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Thursday, July 14, 2005

What do you mean your real name? 

Along time ago, in a galaxy far, far, wait, no, back in the '80s at UCSB, I was geeky engineering student. Do you want to know how geeky I was? <chirp, chirp> Well I'll tell you anyway. I was an Electrical and Computer Engineering major who decided that I just needed more than that major offered me. So I petitioned to become a double-major and added Computer Science.

<Digression> When I went to the Freshman orientation weekend the summer before school started, the Dean of the College of Engineering addressed all the incoming engineering students with following words: "Look to your right. Look to your left. One of you three will not graduate with an engineering degree." Freshman year I lived in the privately owned, off-campus dorm Francisco Torres where fully one half of the 60 people on my floor were some kind of engineering major. The Dean was an optimist. At least half of those hopeful engineers had changed their majors before the end of the year.

But what did you do if you were an engineering student who didn't want to be an engineer? If you were in the classic engineering disciplines (Electrical, Mechanical, Chemical, or Nuclear) you might decide to change your major to CompSci. Or if you really didn't want anything to do with the College of Engineering you switched to Business Economics. Yes there were exceptions, but that's the way it usually went. There were also those who paused in CompSci for a while before continuing on to BusiEcon.</Digression>

I added the CompSci major about the time the sophomore weeder classes were getting other engineers to switch to CompSci. So there were a batch of us Sophomores taking the freshman CompSci classes.

One day I was in the computer lab (this was in the days before you got computers as prizes in cereal boxes) doing my homework assignment. So there I am, a mild mannered geek computing prime numbers or making binary trees or writing a program to solve mazes or something. When this stranger says, "Hey Hank." I ignore him because my name is not Hank. The stranger points at me and says, "Hey Hank, I'm talking to you!" I look at him and in my best what-do-you-want voice say, "My name is not Hank." Stranger says, "It is now. What are we supposed to do on the homework assignment?" I resign myself to dealing with the insane and explain the assignment him.

Later, I found out what happened immediately before I was accosted.

Karl -Do you guys know what we're supposed to do on the homework assignment?
Bob, Larry, Cliff - Nope.
Karl - That guy over there is typing like mad, I'll bet he knows what to do.
Bob - We should ask him what to do.
Karl - Does anybody know his name?
Larry, Bob, Cliff - Nope.
Karl -He looks like a Hank.
Larry - I'll be right back.

I ended up hanging out with those guys until we graduated and beyond. Much drinking, intramural sports, ski trips, etc.

So there it is, I am Hank. It gets to the point where all my CompSci-based friends call me Hank. Through them I meet other people who I'm introduced as Hank. These new friends introduce me to people as Hank also. It gets to the point where I have a whole group of friends who don't know anyone who knows my real name.

Once I reached that point, every now and then I'd have a conversation like this:

Hank - ...my real name...
Friend X - What do you mean your real name?
Hank - My mom did not name me Henry.
Friend X -Well what is your real name?
Hank - <real name>
Friend X - I don't believe you.
Hank - <exhibits Driver's license>
Friend X -Well shit. Why didn't you tell me?
Hank - What was I supposed to do say, "Hi, my real name is <real name>?
Friend X - Yes! I can't believe you've lied to me all this time.

I don't go by Hank much out in the world anymore, but it is a great name at restaurants. You can really bellow "Hank! Party of 4! Hank!"

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