Who Am I?

He broke into a huge grin and squeezed my shoulder. “You know what, “ Dick said with good humor, “I don’t have the slightest idea who I am!”

-excerpt from “A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety” by Donald Hall

One can’t really avoid the various groups that we are associated with. Some we join with enthusiasm, some we are delegated to with reluctance. Most don’t demand that we become card carriers, but the cards still exist. I only had to survive to become a card carrying AARP person. I still wonder why I would want to carry the card.

In academia in the 1950s you could become a card carrying member of the American Communist Party. I don’t think you got a discount at the drug store. I think that perhaps you could show it at faculty teas, in order to shock, or to prove that you thought for yourself. A few years later Congress would search high and low for the card carriers. They didn’t care about the intensity or commitment of your beliefs, they cared about what cards you carried, because that is who you are.

I once hired a card carrying Communist to work with me in a tiny 10×10 office with three desks. He wasn’t the politically correct modern Communist, he was proudly a Stalinist. He thought I should be retrained in a Gulag. I suggested it was ironic that I had served in the government that allowed him the freedom to be a Stalinist. He agreed completely, and said that was the flaw in the system, and the reason why he would eventually win. He tried to convert me by logic.

I look through my wallet periodically, to test the theory that I could be identified by what I carry. I tried to use the evidence forensically, as if I was a dead body washed ashore.

I see that there is a CDL, a California drivers license. It has an address, so it’s a good assumption that I live there. Behind the drivers license is a Washington state drivers license, same last name, different first name. It is my fathers driver’s license. We look similar but he looks older. It could be proof that I’m aging backwards.

There is also a red, white and blue identity card issued by the Veterans Administration, this may prove that I was once in the armed services, and qualify for medical coverage under the Veterans Administration. It doesn’t say that I agreed with military policy, or that I was patriotic. It only implies that I served.

I have two different health insurance cards, two different credit cards, a car club card for towing, a card to enter a bulk purchase warehouse, and a lifetime card to enter national parks for free. I also have nine business cards from the college. There are three different job titles.

On the whole, it says a lot, but it does not define. There should be more. I feel a need to add more. I want a fishing license from New Hampshire, a parking ticket from a Tuscaloosa train station, a library card from Sheridan, Wyoming, and a motel receipt from Juneau, Alaska. This would give a far more interesting picture should I ever wash up on a beach.

It reminds me of my days in crypto school, intensive top secret communication training. I went to class each day with a Russian ruble in my pocket. I perversely flipped it between classes. I wonder how close I came to everything changing?