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My father thought it would be cool to go through life using your middle name. So, he did it. Not to himself. To me. I am D. Kirk Wall.
Friends and family call me Kirk. I write using my initials, D.K. Wall. Only those who don’t know better use my first name, Darryl.
The problem is that the bureaucratic world is not designed for us middle-namers. Every form has the same first line. First Name. Middle Initial. Last Name.
How do you complete that if you go by your middle name?
Follow the rules and they will forever call you Darryl.
Write your call name as the first name and you receive mail addressed to Kirk D. Wall. And they can’t match you up to other records which creates its own problems, especially within government systems or insurance.
Try to write your middle name in the space reserved for a single letter and the whole system explodes. I can physically squeeze it on the form – Kirk is only four letters – but no one ever inputs that. And, even if they do, you still get called Darryl.
Some forms allow you to enter your legal name and then the name you wish to be called. Or allow you to circle the name you wish to be called. No one ever looks at that. Expect to still be called Darryl.
First day of school. Every year. Every class. The teacher would call roll and utter my first name. Before I could even correct her, some idiot in the backrow would always sing-song, “Dar . . . ryl.”
Countless conventions and business receptions throughout my professional career would print my name tag – Darryl. In big bold letters. You would find other people in the convention hall with their call name handwritten on the tags and commiserate. The Middle Name Club. I made a lot of friends that way.
I tried using D. Kirk for a long time, but that created its own challenges. As an adjunct professor, university students insisted on calling me Doctor Wall, despite the lack of degree – not to mention the lack of an r after the D. Being an adjunct professor is already an outsider among tenured professors, but the scorn intensifies if they think you are trying to hijack a title.
Other people would say “The” rather than D, which made my name sound like a royal title. Besides, for anyone who knows a little Scottish, Kirk means church, which means people are running around calling me The Church Wall. Pompous and sacrilegious.
Some computer systems that allow you to enter first initial and middle name can’t process it. Facebook locked my “D. Kirk Wall” profile until I could prove who I was. If you have never been through the Facebook “Prove You Are Real” process, you must provide them a government issued ID. I copied my driver’s license that identifies me as Darryl Kirk Wall. Facebook replied I had to use my “real name.” I pointed to their own policies that stated you are to use the name people know you by. They finally relented.
Over the years, my resistance crumbled. Forms are completed by Darryl. Plane tickets, car rentals, and hotel reservations are made for Darryl. I go through entire conversations with customer service departments or government agents responding to Darryl. My UPS driver calls me Darryl.
I discovered advantages.
Anyone who calls the house and asks to speak to Darryl is instantly told that he isn’t here right now, a quite effective barrier to telemarketers.
Throughout my corporate career, hundreds of cold calling salespeople were frustrated that Darryl was never in the office. And Darryl never returned their phone calls.
I even avoided at least one unpleasant business dinner because of my name. A particularly obnoxious co-worker complained he called my hotel the night before to find me, but the hotel said they didn’t have a “Kirk Wall” registered. I blamed it on the hotel reservation system.
Which brings me to a particularly memorable moment.
A group of co-workers were traveling together. We arrived at the airport and printed our boarding passes, still on the card stock commonly used back then.
I noted with disappointment that my seat assignment read 22C. The airline was one I flew regularly – millions of miles by that point in my career and a member of their highest status of frequent flyer for years. I was rewarded with upgrades on virtually every flight. That day’s seat assignment, however, showed I had not been upgraded. My hope was that my name would be called at the gate.
We approached the security check point. I handed the officer my boarding pass and my opened passport. He glanced at the photograph, looked at me, and then compared the names.
Historically, the airlines had printed first and last names only. I had, for years, been ticketed as Kirk Wall. With tighter security post 9/11, however, I would get pulled for extra screening because my passport read Darryl Kirk Wall. Using your middle name is a risk factor with the TSA.
Wisely wanting to avoid extra scrutiny, I changed my ticketing records to my first name. Around the same time, the airlines began printing boarding passes with first name and middle initial. To save space – or because of lazy programming – they did not include a space. My boarding pass went from “KIRK WALL” to “DARRYLK WALL.” The passport showed “WALL” on one line and then “DARRYL KIRK” on the second. Satisfied that I had complied with governmental naming conventions, the officer determined my threat level was low and waved me through.
We reached the gate and noted it was quite crowded, the sign of a full flight. I resigned myself that I would probably not be upgraded, but wanted to remain near in case they called my name.
With departure time approaching, the gate agent picked up her microphone and paged, “Carl, uh, Nick-Oh-Log-ski.” She struggled with pronunciation, sounding out the name as best she could. She was close enough for the recipient to understand. A gentleman rose from his seat and approached the desk. He was rewarded with a boarding pass.
The agent printed another document, studied the name, and attempted the announcement, “Sah-eed, uh, Sars-var-arn-nee.” She paused, scanned the room, and spoke into the microphone again. “Is there a Sah-eed Sars-var-arn-nee at the gate?” After a slight pause, another gentleman rose and approached the desk. He had not heard or understood the first attempt, but realized on the second call that he was being paged.
Printing a third document, she studied the name before announcing, “Uh, Dare-Oh-Lyk Wall?” No one moved as she paused, studied the name, and attempted it again. “Is there a Derelict Wall at the gate?”
One of my co-workers busted out laughing and pointed at my boarding pass. DARRYLK WALL. Derelict Wall.
Being called a church wall wasn’t so bad anymore.
Under the watchful eyes of waiting passengers who wanted to know who had the unfortunate moniker, I received my new boarding pass for seat 1C and returned to my laughing co-workers.
Let them laugh. I was in first class.