February 4, 2006

Sticks and Stones...

Today was the day to fight for my right to use my name. I had to get my driver's license renewed before my birthday on Monday. When we moved a few years ago the change of address had my last name mashed up (yes, I know they were early Web 2.0 adopters mashing up everything in sight, funny) my last name by taking out the space. My last name of "Vander Wal" became Vanderwal, which is not my last name. I am already dealing with on mash-up from the late 1800s and early 1900s with my family name getting converted from "van der Wal" to its current "Vander Wal". This I can deal with, but I don't mind at all when I travel to the Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe when my family name gets the extra space and loses a capital letter.

Today I have a few years of having to prove who I am in the United States, because of this mash-up. I continually get the "you are not in our system" because of the space or lack of space. The current nationalized computer systems have been built to not accept the space in last names. It seems somebody named Smith was hired or a bunch of Smiths to build the system.

I was continually told today that I could no longer have the space in my last name in the Maryland driver's license system. I kept repeating it was my last name and with out the space was not my last name and made proving my identity rather difficult (at best) in certain situations. I was asked if I was always a citizen of the United States of America. I was asked if I was born in this country. I was even told I had a slightly foreign accent (this is normal, but mostly in taxis to and from an airport).

It took pulling out my U.S. passport (the only one I have, but today wishing I could have another just for a tiny slice of sanity) and Social Security card to prove my last name is "Vander Wal" and does have a space. The person behind the desk finally asked the manager what to do. It seems there is an over ride in the system to allow for spaces in the system and as long as the system keeps my identity number the same (not the same as my Social Security number) all is fine. So I get to keep my name.

You ask about my screen name? Yes, I use "vanderwal" as an inside joke and self-deprecating as that is as badly as one could do with my family name. I have been finding this has its problems when friends try to remember where the space goes, or even if there is a space.

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