When I was growing up in a western Pennsylvania town of 50,000, my last name was not terribly common. There were four Fords in the phone book, but even through the age of 19, when I left home to join the Navy, I had never met any others.
It's true that Ford was the most recognizable auto name in the country -- and a few celebrities shared the name, too. By the time I was finishing grade school in that community of New Castle, I was used to being asked whether I was related to Henry Ford. Through the years, Henry was replaced with Whitey, Ernie, Glenn, Gerald and Harrison.
I soon realized that the Ford name was fairly common. And it always drew comments.
When I bought a sporty 1953 two-door Ford, people couldn't resist remarking on the coincidence between the car and my name. Once at a Sayville Ford dealer, a service manager joked while scrolling through a list of Ford-owning Thomas Fords. It made me wish my parents had christened me Cyrus.
The Ford name obliges me to pay keen attention in doctors' offices. Once in an examination room, a doctor asked me about an ailment I'd never heard of -- a condition listed in the file of another Tom Ford.
Luckily, I've never swallowed medicine meant for another Tom Ford. I did, however, survive an adventurous drive home from an optician's office in Bay Shore, wearing glasses belonging to a very weak-eyed Thomas Ford.
When people bring up my name, I good-naturedly accept their comments and jokes, and regard them as friendly, albeit unimaginative icebreakers.
The impulse to tell people how tiresome the routine has become is never absent, but I always squelch it. It's my annoying but modest cross to bear.
Sometimes I fantasize about getting a sizable check actually intended for designer Tom Ford. In my dreams of capitalizing on my name, I'd write a screenplay about the long-ago baseball commissioner, Ford Frick, get Francis Ford Coppola to direct, sign Harrison Ford to star, and use a sound track of Ernie Ford's old hits. Or I could write the sad tale of Bob Ford, the "Dirty Little Coward Who Shot Mr. Howard," aka Jesse James, in the song sung by Ry Cooder. Of course, I'd demand a cameo in either film. You just know they would be classics.
At a mall a couple of years ago, my wife and I were approached by a young lady offering samples of a new perfume by a "fabulous designer" named Tom Ford.
"Have you ever heard of him?" she asked.
It was too good to be true -- a mile-wide opening for me to amaze and confuse her.
But somehow I demurred.
With not one word did I address the coincidence. My wife couldn't believe that I let my big chance go.
There, when I finally had the opportunity to initiate my own tiresome name game, I chose not to participate.
Reader Tom Ford lives in West Islip.