I have a friend, Jenna, who’s always called Jane by a waiter in a cafe she frequents. It’s gone on for so long that Jenna simply feels like she’s missed the correction window – that critical period of time in which you can clarify a misunderstanding and it’s not weird and awkward. So on days when her caffeine requirements demand, she is Jane.
In noisy places or over the phone, people often hear my name as Pam. How can an innocuous vowel and a couple of consonants turn me into a completely different person, which a name really does? I used to think anyone called Pam must live in San Francisco and style their hair like Farrah Fawcett from Charlie’s Angels.
But maybe we all have an incorrectly named other self, living in another time/space continuum.
In my parallel universe, Pam would fulfil my dream of becoming a middle-aged ball girl at the Australian Open. Pam never would have gotten that second nasal operation and become disillusioned with the medical fraternity at large. In fact Pam would have said polyps and enlarged turbinates were an intrinsic part of who she was, sneezing and all.
Pam would never have lipstick on her teeth during an important presentation or wave maniacally at a friend on a tram who had saved her a seat, only to discover it’s a hapless stranger that she’s stuck next to for an agonising 23 minutes in peak-hour silence.
Pam would definitely intervene when the person holding up the Kmart customer service line tells a sob story about how she fell off an escalator last week and is having trouble finding the soda stream refills. Pam would say "For goodness' sakes, Toni, call another customer service employee on your loudspeaker and get this line moving!" She wouldn’t just pretend she was wearing a watch and impatiently look at her wrist whilst sighing loudly.
Pam’s world is still enjoying the great age of the DVD box set, where Martin Sheen is President of the United States. This makes Pam happy, convinced that humanity can still be redeemed. Pam’s talked with her friends about cutting out animal products completely, but they’ve agreed bacon is awesome and fake cheese is gross.
Wait for me, Pam. Maybe when the planets align, our worlds will intersect and I’ll come over to eat brie, watch The West Wing and pretend like everything’s gonna be just fine, because in her world, it usually is. Until then, if someone calls me Pam, I’ll reply "I wish!" and wonder if she’s thinking about stepping into my own world of public embarrassments, unfulfilled dreams and fleeting veganism. Not likely. She’s probably flicking her feathered waves of Fawcett hair with mock exasperation right now.
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