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The Name With No Man


Harry Buschman

Most of us have a secret wish or two, and all of us occasionally get an urge to be someone we're not. Like kids at Halloween hiding behind a mask and a costume, what fun it is to be a ghost or a movie star, or maybe even a spirit from another world.

Perhaps it's because my life has been so routine -- so predictable, I often sit back in my chair, put my feet up and fancy myself as John Wayne or Albert Einstein. But I am chained by circumstances, (including the Holy Rite of Matrimony) to the nine to five life I lead. But let me make it clear, I have no regrets -- I better not have any, Sylvia is a strong willed woman.

It all began with my name -- Arthur Noble. It is no John Hancock believe me. It does not inspire confidence -- no one has ever said, "Oh! are you THE Arthur Noble?" or "Look! There goes Arthur Noble!" Instead, I usually find it misspelled. It is spelled incorrectly on my driver's license and on my Social Security card -- I have complained, but nobody seems to care. If this were to happen to Sylvia, she would raise the roof. We make a good pair as a rule, she provides me with the backbone I lack, and I attempt to keep her out of trouble.

I've just recently signed up with AOL. When I applied for a screen name, they said, "sorry .... Arthur's been used, so has Noble .... how about ANob7782?" It seemed all right to me, but I thought I'd better ask Sylvia, and she said, "No dice! What's with this ANob foolishness? Look at yourself -- do you look like an ANob? .... and that 7782, what's that all about? Sounds like a prison number! Are you going to be a Nebbish all your life?" She went on to explain that a person's screen name should be an extension of himself. It should stand out bold and true. It should say, "This is me! Get out of my face! I am king of all I survey!"

It was a question of displeasing AOL or Sylvia, and there was no doubt in my mind which direction to take. I don't have to live with AOL.

She left the room after shaking her finger at me and saying, "You better assert yourself, ANob." .... and so I did. Within ten minutes I had three new names, none of them my own. As children assume names of sports heroes, (Hey! looka me! I'm Willie Mays!) I chose the names of people I wish I were but never could be. Let me explain.

I have always envied the kings of the road .... you know the unshaven truck drivers with American flag tattoos, so I chose the name, 'Semirig18.' Now, when the spirit moves me, I can adopt the persona of a cigar smoking truck driver with the name 'Semirig18.' Now I can talk like a truck driver, think like one, in fact everything short of smelling like one. When I sign off, I am mild-mannered Arthur Noble again.

Sylvia often works late in her beauty parlor. At such times I take advantage of her absence, and like a cicada emerging from its chrysalis, I have become 'cyberstud,' the mad stallion of the chat room, pawing at the paddock gate.

All men have a feminine streak, and I'd be the first to admit that mine is wider than most. I love to cook and Sylvia has often said I hang out a lovely line of wash. For those times when the left side of my brain is in the ascendant in conjunction with a bad hair day, I adopt the name ToyBoy69, and search for a kindred spirit.

The anonymity of cyberspace permits me to switch from Jekyll to Hyde at the speed of light. There are no physical changes to slow me down and no one looking in on Arthur Noble sitting in his underpants and T-shirt would suspect him of living three lives .... well four if you count the flesh and blood Arthur -- and as you might suspect, not many people do. It was always my intention to leave these characters on the other side of the PC. Like the dream figures in Alice Through the Looking Glass, they were not meant to enter the physical world.

There have been times when my persona overlapped. Occasionally I would find myself in situations when I should behave as 'Semirig18,' only to find I was in my 'ToyBoy69' masquerade. The solution, if you can call it that, was to sign off immediately, and like a quick change artist, reappear in a new disguise. Then I might have been in my 'Cyberstud' stage and been surprised to find I was alone in a chat room filled with giggling 14 year old girls. It was often like a game of charades played by the blind. What would happen to me if I carried this deception into the real world? The possibility of such a situation began to trouble me, for in the real world I am simply meek and mild mannered Arthur Noble, smiling account executive for Empire Insurance. I would have to answer to Sylvia first of all, and that is easier said than done.

Dear Sylvia is the owner and operator of "NuYou," an establishment dedicated to making women more attractive than they actually are -- I am her trusted accountant. I have been slave to other people's problems, hers and those of the Empire Insurance Company, for more years than I care to count. The vicarious thrill of being someone I am not in the anonymous world of cyberspace is like a weekend pass from Fort Dix.

I was doing her books one afternoon. She has a small office, off to the side, next to the ladies dressing room. From there you can hear the secret confessions that ladies can't seem to hold back when they are being fussed with. Adrian, the star hairdresser, was in full falsetto and matching the ladies revelations with those of his own. Sylvia came back to see how I was getting on. "Let me look at you," she said suddenly .... "something strange about you. Are you up to something?"

"Of course not, Sylvia, I'm fine," I replied, "just fine, I always feel a little macho here in NuYou." I went on about my work but I sensed a subtle change in me as well. It felt as though 'Cyberstud' had gotten into me somehow and was looking for a way to get out. I was sure it was Cyberstud. I know him. I could tell it wasn't 'Semirig18' or 'Toyboy69' .... I figured it might have been the presence of ladies in the other room.

I finished Sylvia's books, stuffed the notes in my brief case and put on my coat. As I left the shop, the cyberstud phase wore off and a new feeling came over me. I found myself walking like John Wayne through the parking lot, hands loosely dangling at my hips as though ready to draw. A queer rocking sort of walk which hardly befitted my gray tweed coat and black fedora. I reasoned that 'Semirig18' had taken over and when I sat in the well worn seat of the old Biscayne I retrieved a forgotten dried out cigar I had left in the ash tray last New Year's Eve. I fantasized I was in the cab of an 18-wheeler as I backed into the street. I made a wide right at the corner so as not to hang up on the curb and drew to a stop at the light at the intersection of Lincoln and Jefferson.

When the light turned green, one of those brash Jap horns squealed behind me.

"Smart ass," I said to myself. Then I looked in the side view mirror and I saw this young punk in glasses hitting the horn with the heel of his hand.

Without giving it a second thought, I opened the door with my elbow and climbed out of the car. Clamping the dry cigar in the side of my mouth I walked menacingly toward the little runt in his Corolla behind me.

"You gotta problem witcha' horn kid?" He locked his driver's door and gave me a nervous grin.

"Well, you're holding us up here chief, and I'm kinda in a hurry."

"Whyn'tcha pop yer hood open, I'll see what's wrong witch'ya horn."

As I look back at the situation, I can't imagine why the young man folded as quickly as he did. There I was, a pale, middle aged insurance agent getting out of my old dented Biscayne, dressed in a tweed overcoat and wearing a black fedora. He had nothing to fear from me, and yet somehow, he, as I, had been mesmerized by the persona of 'Semirig18.'

"I'll pull yer friggin horn out by da roots and stuff it up yer ass .... " I had just finished blurting out these frightening words from behind my cigar, when Charlie Spangler, our local patrolman, tapped me on the shoulder.

"You having a problem here, Arthur?"

As though the air had been let out of my balloon, my mood changed instantly. I spat out the dried cigar and heard myself say, "Thweetie! I'm tho glad to thee you."

What had happened to me? In the space of five minutes, I had become three different people -- none of them were me. But I had fooled myself and others into thinking I was someone I wasn't. I had deceived people I knew and cared for. What would Charlie Spangler think? We had bowled together, watched Monday Night Football down at the Hollow Leg Saloon.

"You O.K. Arthur? Ain't been drinkin', have you?" I assured him I had not. "Wanna get back in your car? .... Lookit the line of cars your holdin' up here." We walked back to my car together and I was aware that my walk had changed again. I was putting one foot in front of the other and twirling my car keys in my left hand. I didn't dare utter a word but I could see Charlie looking at me strangely .... "Now you go straight home Arthur. Don't stop fer nothin', y'hear? Just go straight home, get outta yer duds and put'cha feet up."

I did just that, and as I sat on the living room sofa the ToyBoy69 affectation eased up a bit. I began to feel a bit more like nobody again. What a relief! From where I sat I could see the great, gray, glass eye of the computer screen looking out at me from the den. It seemed to beckon to me.

Did I hear music? It seemed to me I could hear the voices of women .... yes of course! That would be my new name .... Odysseus!

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