My name is a problem. Maybe it is for everyone who goes by his or her middle name. I don’t know.
My whole name is Thomas Wayne Mitchell, but from birth, my parents called me Wayne. It was the same with my father, whose name was Thomas Alan Mitchell. He was called Alan when he was growing up.
Today’s technological world just isn’t up to coping with middle names. The latest example of name confusion came last week, when I got an e-mail from Social Security asking for documented proof that I had changed my name. I was bewildered.
About two weeks ago, I decided to go ahead and file for my Social Security retirement benefit. The online application form asked for my full name as it appeared on my Social Security card, so I filled in the blanks – Thomas Wayne Mitchell.
The web site said my application would be processed within five business days. When I checked, it had been held up, waiting for proof that I had changed my name. I called Social Security. A man trying to be helpful looked me up in the system and said their records showed that in 1998 I had requested my name be changed.
“To what?” I asked.
He told me I could find it on my revised Social Security card. I pleaded that the only card I had ever received was the one I got when I started a part-time job when I was 16 years old.
Then he said the records showed that in 1998 I had requested that my name be changed to “T. Wayne Mitchell.” Apparently, when my late wife Janette died that year, the funeral home made out the form and had her Social Security death benefit issued to me in that name. It caused a change in the record.
He asked what my name was on my Medicare card. I dug it out and saw it was made out to “T. W. Mitchell.” So was the statement of estimated benefits mailed to me each year from Social Security.
That’s because the computer system changes the middle name to a middle initial. My first name was listed as “T,” so I had become T. W. Mitchell.
He said he would make a note on my application that I didn’t know I had changed my name. Maybe his supervisor would go ahead and process my application; check back in a couple of days, he said.
“That’s ridiculous; you don’t have a name anymore,” my wife, Jenny, said. “You just have initials.”
Oh well, it’s just the latest example of a life-long problem with my name. The IRS says I am Thomas W. Mitchell. So does my employer. My passport says Thomas Wayne Mitchell. Other records are listed as T. Wayne Mitchell.
My father got so tired of the hassle with his name that he started going by his first name about the time he turned 50. After a while, even my mother started calling him Tom.
“Do what your father did and use your first name. We’ll just start calling you Tom,” Jenny said.
She was kidding. At least, I think so.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached at 662-534-6321 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.