Not too long ago I renewed my driver's license. It was a fairly painless process that was completed without any particular angst, outrage, or marathon running, unlike the time in 2005 that I ventured into the Department of Motor Vehicles to have my eyesight tested and fork over a substantial fee for the privilege of driving in the great state of Maryland. All because of my name.
Names are funny things, aren't they? I should know having been saddled with Regina Penelope Clover for my first twenty-one years and adding Petersen (spelled with 3 'e's, mind you) for the duration.
I shouldn't say saddled. It's a lovely name. I was named Regina after my mother, but because my mother was adamant that there be no Big Regina and Little Regina in the family, I was called Penny. This was easy enough until I ran into a really nasty third grade teacher who refused to call me Penny. And so from grade three to eight, I was Regina at school and Penny at home. It's a tad confusing for a little kid, but I survived.
And on the plus side there were few competing Pennys or Reginas during my formative years. I just finished an Evan Evans mystery by Rhys Bowen set in a little village in Wales. Since there are apparently few surnames in Wales people are known by their occupations; Evans the Milk, Evans the Meat, and so on.
This was a charming reminder of my youth. When I was sixteen my best friend who was the first of us to drive was (and still is) named Linda. My brother was dating his soon to be wife who was named Lynda. And my younger sister's BFF who had just turned 13 was also named Linda. So something Welsh came out in us and Linda the Driver and Linda the Teenager were christened. For whatever reason, we didn't latch onto Lynda the Girlfriend. We used her middle name instead. So Lynda became Lynda Alice which we still call her today.
When I married Tom, I pretty much dropped the Regina Penelope and used Penelope Clover, instead. Fair warning to anyone who wants to do this - government agencies don't like it. They whine and
complain and make rather tedious demands. At the time I actually toyed with the revolutionary idea of keeping my own name for a minute or so, but the State of Maryland would not let me do this! Remember, this was 1971 and I still wasn't allowed to wear slacks to work! But they did go along with R. Penelope Clover Petersen on my license.
But after 9/11 things got even stranger. In 2005 I once again needed to renew my driver's license. After spending a thoroughly entertaining couple of hours at the DMV, meeting so many friendly people in various lines and relaxing in the easy chairs provided while waiting, I made it to the top of the queue - only to find that, after years of renewing my license unimpeded and no one ever questioning my name, this year, I was told, my DMV name must match my SSN name exactly or I could just start walking. "Just run over to Social Security and they'll fix it for you." So, a marathon race around Annapolis, an entertaining sojourn at the Social Security office, then back to the warm inviting atmosphere of the DMV, one hysterical fit and five hours later, and Bob's your uncle! License renewed. I was go to go for another couple of years if I could just get my breathing back to normal.
My advice for anyone who cares to hear it, sometimes it's just easier to call Uber!