I’m not sure how he ran across it, but my dad saw my name on a discussion and vote tally to create the newsgroup comp.lang.perl.moderated. He also asked if I knew there was a writer named Michael Armstrong. According to amazon.com he — Michael Armstrong, the writer — has published several business and management books. Until then, I hadn’t known about the writer, but the newsgroup discussion and vote actually was me.
I guess it’s not that surprising. It’s not like either part of my name is that uncommon. In fact, this kind of thing happens often enough that I’ve learned to have a little fun with it.
When the current CEO of AT&T, C. Michael Armstrong, was installed, I had a news clipping of the annoucement hanging at my desk for the longest time. People would read the article, look at me, read the article again. Most would laugh and offer their congratulations. There were a few, shall we say, less bright people that would ask if it meant that I was the CEO of AT&T. Ummmm, no. Why would I be working as a technical writer and Web developer when being a CEO is more than a full time job?
I’ve heard nearly all the jokes about my last name. Most often it’s some wiseacre that asks, “Are you related to Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy?”
“Yes, in fact I am! Jack is my Great Uncle.”
They’d be dumbfounded. Sometimes they would ask if I knew about the radio show from the 40’s. “Why of course, it was about my ‘Uncle Jack!'” Yes, I know that the radio show was fiction, but Grandpa did have a brother named John and Jack is a nickname for John.
At that point they’d usually be wearing what I call the “dumbass face.” They were trying to be funny and, while they weren’t quite sure, the joke may actually be on them. Well, it was. If you know about the radio show, don’t you think that a guy with the same last name would know about it too?
There’s also Neil Armstrong, the astronaut. Again, I’d make him out to be my Great Uncle, this time because I liked the word play. “Absolutely! Great Uncle Neil is my Grandpa’s brother…Well, of course he was great for the reason you’re thinking too.” People could never tell if I was serious or pulling their leg. Guess.
My favorite though, was Louis Armstrong, the trumpet player — I’d claim he was my Grandfather. They’d look at me for the longest time trying to find something other than Scandinavian and European features in my face. Some of them never figured it out.