate and FBI fingerprint records any time I check into a hotel – or use the drive-thru at KFC. It just makes life easier.
For years, when I first met someone, they would ask with excitement if I was related to the Welsh crooner from the 1960’s, Tom Jones – simply because my name sounds close to his. It certainly wasn’t because of my singing talent.
Let’s think about this for a second. Tom Jones is from Wales. I live in Seattle. There are over 5.5 million people in the world named Jones (over 500,000 in England and Wales alone). So, these people seriously think we might be related? These people might want to take a refresher course in probability & statistics. (Since I know you’re still wondering, Tom’s my second cousin on my father’s side. We’re very close.)
But that’s not the only source of confusion with a pedestrian appellation like mine. I’ve had hassles throughout my life caused by mistaken identity. When I was 21, I tried to join friends at a local night club, but the bouncer took one look at my ID and refused to let me enter. Turns out, the night before, some other chap bearing my name got wildly drunk, trashed the place and had to be forcibly removed. The fact that I bore no resemblance, not to mention the small matter that I don’t drink, was irrelevant. The bouncer must have concluded that one Tim Jones is as bad as the next. Or perhaps he thought the other Tim Jones underwent facial reconstruction to disguise his appearance in the intervening day. Why take chances, I guess.
During grad school at Ohio State, I received a series of stern warning letters from Student Financial Services threatening to expel me because I had not paid tuition. I had, of course. But some other deadbeat Tim Jones had not.
Then there was that other time, when this idiot also named Tim Jones was pulled over by a cop for driving the wrong way down a one-way street. And they had the nerve to hit ME with his $250 fine. Admittedly the idiot who they pulled over was me, but my point is this: What if it had been someone else with my name?
The capper of my mistaken identity mishaps happened a couple months ago. I was driving home from a visit to friends in Vancouver, Canada. When I reached the border, I was pulled over by U.S. Customs because my name raised a red flag in their database. I was told to drive over to a building where I waited while they ran my name through their records to make sure I was not some sort of terrorist, or worse yet, an NRA opponent.
More than an hour later, the agent cleared me to proceed home. Being naturally curious, I asked him, “What triggered the security screening?” He said there was a bad hombre in Georgia with my name wanted for murder. I asked him what finally cleared me of suspicion. “He’s a black man,” the agent said sternly, making no eye contact.
Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut, but as I started to leave, I turned to the customs officer and said, “That’s a relief, sir. And just for the record, I’ve been a white man almost my entire life.”
It was hard to tell whether he appreciated my sense of humor, as he glared at me without cracking a smile before saying, “You can go.”
Having my commonplace name will never open doors for me. But it has pushed me to become my own unique Tim Jones – which, it turns out, comes with problems of its own. But that’s a blog for another day.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2018