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Archive for the ‘Mistaken identity’ Category

Mistaken identity

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

There are a lot of other Pat Berrys in the world, and occasionally I hear from somebody who’s looking for one of them. But not often. So I thought it was remarkable when, earlier this year, I had three such experiences in the space of a month.

January 24: I received an e-mail from a woman named Lisa. She wrote:

I’m wondering if you are the same Pat Berry that was associated with the Marco Island Film Fest in Marco Island, FL? My friends and I attended the events held for the Guiding Light actors for several years. We have been trying to contact you through the film fest organization but telephones are out of service and I can no longer find your website.

I could have just written back saying, “I’m afraid you have the wrong Pat Berry. I’ve never even been to Marco Island.” But I thought it would be interesting to see if I could track down the film festival. I did some searches and determined that Lisa was correct. The festival’s website was gone, although it was still in Google’s cache. The phone numbers in the cached version were disconnected. So I called the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, and the woman who answered the phone said that this year’s film festival had been canceled. All of this seemed to suggest that the film festival was defunct. I wrote back to Lisa, informing her of what I had found out. (She thanked me for my detective work.)

January 27: I received an e-mail from a lawyer named Tom, who wrote:

Pat: Pursuant to our telephone conversation yesterday, attached are a basic will form and an estate planning questionnaire. For now, you and Julie may choose to delete the answers to the questions about net worth (assets and liabilities). It is not necessary to have that information in order to prepare drafts of wills for the two of you.

This message was obviously misdirected, and at first I was tempted to just delete it. But communications between attorneys and their clients are supposed to be confidential. The note I had received was harmless, but I thought I had better warn Tom before he sent me any messages containing significant private information.

I didn’t trust my ability to explain the situation in an e-mail, so I decided that I had to contact Tom by phone. But I didn’t have his phone number or even his location. However, the e-mail included the name of his law firm as well as Tom’s last name. After a little more detective work with Google, I was able to find the the law firm (it’s in Chicago). I phoned and left a message with the firm’s receptionist. The next day, one of the lawyers called back, and I told him about the mistake. He said he would make sure Tom was notified. I’m still not sure how Tom happened to send the note to my address instead of the right one for the Chicago Pat Berry. But apparently the error was corrected; I haven’t received any more notes about Pat and Julie’s wills.

February 14: Google Talk informed me that someone named Debra had requested permission to send me text messages. I didn’t recognize the name, but I told Google Talk that I would accept the messages. Then she didn’t send me any. I could have just shrugged this off, but my curiosity wouldn’t let me. So a couple of days later, I sent Debra a text message asking if she was someone I knew. She said, “Sorry – I was looking to chat with another Pat Berry.” I asked, “By any chance, is the Pat Berry you were looking for a female film festival organizer in Florida? Or a married man living in Chicago whose wife is named Julie?” Debra replied that her Pat Berry is female and works at an advertising agency in New York City.

Perhaps someone should organize a Pat Berry convention so that we can all meet each other. At most conventions, you wear a badge with your name on it. At this one, I don’t suppose that would be necessary.