by Ken Gagne

I came home one Friday to find waiting for me a letter from Hollywood Video, informing me I never returned the movies I rented in November. Unfortunately for them, I hadn't rented from them in years. 

Clerical error, I figure. 

There was also a message on the machine. 

"Hi Ken, this is Dr. Aldman, just wanted to remind you that you have a 9:45 appointment on Monday at the clinic, but there's also a 9:00 opening if you want to show up early." 

Who? What clinic? This was all news to me. Though it was after hours, I called the number he left, and got their answering machine: 

"Thank you for calling the UMass Memorial Psychiatric Clinic." 

My mind shifted into overdrive, producing five possibilities: 

  1. Someone, pretending to be a doctor, called my house and played a joke. 
  2. Someone called Dr. Aldman, pretending to be me, and set up an appointment, playing a joke. 
  3. Dr. Aldman called the wrong Ken's phone number. 
  4. Someone had stolen my identity and was using it to rent videos and receive psychiatric help. 
  5. I'm crazy. Maybe I've been seeing Dr. Aldman every Monday for years, and I always forget immediately afterward. How many times, how many Fridays, had I gotten these calls, had my mind already raced through these five possibilities? 

I decided the best way to figure it out was to go to the appointment. If I walked in and everyone from the receptionist to the doctor recognized me, I'd know I was in trouble. I had to handle this in person, though, not over the phone; there was no other way I could beat the living tar out of someone else showing up and claiming to be me. 

When I arrived and the receptionist asked if I had ever seen Dr. Aldman before, she didn't take "I was hoping you could tell me that" as an answer, so I sign in and waited for the doctor. He eventually appeared, asking the receptionist where his 9:00 was. She pointed to me, he looked, and walked out. This happened a few times until finally she said, "Look, he's that kid sitting in the corner right there!" He approached me cautiously, asking, "Ken Gagne?" 

As he was leading me to his office, I asked him: "When you called me on Friday, your message sounded very casual. Have you ever seen me before?" 

"Well now, I'm confused about a few things here myself," he replied. "You're not who I was expecting. I've been treating Ken Gagne for awhile, and you're not him." 

I showed him the letter from Hollywood Video and explained my predicament. Why would someone pretend to be me to rent videos and receive psychiatric help? he asked. Hey, you're the psychiatrist. 

Apparently, Dr. Aldman really does have a patient named Ken Gagne. When the receptionist went to make an appointment for him, she pulled up every Ken Gagne in the UMass medical system — and clicked the wrong one. The doctor was as surprised as I was. 

As for the videos, I'll assume it was the same kind of clerical error that made my hometown's Blockbuster suggest I had rented movies and kept them overdue — during my ten-week stay in Australia. 

But I'm not crazy. 

This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Tech News, 10-Apr-01