Sunday, August 31, 2008

Musicmatch Customer Service

A Rant: Part II

For me, the most annoying aspect of the MMJB growth was what seemed to me to be complete disregard for the customer in making changes to the software. I'm sure it was all well intentioned, but it is clear that nobody who was involved in the design and decision making was more than a casual user of the jukebox. For a while the changes were harmless enough, and although I was not particularly interested in them the upgrades were free and I thought I should keep up with them. And then, and then . . . .

One of the capabilities of the mp3 format and the MMJB is that you can add "notes" to a song, not musical notes but informational notes, and they become part of the mp3 file itself. And you can set MMJB to display these notes when the songs are playing. For example, the notes that I added to the song "The Jolly Green Giant" by The Kingsmen originally looked like this:

(Text version 1)

Cultural differences surfaced within the company that
marketed Green Giant frozen vegetables: the west coast
headquarters made giant posters for the group to use at
its gigs, and the east coast headquarters sued them.

I downloaded an "upgrade" only to learn that MMJB had reduced the width of the MMJB area which contained text notes. Now my notes looked like this:

(Text version 2)

Cultural differences surfaced within the
 company that
marketed Green Giant frozen vegetables:
  the west coast
headquarters made giant posters for the
 group to use at
its gigs, and the east coast headquarters
 sued them.

Ugly, no?

I emailed customer service with my complaint. At that time I had about 500 songs on my jukebox, and I said so, pointing out what a PITA it was going to be to edit them all to clean them up. I was asked to send them a screenshot of an example of the problem, and did so.

While I waited for a response, I began cleaning up the notes. Within the reduced space, a cleaned up version looked like this:

(Text version 3)

Cultural differences surfaced within the
company that marketed Green Giant frozen
vegetables: the west coast headquarters
made giant posters for the group to use at
its gigs, and the east coast headquarters
sued them.

Ahhh, much better.

I got about halfway through my 500 songs and received a response to my email. MMJB regretted causing the problem, but the good news was that the next upgrade would re-expand the text notes area.

Cool. I took my backup CDs (you didn't think I was keeping all this work on a PC with no backup, did you?) and restored the songs I had "fixed." Soon the new "upgrade" came out. I installed it and learned that sure enough, they had expanded the text notes area, but not quite enough to return to the original size. Now my notes looked like this:

(Text version 4)

Cultural differences surfaced within the company
marketed Green Giant frozen vegetables: the west
headquarters made giant posters for the group to
 use at
its gigs, and the east coast headquarters sued

What the Hell were they thinking?

I wrote, complaining about everything from their lack of forethought to the temperature, and again received an apology, this time accompanied by a promise that the text area would never change size again. It was stabilized. (It wasn't.)

Well, I am made of stern stuff, and I made two resolutions:

1. I would clean up the whole song collection, and
2. I would never upgrade MMJB again.

I kept resolution 1, a task that took days to complete. I continued to add songs, secure in the knowledge that they could never ambush me again. Ah, but the best laid plans . . . .

I suppose I should have foreseen this, but even if I had there was nothing I could have done about it. At about the time I reached 1,700 songs, I had to replace a dying and outmoded PC with a new one. I backed everything up and bit the bullet.

After getting the new PC up and running, I learned that my backup of the MMJB software install was useless. I couldn't just copy it to my PC and install the jukebox software. I visited the MMJB site, entered my key, and got my free replacement jukebox. I took my music backup CDs and put them on my hard drive, then imported them into the jukebox. Yup. You know what's coming, right?

They had changed the size of the text window yet again. Now the 500 I had cleaned up and the 1,200 more that I had added were all screwed up. Thanks, guys.

I've thought and thought about this, but I can't find a way around this problem. There will always be times when I have to put the jukebox on a new PC and I will always be vulnerable to the MMJB insensitivity to the user. I speculate that the only thing I could do would be to go back to plan number one, which is to learn enough so that I can write my own jukebox. But man, that's gonna be a lot of work.

It will delight you, I am sure, to learn that I have all but nineteen of the songs that made up my original objective. I also have several hundred songs on the jukebox that are outside the original parameters, just because I like them. Sooo . . . I have 2,707 songs on the JB at the moment. I am not about to go through them one by one, cleaning up the text, just so MMJB can tunnel me again.

OK, wait. The above was written long before this posting. This is an update. MMJB has been acquired by Yahoo. Whether this is good or bad for the users cannot be predicted, or at least it cannot be predicted by me. We all know what Yahoo's prediction would be. But I would dip my arm in boiling oil before betting that the text area will ever be stabilized permanently.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MusicMatch Customer Service

A Rant: Part I

Sometime in the 1980s I decided that when the technology was available I would take up (as a hobby) the task of acquiring every song that hit the top twenty during the years 1955 to 1969. This was the music of my youth (roughly, anyway, as I was 14 to 28 years old during that period). I would get all the music and somehow - depending on what the technology looked like - string it all together so that any of it could be found by artist or by song title and then played.

Well, the mp3 format came along and I learned about it in 1998. My first step was to list what I needed, and for this I used the then current issue of The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn. Over the years I have worn out several copies and acquired new ones. I believe the book is updated annually to include all top 40 songs from 1955 to the year before the edition in question. It is a marvelous source and I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.

The list creation resulted in something over 2,400 songs which I had to acquire either already in the mp3 format or on CD, from which I could convert them to mp3. At that time, vinyl and cassette were not good sources because the PC line in capability usually resulted in line feed hissing. Or at least the capability that *eye* had did.

So, list creation accomplished, I pondered the problem of organizing them in such a fashion that I could access them as described above, that is by artist or by song title. I speculated that I would have to learn enough about the PC to write my own software, and was ecstatic when I discovered a software product called "MusicMatch Jukebox." It was only $19.99 or $19.95 or something like that, and I would be able to access them by those two characteristics, and by slightly misusing the software's capabilites I could access them by the years they reached their peak positions, the highest chart positions they reached, and other characteristics. I'll take one, please.

MMJB was still a small company and its customer service was the best I have ever experienced, on or off the internet, even though it was all by email. I had need of it several times and never waited more than a few hours for a response. The responses were prompt, coherent, and helpful. On a couple of occasions a woman in Tennessee emailed me after midnight and I happened to be still awake and using my PC. We exchanged both technical information and social pleasantries. I recall fondly that on the first such occasion I asked her what she was doing answering my email at that hour and that she told me she was home and unwinding with a glass of wine. We asked each other about wine preferences. She was drinking "Spanish Red." I liked Merlot. She informed me that "Merlot is for wimps." Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha. Perhaps she was right.

In any case she solved my problems and how could it get any better?

On another occasion I emailed customer service during the day. I think there was a glitch in the MMJB software. I received a response almost immediately, from a male this time, outlining the steps I would have to take to fix it. As I began those steps my phone rang. It was the customer service rep, calling to walk me through the steps to make sure I had no problem. Can you believe that?

Alas, things deteriorated, slowly at first and then more rapidly, as MMJB grew in size. I suppose this is inevitable as companies grow, but it is in any case lamentable.

NEXT: MusicMatch Customer Service: The Decline

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Debbie: Part VI

More Vignettes:
  • The second year that we went back to New England for Christmas, Debbie was tapped for the role of sainthood, which she filled admirably. My mother had spent some time in the hospital after a fall, and Billy drove up from Maryland to pick her up on release. She got into the car and found that they were headed back to Maryland, which would be her new home. This left all her belongings, except for a few things Billy had picked up, at her apartment, and Debbie and I were to empty her place and finish our Christmas vacation by driving to Maryland for a visit and to deliver Mom's items.

    We started in the morning and Debbie was a dynamo, selecting, packing, and discarding things. I was wounded by a time bomb my brother had left - I reached up for a paper bag on a closet shelf, lifted it, and felt my back go out. It contained a three ton film projector. For the rest of the morniing I was not a whole lot of help to Debbie, and as chance would have it I had to leave her there and go into Boston to meet Dee Dee for lunch. Driving was OK, but I actually had to lean on Dee Dee to walk.

    When I got back we somehow got everything down to the car or into the trash, and left the apartment behind. Debbie didn't say much, but we both knew that I owed her big time.

    Now it was Debbie that I had to lean on to walk. I made light of it and she was clearly more worried than I was. She also had some understandable resentment about the way the day had gone.

    We stayed at a motel in Hampton, New Hampshire. When we got into bed she rolled over so that her back was to me. We both read for a while, then she rolled over, faced me, and said "Don't look at me."

  • Due to the pigs being at the trough I quit my job and incorporated myself (second time for that). Having no regular income, I naturally decided that the thing to do was to buy a new Cadillac. Debbie shopped with me and we settled on a 1989 Sedan de Ville, dark blue with gold trim. The floor model had a special set of wheels on it which I would not have given a dime for, but Debbie liked them. I was going to pass on them, but Debbie really liked them. $4,000.00. Sigh.

    Jumping ahead a bit, a couple of years later I wanted to leave Illinois and head west, tentatively Seattle. Debbie thought we should move to the other coast, where we would at least be within driving distance of our families. We did that, and a few months later we split and she moved back to New Hampshire.

    The suspension on this Cadillac was giving me fits. Any time I put anyone in the back seat the wheel wells rubbed against the back tires. I took it to a Cadillac dealer in Falls Church. Well, you know how some of these dealerships are. I reported the problem to the representative who checked the car in, showed him the abrasions on the rear tires, and told him "All I want is to fix this problem. I do not want a list of other things I "should" have done to the car."

    That afternoon he called me with a list of other things I should have done to the car. When he was done I said "I didn't hear anything about the suspension, the problem for which I gave you the car."

    Service Rep: "Oh we checked that. There's nothing wrong."

    Donnie: "Did I show you the abrasions on the rear tires?"


    Donnie: "Well?"

    Service rep: "Yes."

    Donnie: "Did I pay extra for that when I bought the car or is that standard with Cadillac?"


    Donnie: "Look. Put a couple guys in the back seat and drive the car around your lot. You'll feel the problem."

    It turned out that the wheels were too wide for the damn car. So . . . there I was, alone in Virginia, three thousand miles away from where I had intended to be. Debbie was in New Hampshire and I had $4,000 worth of problem wheels that she had really liked.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Phoenix Interlude

Having finished with the Army in 1968, it was my wish to remain in Arizona, specifically Phoenix. Alas, the timing was very bad indeed. It was May and the colleges and universities were graduating students left and right, many of whom were searching for work in Phoenix. I had just left the Army, was from the northeast (and therefore a "snowbird"), and was low on the totem pole.

I began to run out of money. I found a family-owned diner where I could get a burger and fries for twenty-five cents. "Just water, thank you." The only serious job offer I got was a good one, from a chain called "Fed Mart" (I think). They would start me at $700 a month and put me into a training course to learn to manage one of their outlets. But . . . they wanted my word that I would remain with them for a full year after the course, and I couldn't give it to them.

One day while searching the employment ads I noticed one for a job that paid $6.25 (before taxes) each day for delivering circulars. That was a lot of burgers and gas, and I thought "Why not?"

Now there are some things which I just should not get into, one category being fairly described as "Anything that requires common sense." This job demonstrated that to me once again.

I showed up at the given address the next morning. The only shoes I owned were my Army dress shoes and a pair of loafers. I wore the latter. Four or five old men, unkempt, smelling of cheap wine, were also waiting there. They and I were taken on and the deal was explained. We would all ride in the back of a pickup truck containing bundles of circulars. The driver would take us on his regular route, we would each grab a bundle of circulars and deliver them door to door on blocks the driver assigned to us. Then we would get back on the truck and be off for the next segment of blocks.

June in Phoenix. The temperature climbed to over a hundred degrees. At noon I was still doing fine. We took a "lunch" break, which for me consisted of waiting for the break to end.

When we resumed, I rang the bell at the first house. A maid answered and was kind enough to give me the glass of water I requested. I began feeling the results of all the walking but wasn't in any real trouble except . . . blisters began forming on my stoopid feet which were dressed in stoopid black cotton socks and stoopid leather loafers.

By two o'clock it was actually painful for me to walk. The winos who were my companions were fresh as daisies - or at least as close to daisies as they were likely to get, but I was wilting. I assume they did this several times a week to earn their wine money. At two thirty, back on the truck, I noticed a couple of them giving me anxious looks. One actually asked, "Are you OK?"

I thanked him and assured him I was. When the truck stopped I grabbed a bundle of circulars and got down off the truck. Things were much worse than they had been only ten minutes earlier. The blisters on my feet were very painful indeed. For those of you old enough to remember The Carol Burnett Show, think back to Tim Conway's walk when he was playing an old man. That's what I looked like.

I finished this segment more slowly than any previous segment, and when I returned to the truck everyone was waiting. I climbed in and sat down, and one of my companions said "One more route." I nodded and tried to smile.

The truck stopped, I stood up, and sat right back down. My feet were on fire. All but one of the rest got off the truck. The remaining one looked at me and said, "If you don't deliver this bundle they won't pay you anything."

I said, "I'll do it," stood up, and sat right back down again. "I just need a minute."

He looked at me, then grabbed his bundle and mine, jumped off the truck, and took off running. He was last to return to the truck, having done both of our routes, but not last by much. To this day I am some impressed, both by his stamina and his kindness.

The pay came to about six dollars after taxes (mostly Social Security). I drove back, took a bath and got into bed. The next day I couldn't walk for the blisters. Barefoot, I managed a three or four minute hobble to the bathroom a couple of times, but it was the evening of the second day before I could put shoes on and go get my twenty-five cent burger and fries.

Afterword: A year later, when I was settled in civilian life and no longer in such dire straits, I found myself in Phoenix for a day or two, and for my own amusement I went back to that family diner for lunch. As I entered the diner, the teenage girl who was (and had been) the cashier looked up and said "You've put on some weight."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Debbie - Part V

  • A discussion about some subject on which we disagreed:

    Debbie: "87 percent of yada yada yada . . . ."

    Donnie: "And your source for that is?"

    Debbie: "What? What do you mean?"

    Donnie: "That 87 percent. Where did you get that?"

    Debbie, indignantly: "I made it up. It's the number I always use."

  • At a Friday night gathering at the water hole:

    Donnie: "Does anyone know anything about saying 'Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit?'"

    Link Monster: "I do." Illustrating . . . "On the first day of a month you pinch someone on the arm and punch them on the arm and say 'Pinch, punch, first of the month, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.' This has to be the first thing you say that day. Then you're supposed to have good luck and the other person bad luck all month."

    Debbie, to yours truly: "If you ever do that to me I'll never speak to you again."

    (One couple present, Jack and Karen, immediately became competitive about this, each promising to be the first to "get" the other. The rest of us knew that there was no chance that Jack could win. Karen could be relentless.

    Month after month she nailed him, and on one such occasion he came into work in a grumpy mood. The night before, after Jack was asleep, Karen nudged him at one minute after midnight. She kept nudging until he woke up and then said "Pinch, punch . . . ." He filed a protest with the group, saying it was a foul, but the protest was widely disallowed. Karen positively radiated smugness all day.)

  • Debbie at work:

    • At some point she got bored with being home and went back to work. She was a headhunter an employment counselor and went to work at an employment agency.

      Her English pronunciation was still pure Boston/New England, and her midwestern colleagues enjoyed both hearing it and teasing her about it. She dropped the letter "r" at every opportunity and tacked it on elsewhere. She once reported to me that at a work brainstorming session one employee asked with great glee if she had any "idears."

    • One windy and bitterly cold night she called me at about the time I would have expected her to arrive home. She said "My cah won't staht." We agreed that I would pick her up and in the meantime she would call the nearest Oldsmobile dealer and have it towed.

      I picked her up and we went out to dinner as a little consolation for her.

      The next night she had the Olds and drove herself home. She said that the dealership had called, laughing and saying that the car was just out of gas. I said something along the line of "Well, we've all done that at one time or another, or come close to it." She said "I knew it," and only then told me that her colleagues, nearly all women, had expressed unanimously the opinion that she should make something up rather than tell me the truth.

      (Are men really such ogres?)

    • The two of us had gone to a nice restaurant and Debbie was in a vile mood, a mood aimed at me if I remember correctly. I tried to lighten things a little and said "I have a great knock knock joke for you. Say 'Knock knock.'"

      She wasn't really up for this but finally looked at me and said "Knock knock."

      I said "Who's there?"

      Immediately, I could see the look in her eyes which said, "How did this moron get me into this position? But she decided it was funny, and couldn't wait to try it on a co-worker, a nice person but not necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer. The next night . . .

      Donnie: "Did you try the knock knock joke?"

      Debbie, disgustedly: "Yes. And when I said 'Who's there?' she said 'I don't know. Nobody's there.' Now I feel like two of you got me with the same joke."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Debbie - Part IV

Settling In

So here we are, a month and a half after the "weekend visit," living together. We arrived with Debbie's car loaded to the roof with her clothing and other things.

The house was a raised ranch and had an attic with a drop-down ladder, and three bedrooms, one in use as a guest room and one as a combination library and computer room. As we unloaded her car I told her "Put anything anywhere you like. Move things out of closets or into different closets, whatever makes the most sense to you. Just tell me what you've done so I'll have a shot at finding things."

I did get to keep nearly half the master bedroom closet, which was perhaps more than fair, given the quantity of clothing each of us owned.

Several times during the first couple of weeks she asked "Is it OK if I . . . " and I told her it was the same deal. It was her home and she could rearrange anything at all. I had boxes and bags full of things that had not been opened for a couple of years and told her she could poke around in those, examine anything she chose to. She did, and from time to time I would hear "I didn't know about this" and "Tell me about this."

One of Debbie's practices in life was to stay on top of *everything* regarding neatness, organization, and cleanliness in the home. Cigarette in the ashtray? Time to empty it. Chair a quarter of an inch away from its station? Fix that now. My own tendency, to borrow the concept from the comedienne Rita Rudner, was to live like "a bear with furniture." But this caused no tension between us. I had a job and for the first few weeks she stayed home. She did decide to get a job when she got bored, but even then I had a maid coming in periodically, a substantial housekeeping relief.

The first few times I lit up, I offered her marijuana, but she declined. She had only smoked it once and had not enjoyed it. She told me about the experience and I suggested to her that she had smoked way too much for the first time and if she ever tried it again she should just do a little. Eventually she smoked it with me and we found we had a common trait - one little hit and we were gone. After that she would smoke with me perhaps half the time.

Incidents from the first few months of living together:
  • We sometimes took walks around the neighborhood in the early evening. On one such occasion we passed a tree that had good solid limbs beginning perhaps two feet above the ground. I pointed to it and said "That's a good climbing tree." A moment later, perhaps wishing to continue that happy line, she pointed to a tree and said "That's a good climbing tree too."

    Now that tree's lowest limb of any consequence was perhaps five and a half feet above the ground. I laughed and said, "No it isn't." "It is too." "Well, let's see you climb it then."

    She was perhaps five foot two, max, and she jumped up to get a grip. She swung her feet up and was now hanging there upside down, ankles crossed above the limb. She took a moment - I don't know, perhaps to ponder her next move - and I began laughing so hard it was difficult to keep standing. In that position she looked exactly like a sloth, bedded down for the night.

    Eventually . . . "Get me down, you fool."

    She'd been wearing shorts, sneakers, and a short-sleeved blouse, and carried the scrapes and bruises from that little experiment for the next week or so.

  • Debbie never minded telling stories on herself. One spring evening I arrived home and she told me about her curiosity regarding the rotating sprinkler at the end of the hose. What, exactly, powered it?

    She decided to pick it up and hold it at eye level, then turn the water on but with very low power. She did, then watched it for a few seconds before experiencing the splash! splash! splash!

  • Before we picked up her car and brought it back, she would drive me to work, keep my car all day, and pick me up at night.

    During one of her very early excursions on her own, she couldn't remember exactly where we lived. She eventually found the street, then drove up and down it, trying the garage door opener on likely candidates, oblivious to the fact that the address was on the registration in the glove box. It worked eventually, though.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Third Best in a Three Man Game

During my nearly ten years in the Army, I served one tour in Vietnam, virtually all of it in 1966 - nothing heroic, a fairly safe tour. My outfit spent most of its time at Cam Ranh Bay, an area safe enough for Lyndon Johnson to visit while I was there and again the following year.

At the beginning of that tour there was a fair amount of pot limit poker played. However, three of us took so much money out of the game that wives began writing to company commanders that money wasn't being sent home, and the batallion commander banned poker.

The three of us went underground, so to speak, and continued to play, but now we were in a three man game. This figured to be the toughest poker game I had ever played in, and indeed it was. Just how tough, though, I didn't realize until perhaps the third or fourth session, when I learned that I was third best. Fortunately, I learned it from the sidelines.

I'm not going to bore you with the details, as much because you would think I made this whole thing up as for any other reason. Suffice it to say that a seven card stud hand was dealt, and after the fourth card I folded.

After seven cards had been dealt, it came down to four aces versus a jack high straight flush in diamonds, three of the aces being visible and three of the straight flush cards being visible.

The four aces bet fifty dollars (a nice bet, that), the straight flush raised fifty dollars (one of the most effective bets I've ever seen), the four aces raised two hundred dollars, and the straight flush raised, matching the pot, which was around eight hundred dollars. It took the holder of the four aces (who had dealt the hand, incidentally) perhaps fifteen minutes to fold.

In this game it was unprecedented, or nearly so, for any of us to show hole cards we didn't have to show, but this time it happened. The loser couldn't resist or chose not to resist showing us that he was skilled enough to fold four aces. The winner was simply kind enough to show his hand.

Lying in my bunk that night, I went over the bidding and the play. I concluded that I wasn't good enough to milk that hand for as much money as the winner had, and that I was too weak to fold the four aces. I could see the reasoning:
  • If he can raise three aces showing, he has to be able to beat aces full.
  • If he can beat aces full then he has four of a kind or a straight flush.
  • With no pair showing and three cards to a straight flush showing, I'm probably screwed.
But I could not for the life of me see myself mucking those four aces.

Well, if I'm not as good as one player and I'm not as good as the other player, then I don't belong in the game. That was the end of my poker in Vietnam.

I'd never be the best poker player in the world, but I was better off knowing it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Army Burnouts

  • In Vilseck, Germany, I knew two corporals, each with about eighteen years of service. Both had been busted some number of times, all due to incidents involving alcohol.

    One, Corporal Enwright, had a twin brother in the Army. They had enlisted at the same time and served together for a while until reassignments split them up. Enwright had risen as high as Sergeant First Class (E-7) before acquiring his problem, and had been busted three times. When I knew him his brother was a First Sergeant (E-8) while he was an E-4.

  • In Grafenwoehr, Germany, I knew a Private (E-2) named Paine who had eighteen years in. I never saw him sober, morning, noon, or night. I don't know what the highest rank he had held was.

    I recall one morning when the First Sergeant had the whole company in formation. There was to be a visit by the Inspector General and the First Sergeant wanted to make certain that everything was just so. Most of us would be at work when the IG arrived, but everything in the barracks and in the company area was to be perfect. He ran down a list of items and asked the company, "Any questions?"

    Paine raised his hand.

    First Sergeant: "What is it, Paine?"

    Paine: "What time is it?"

    Paine would soon have his twenty years in and would not be allowed to reenlist, and when I left Germany the company was making a valiant effort to straighten him out enough so that they could promote him to E-3 and then E-4 for his retirement.

  • In Corpus Christi, the payroll section in which I worked was nominally headed by a Specialist Fifth Class (E-5) named Kent, who was a burnout. I believe he had about sixteen years in, and he was just marking time. I don't know exactly what his problem was, but he was a nervous wreck, and he was terrified of being sent to Vietnam.

    I say "nominally headed" because although I was a Specialist Fourth Class (E-4), the Personnel Officer had instructed me to run the department and Kent to do whatever I told him to do. Kent bought in without a murmur.

    The payroll section consisted of four men - Kent, a draftee who had about six months remaining before discharge, a new man - a PFC (E-3), and me. Our outfit was a special project, and when the batallion went to Vietnam the finance records would remain in Corpus Christi. There would be one enlisted man from the finance section accompanying the batallion, to handle payroll matters on site and to communicate with the Corpus Christi Office. I talked to the Personnel Officer and we agreed that Kent would be inadequate for the job. That left unohoo.

    Made E-5 a couple of months before we went, though.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Name Game

My real name is not uncommon, perhaps even more common than "Donnie Richards." (Yup. Just googled them both and there are more than fifty-two of the real me for every one of the fake me.) As a result, I get the occasional email or phone call sent to the "wrong" Donnie Richards.
  • At Fort Sam Houston, circa 1964:

    "Richards! Phone call in the Orderly Room."

    Several moments later: "Specialist Richards."

    Young Female Caller: "Donnie, I need you to pick me up at the airport, flight yada yada yada, arriving yada yada yada. I can't *wait* to see you."

    Alas, there were two of us. With the same middle initial, even. And this was his wife. (We used the same San Antonio bank and *twice* checks were charged to the wrong account.)

  • At a small junk mail company, circa 1984:

    Receptionist: "Donnie, phone call for you at the front desk."

    A moment later: "Donnie Richards."

    Caller (an elderly woman): "You're not Donnie Richards."

    Donnie: "I assure you that I am. But not, it appears, the Donnie Richards you wish to reach."


  • About two weeks later:

    Receptionist: "Donnie, phone call for you at the front desk."

    A moment later: "Donnie Richards."

    Caller (the elderly woman): "You're not Donnie Richards."

    Donnie: "Madam, you told me that a couple of weeks ago. Again, I assure you that I am. But if you persist long enough, you may convince me otherwise."

    But she was a sprinter, not a long distance runner, and I never heard from her again.

  • At home, circa 1998:

    An email arrived at my Hotmail address, inviting me to get together with the sender and several of her girlfriends. This was a forwarded version of the email that scheduled the gathering, and the festivities would be in the Portland, Oregon area, while I was in Chicago. Melody, a friend and former employee, was among the names on the distribution list. The sender professed nothing short of bliss at having met me the preceding week and a desire to see me again.

    I replied, expressing regret and frustration that I could not attend, then informing her that I lived in Chicago and was probably not her intended recipient.

    She replied, "Oh, sorry. But I know who you are. Your're the one Melody calls 'The Old Man.'"

    I responded, wishing her a good time with her friends and asking her to pass my regards on to "The Brat."

  • At IBM, circa 2000:

    There were *three* of us with the same name in the IBM email directory. In addition to getting the occasional misaddressed work-related email, I received:

    • An invitation to join a group in barhopping after a wedding reception in San Francisco. This was from a charming young woman and I amused myself by lecturing her on the dangers of emailing strange men, informed her that I was old enough to be her father, and declined regretfully. She responded, saying she wished I *could* make it, as I was clearly more fun than the "other" Donnie Richards.

    • A smutty joke from a woman in Colorado. There was a personal message as well, so I replied and informed her that she had reached someone other than the Donnie she intended. I told her to not to worry, that every Donnie Richards had a good sense of humor and this would be our little secret. She replied with a textual sigh of relief and a "thank you."