When One Name Belongs to Many Faces
Until I graduated from college, I was never aware of the number of Kim Campbells there were in the world. Oh, I'd encountered plenty of people who had the same first name or the same last name as I do, but never both. That all changed when I moved to a major metropolitan area. I have only myself to blame for listing my full name in the Boston phone directory six years ago, instead of just ''K. Campbell,'' as six other people currently do. Besides me, one other Kim is listed in the book, but I know from experience that there are more than two of us. My goal in supplying my full name was to make it easier for people to find me, and many people have found me. But often I am not the ''me'' they are looking for. Take this recent exchange, for example: Caller: Hello. May I speak to Kim Campbell. Me: This is she. Caller (sounding skeptical): Excuse me? Me: This is Kim - you've got her. Caller: (Awkward silence.) Me (sensing some confusion): You know, you may have the wrong one, there are a lot of Kim Campbells in the Boston area. Caller (laughing, but relieved): Well, I didn't think you sounded like my sister-in-law. Not his sister-in-law and, fortunately, not the Kim another official-and somber-sounding caller once wanted. She wouldn't tell me what the call was concerning, because I had the right name but the wrong address. Sometimes the other Kim Campbells get my calls instead. Somewhere in Boston is a Kim C. who was invited, via her answering machine, to a basketball game a few years ago with a friend of mine who had just moved back to the city. Much to his chagrin, neither one of us showed up. I can only guess what other social activities I have missed because of the proximity of my namesakes. Although, sometimes it's no hindrance at all. The day after I attending a Red Sox game with some friends who inadvertently mentioned my full name, I received this message on my answering machine: ''Hi. I don't know if I have the right Kim Campbell, but I was the guy who was sitting in front of you at the game last night. I don't usually randomly call people like this, but....'' He found the right person, all right. I have often wondered, however, what this shy baseball fan's face looked like when he discovered that there was more than one Kim Campbell in the phone book. But having a common name does have its upsides. Rarely is my last name spelled wrong - and I always have the easy ''like the soup'' explanation if there is any doubt. I can go to Scotland and look, on paper at least, as if I fit in (especially if I travel with my brother Ian, whose full name is that country's equivalent of ''John Smith''). I also share the same name - first and last - with the former prime minister of Canada. This means I always have a conversation starter when I meet Canadians - or people who know both of us. The latter category may only include former United States Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, on whose answering machine I once had to leave a message, and who, upon returning my call, pointed out his acquaintance with Kim the leader and, now, Kim the editor. Perhaps someday I'll meet my Canadian counterpart and ask her the question that only another Kim C. might wonder: How are you listed in the phone book?