Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Call Me Ross

I wrote my first name in small print, trapped between two parentheses. My middle name, written in large capital letters, was underlined three times.

"Greg?" she called out, in a friendly tone, with a smile. "The doctor will see you now. Follow me please."

While I don't like being called by my first name, I cringe when I hear the shortened version. Not that there's anything wrong with that name: my step father's name is Greg. It's a good, strong name that suits him perfectly. I've been calling him by his name since before my parents separated, before he and my mom started dating. I continued addressing him by his first name after he and my mother married, even though my sisters called him "Papa."

I have friends with the name Greg. They are good, intelligent, kind people. And, when I address them, I never associate the name with myself, not like when I address another Ross.

I have no problem with the name Greg. It's just not my name.

My mother named me after the Academy Award-winning actor, with whom she was infatuated at the time. She preferred calling me by my other name, but Ross Gregory didn't roll off the tongue quite as well as the other way around. And so, my birth certificate and all other government identification gave me a name that I do not use.

"You can call me Amy*," the young woman said as she led me into the doctor's office."

"You can call me Ross," was my reply.

When I fill out my tax forms, I never write my first name, though I fill in the First Name box. I always write Ross, as though I have only one surname. On any government form, for that matter, I write my middle name as my main name or I simply write a G in the First Name box, with Ross written out where a Middle Initial box appears.

"Only computers call me Gregory," I explain. "Humans can call me Ross."

It's computers, I think, that screw up humans. Once the data is entered, there is no more thinking that is required of the human. When I worked for a bank, if someone wanted to open an account, we required sufficient identification to establish that the person opening the account was who he or she claimed to be. That information was typed into required fields, but there was another field that we filled out:

Known As.

If we were told that that person was known as another name, be it her or his middle name, nickname, or alias, we would enter that name in the appropriate field, and any time that we entered the account number into the computer, that was the name that showed up, so that we could address our client correctly. Even if we had to conduct a search to find the account number, entering the known-as name would lead us to the correct person.

Those were smart computer programs.

I have a new doctor. My last one was a pain in the ass, with a wise-cracking attitude, who was always late for an appointment or was hard to reach when I wanted to make an appointment. He said "bullshit" to me too many times when I explained side effects of medication, or I argued with him that I had really taken my meds.

And so, I left him and have a new doctor.

I visited the medical centre that was close to my house, where the doctors were looking for new patients. I filled out the forms, providing the information on my health card. I wrote my first name in small print, encasing it in parentheses. My middle name, written in large, capital letters, was underlined three times.

Never before have I had an issue with a doctor not taking this information and, moving forward, addressing me by my preferred name. Until this time, during my first visit.

The woman leading me down the corridor to the doctor's examination room looked puzzled as I corrected her on my name. Another nurse, sitting at a computer, overheard the discussion as we approached.

"Did you call him 'Gregory'?" she asked the assistant.

"I thought that was his name."

"Do you see this name in brackets?" the nurse asked, pointing to a line on the computer monitor. "Names in brackets are the preferred names." She looked at me, apologetically, "Sorry, trainee."

There was no harm done. She didn't know me, was learning the medical centre's system. When the doctor came to see me, a couple of minutes later, he addressed me by my correct name. All was well. We would get to know one another, would not have the same struggle that I have when I go to a clinic for blood testing or other work. I fear that I'll never be free of the systems where the computers do the thinking for the humans.

But when solicitors call me at home, I'm glad for that system. I can tell when a legitimate company, one that knows me, is calling, and when a cold call comes in.

"Hello, may I speak to Mr. G. Brown?" the voice will say.

"Sure," I reply, "if you can tell me what the G stands for."

It stands for Go Away

* Amy was not her name.

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