Mistaken Identity

Melissa Stagnaro

There aren’t a whole lot of Melissa Stagnaro’s out there. In fact, I only know definitely of one other. Strangely enough, she lived not far from me in Northern Virginia when I resided in that area several years ago.

We never met, but I know for a fact that she got phone messages meant for me on more than one occasion. (Her number was listed, mine was not.)

The only time it was ever truly an issue for me was when she got the call for a book I’d ordered from Barnes & Noble. I know, right? How horrible. I should probably thank my lucky starts that she wasn’t implicated in some Monica Lewinski-style scandal.

When a friend of mine from Oxford called me up earlier this week to tell me that she had been receiving flack after someone with the same name had made a police blotter appearance, I could understand but couldn’t really relate.

Cassi’s problem was certainly a little more serious than my book mix-up. With young children in the district and a husband with his own business, being confused for someone who has drug-related run-ins with the law is not what I would call a good thing.

Not only did this woman share Cassi’s first and married name, but she also lives in the same town. The only way you could distinguish them in the blotter was by age. And while someone would have a hard time mistaking me for 24, Cassi could easily pass. And therein lies the problem.

I think that the fact that my name and Cassi’s aren’t the most common, almost people more likely to get confused when they encounter someone with the same name. If your name is Joe Smith or Bill Johnson, people might be inclined to see if they really are you before drawing conclusions.

When that clerk at Barnes & Noble asked me if my number had changed and I said no, I’m sure it never crossed her mind that the information on her little screen was for another Melissa Stagnaro entirely.

I wish I could give Cassi some good advice for handling this. I don’t know that a letter to the editor or taking out an ad would accomplish anything. I know she’s afraid that it will hurt Stan’s business, and affect her children. But I hope that she knows that there are plenty of people out there that know her better than to think that was her name on the wall of shame.

If people are genuinely concerned, they’ll take the time to verify the facts before they go spreading rumors. And if they are just petty minds gossiping, it’s probably not even worth the effort necessary to set them straight.

Until then, if I was Cassi, I’d be out there celebrating the fact that people believed I was 24. With a designated driver of course, just to make sure it wasn’t me in that police blotter next time around.