By some strange quirk of Google, I tend to hover around the top of the listing for a search for “James McKay”. Here in Blighty, I seem to be jostling for the top spot with a criminal defence solicitor in Elgin, Scotland, but in most of the rest of the world, “I’m feeling lucky” sends the average punter to yours truly.
Now this namesake of mine may or may not be a distant relative, but he is not me. Unless of course it is somehow possible to simultaneously be both a web developer in the south of England and a criminal defence solicitor in the north of Scotland and be totally unaware of the fact. However, while that may be the case on TV programmes like Stargate SG-1, it doesn’t happen in real life.
We also both share our name with, among others, the author of a book on ferrets, a nineteenth century Canadian politician, a historian at the University of Birmingham, and thousands of other random individuals in Scotland, England, the USA, Canada and everywhere else you could possibly imagine. There are no less than 147 of us on Facebook.
As you can imagine, occasionally I get e-mails or Skype messages or whatever out of the blue from people whose names I don’t recognise, addressing me as if we’ve known each other for years. Just to make things slightly complicated, we may actually have met before. Is it really appropriate to say bluntly to them, “Sorry, who are you?” in such cases?
I may have met them when I worked with my father, for instance. As a well respected Bible teacher, author and public speaker, he enjoyed something of a minor celebrity status in some Christian circles, and inevitably some of that rubbed off onto me, and as a result, I got to meet a lot of people. Unfortunately, I am not the best person in the world at remembering people and putting names to faces, so that complicates things a little bit.
Facebook friend requests are easy. Especially if we have a mutual friend: I can fire off a message to them and ask them to jog my memory and spare me any embarrassment, if I am still puzzled by the person concerned’s profile page. Other means of communication are slightly more complicated, however, since I am then faced with the task of breaking it gently to them that rather than being the close friend they expect, I may in fact be a complete stranger.
Don’t let this put you off from getting in touch with me of course. I’ve no objections to widening my social circle, or renewing old acquaintances, and as long as I can establish that you’re not an axe-murderer and you’re not trying to sell me viagra, cheap mortgages or pirated software, I won’t mind. And please don’t be offended if my memory of you falls short of your expectations: if we have met, you may just have fallen foul of the absent minded side of me, especially if it’s been a long time. However, if you are looking for a criminal defence solicitor, a ferret expert or a historian, I’m afraid I can’t help you.