I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but I do, from time to time — but no more often than five times a day — Google my name, to see where it falls in terms of placement. A friend once told me this is called “ego-surfing,” but I would prefer to think of it as objectively evaluating my status in the world.
My name is relatively common. When you put in “Mark Sherman” in a search, you get 304,000 results. Of course, this is nothing, compared with the 16 million you get for “John Smith,” but it’s much more than the 616 you get for “Matilda Hornsby.”
Given that there are a lot of Mark Shermans out there, I was very pleased to find that, starting months ago, I was number three or so on the first Google page. I had not worked to make this happen, but I do have a website, I write a blog for a couple of other sites, and I do have this column; so I guess this is what led to such a desirable placement. My only competition was a vibraphonist and a Stamford, CT lawyer. To be number three if I were a Matilda Hornsby would be no big deal; but as Mark Sherman, it was.
But a few weeks ago when I checked for my name, I found that I was several entries down, due to the entrance of a new #1 (and he was #2 as well), an orthopedist on Staten Island. He had zoomed into these top spots, easily passing me, the vibraphonist, and the lawyer, by a common route: he had been accused of misdeeds, in this case, sexual harassment. And it turns out this had become quite newsworthy because he’s a prominent guy — though, before, not prominent enough to get ahead of me and those other Mark Shermans — and one of his alleged victims is a 9/11 widow named Wanda Arena.
Thank God the news stories were tasteful. For example, the headline for a story in the New York Daily News was “A DISH CALLED WANDA: Bikini babe calls doc a XXX pervert in lawsuit.” The article begins, “A sex-crazed orthopedist went from X-rays to X-rated with an alluring patient, texting her a photo of his (you-know-what) to cap years of creepy come-ons, a shocking new lawsuit charges.”
This was not good news for me (or other Mark Shermans). First of all, now, if someone were looking for me, they’d have to scroll further down that first Google page to find me; and, worse, if someone who hadn’t seen me since childhood, and knew only that my father had always wanted me to be a doctor, saw this, they might think that this shamed Mark Sherman was me!
I have noticed that those who have assassinated very famous people are almost always referred to by their full names, including their middle ones. Think about it. It was John Wilkes Booth, not just John Booth. And it was Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray (the assassin of Martin Luther King), and Mark David Chapman (who shot John Lennon). And this makes sense. These are people whose names are forever linked to horrific history-making crimes. But their first and last names are not necessarily an unusual combination. There are many John Booths around today, including one who is an insurance agent in Olathe, Kansas. I’m sure he’s grateful that he doesn’t have to walk around worrying that people will always associate his name with that of the murderer of our wonderful 16th president, although there are probably jerks around who’ll say to him “Hey, John, seen any good plays at Ford’s Theater lately?”
And there’s a Mark Chapman who’s a journalist in Scarsdale, as well as several doctors named Mark Chapman, none of whom, I hope, are sending X-rated photos of themselves to patients.
Thinking about all this, here are yet more reasons not to get yourself into trouble that makes the newspapers and TV. Not only will you displace your namesakes from their treasured spots on Google, but you could cause them needless embarrassment as they have to explain, no, they’re not that Mark Chapman, or that Mark Sherman, or whomever. So please, if you are going to run afoul of the law, do all of your fellow-named people a favor and have a name like Matilda Hornsby, which will affect very few other people (especially since, from what I can see, there hasn’t been a person born in the U.S. named Matilda Hornsby since 1920.