Airport security lines always make me think about white gloves and hats, because I remember getting dressed up to fly on airplanes, not undressed as current systems require. When I was small, my mother always made us put on our “Sunday best” if we were flying. Now, of course, it’s the lowest-sloven denominator that seems to rule.
This has been on my mind lately because the coming new TSA regulations about names and the watch lists have me exploring the options for legally changing my name. The apparently-coming regulations will require all travelers to fly under their full legal names, so the TSA (not the airlines) can check and reconcile names on the watch lists, etc. Articles I’ve read about this warn that if you have one name on your passport and another on your driver’s license, now is the time to reconcile all your documents so you’ll be able to keep traveling. The two examples in the NYT article this week (Business section, June 9, p. B6) felt ominous: “if your name is Jonathan Smith and you travel as John Smith and your driver’s license says Johnny Smith – get all those things aligned.” and, “I’ve got Francis on my passport but I’ve always gone by Frank – my state ID and all of my frequent flyer accounts are Frank. Now I have to go back and change everything to Francis, which is going to be a pain.”
This bothers me much more than most of the other current indignities of travel and feels more intrusive and controlling by my government. My reaction to it is visceral and negative, and it’s disappointing that even the privacy people (Electronic Privacy Information Center, according to the NYT) is in favor of this change, which they seem to be viewing entirely from the perspective of improving the accuracy of airline watch lists. My name is more complicated than most, so maybe it’s an extreme example. My first initial represents a name I don’t use and never have, Carolyn. My passport, social security and and birth certificates are the only documents I own with the Carolyn spelled out. Everything else--everything--has some variant of C. K., Tina or Kristina. More strongly than this probably conveys, I do not want to travel as Carolyn, I do not want to be addressed as Carolyn, and I don’t want it shared with strangers. It’s my mother’s name, not mine, and it’s none of anyone else’s business that it lurks around in documents. In Illinois, one can go about one’s life using any name one chooses, so long as it’s not for fraudulent purposes. Thus, I’ve run for public office as C. K., published that way and travel under that name on airplane tickets and credit cards.
You might ask, change it to what? The simplest thing seems to make my first “name” simply “C” which will then match my other documents, including my driver’s license. It’s possible to change your name legally in this state for $40 in filing fees and some associated legal proceedings. Once it’s changed, there’s further issue of changing the foundation legal documents (passport, social security account, maybe making sure the university’s employment records follow properly), but that’s pretty much the extent of it. Thus, for a reasonably modest expenditure of time and money, I can keep from having to be Carolyn when I don’t want to be. If this regulation really comes to pass because no one really objects to the “improvement” in modern life, that may be on the horizon. It sounds goony, but it solves a problem, so why not?