I HAVE never been mistaken for a woman, at least in person, not even while modeling my harness in a ``fashion show'' at a Quebec hang-gliding festival. But with a name like Lynn, there are some unusual occurrences, such as having a ma^itre d' call out, ``Is Lynn here?'' while staring vacantly over my head, perhaps waiting for someone much more, shall we say, ``comely'' to speak up. Mentioning the Webster derivation of the name, or mumbling something about the Massachusetts town of Lynn does little good in situations like this. There always seems to be the next time when, after handing someone a ``picture ID'' for identification, the person looks at the picture on my license and asks ``Are you Lynn?''!! And if I'm not actually there in person, mix-ups like this can be even more mysterious.
Mowing the grass isn't a mentally consuming event. It's a fairly simple exercise, in which all you have to do is watch where you step and make sure the whirling blades don't hit something really solid. So, several years ago as I was out there mowing along, daydreaming and watching my feet, it was great to take a break when I saw the little delivery car pull up to the mailbox.
It was a rarity to even be there when the mail was delivered, it must have been a summer Saturday or something, and I shut the mower off to see what had come. (In those days you actually had to switch off the motor. It wasn't one of these safety-strangled things that quits if you just sneeze).
A letter had arrived addressed to ``Ms. Lynn ... '' and as I unfurled this unique, official-looking document, I found that I had been chosen to be the recipient of a scholarship from a prestigious honor sorority!
I had been attending a university at night for many years and was ready to get my degree, and apparently this scholarship was for graduate school, being offered to the woman with the highest grade-point average in the graduating class. Although a gender mistake had obviously been made in some computer somewhere, a wide variety of possible scenarios began to unfold. The mowing was abandoned as I imagined myself actually being able to do some marvelous deception and receive this honor somehow.
During the days that followed, I had fun being the ``honoree,'' as these imaginary scenarios became wilder and wilder. How could I possibly pull this off? Since the letter indicated that the award was to be presented at some sort of ceremonial dinner, picking it up in person was definitely a problem. I could send my wife to the dinner, pretending to be me, but there seemed to be some doubt as to her knowledge of electrical engineering, should she have to give some acceptance speech!
Some thought was even given to training her in engineering for the event, and concoct a plan whereby she could say something like, ``Well, it was a hard trip through the electrons, but I finally made it!'' Perhaps a more workable plan would be to write a letter accepting the award, but beg off attendance at the dinner due to a conflict with some other important event. But what event would be that important? Since only a marriage or the birth of a child seemed to fill the bill, that whole plan was ruled out.
Hiring an actress to play my part came to mind but of course there was always the chance that, after she pulled off the deception, she would actually use the scholarship (and go to graduate school instead of me!)
Just telling the sorority about the mistake was just too simple. Besides, the imaginary alternatives were too much fun. I didn't want to be persecuted somehow if there were embarrassment that the top woman scholar turned out to be a man. That was unthinkable. Maybe I should just try to pick up the award with no pretense at all, claiming that it was some new form of equal opportunity, like the girls joining the Boy Scouts or something. Or possibly the computer had made multiple mistakes, and the word ``fraternity'' should have been typed instead of ``sorority,'' etc., etc.
The next week I decided to bite the bullet and called this organization from work. Just the disappointed sound of that woman's voice after I said my name told an unhappy tale indeed. There would be no male winners at the sorority that day. Oh well, I guess I really shouldn't have been that disappointed. After all, I got an article out of all this.