When somebody thinks you’re somebody that you’re not, it can either be really good or really bad.
I have years of experience in this field. In 1970, I had gone to visit an aunt in Jacksonville, Fla.
I rode down there with another aunt and uncle, but on the way back I got to take my first airline flight. This was in the era when you dressed up to fly and Mama packed my good Sunday suit and tie. Uncle James made sure my shoes were shined.
Clyde, my dad’s cousin, was a retired macaroni salesman. He peddled macaroni all over the South. Clyde and James decided I needed to carry a briefcase and wear some sunglasses to make me look important.
Clyde, the smooth-talking salesman, told the folks at the airport that I was a child TV star of a show on NBC. The airline folks treated me like a king. They took me to the tower, they showed me the runway and walked me around a plane. All the while, Clyde and James were just eating this up.
Years later, I used a similar tactic at one of the inaugural balls for President Jimmy Carter. Former state Rep. Carlton Colwell of Blairsville bore a striking resemblance to the Rev. Billy Graham, especially at a distance. I was trying to get though a crowd and I pointed to him and said, “I’m with him and you know who that is don’t you?”
It was like the parting of the Red Sea as folks got out of my way.
A few years later, I was traveling with a group from the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce to Washington. We began telling people that Clifton McDuffie, the chamber executive in those days, was the governor of Georgia. Cliff does not look like any recent governor, but he is distinguished and well dressed and folks believed us.
It really helped when we needed a taxi.
Just this week, Zippy Duvall, the president of the Georgia Farm Bureau, was in Washington to meet with the Georgia congressional delegation.
First of all, you just have to like anybody named Zippy. He’s a farmer from Greene County.
However, members of the relentless Washington press corps decided Zippy looked like Edward Liddy, the head of AIG, the insurance outfit that hands out bonuses like candy at a parade.
He doesn’t look like Liddy at all. He is the head of Georgia Farm Bureau insurance, which is doing OK and hasn’t asked for any government handouts.
So, here goes Zippy walking down the hall, minding his business, when reporters swarm him like angry fire ants.
They peppered him with every question except one: Who are you?
Someone traveling with him came to his rescue when they asked reporters who they thought he was.
After they figured out that Zippy wasn’t Edward, they moved out of the way and allowed him to go about his business.
Being mistaken for somebody else has its moments. Sometimes it gets you through doors that might not open.
But it isn’t so great when they think you’re a guy they want to put under a congressional microscope.
It’s a lot easier when you have a good macaroni salesman or a Billy Graham look-alike nearby.
Harris Blackwood is the author of “When Old Mowers Die.” His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.