Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

I Have Met the Enemy and He Is Me!

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

I Have Met the Enemy and He Is Me!

Article excerpt

The Internet is, as far as I can tell, a nearly infinite universe of things I do not want to know.

I can usually ignore the boasts, the shards of opinion, the superfluous stuff that swirls around on my laptop. But there's one online fact that simply sticks in my craw: There are people out there who have been brazenly using my name.

I know I'm not alone in my agitation. A journalist named David F. Carr, for instance, shares his name with the well-known New York Times writer. It didn't seem so bad, Mr. Carr recently wrote online, until he realized that the other Mr. Carr had years of well- chronicled drug abuse in his past. Confusion with him could be awkward.

As for me, I still recall the night when, shaking at my keyboard, I uncovered search results for an international army of so-called Peter Mandels. There was the Florida salesman of the Pulaski furniture line. The Alaska high school counselor for students with last names R through Z. And the New Jersey gynecologist who uses a "tension free tape procedure" to treat incontinence. Even Peter Mandelson, the British politician, refused to stop popping up when I typed in M-A-N-D-E-L.

On a good day, I came up third or fourth in the Google results. But a naturopath based in Germany was perpetually first, taunting me from the very pinnacle of Peter Mandel-dom. I despised clicking on his website, where he's touted as "a genius phenomenon who, someday, is going to have a place in history" and which went on about things I didn't understand, like a Mandel-invented therapy known as "esogetic colorpuncture."

Was there a way, I wondered, for me to regain the pride I had lost: the joy of knowing I was unique? There was. I'd track down the other Peter Mandels and see whether we could hammer out some sort of compromise -- perhaps they would dismantle their Web pages, let's say, or begin the process of changing their name. …

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