Over to You

ON BEING PAUL MARTIN

The Prime Minister has my name—and I’d really like him to give it back

PAUL W. MARTIN February 2 2004
Over to You

ON BEING PAUL MARTIN

The Prime Minister has my name—and I’d really like him to give it back

PAUL W. MARTIN February 2 2004

ON BEING PAUL MARTIN

The Prime Minister has my name—and I’d really like him to give it back

Over to You

PAUL W. MARTIN

THE DAY I WAS BORN my grandfather sewed a black band around his shirt sleeve and collapsed into a three-year depression. OK, it wasn’t that bad, but for my blue-blooded, Diefenbaker-loving, Tory grandpa, attaching the name Paul to the surname Martin would be like Chelsea Clinton naming her daughter Barbara Bush. How I wish someone had listened to him and changed my name to Gustaf or Leonard, even Dudley, instead. Of course, there are many other men in this country who share the same moniker. In the Toronto phone book alone there are at least nine. Then there are all those anonymous

P. Martins—perhaps these have learned something I am just finding out.

You can’t imagine the amount of grief I have to endure. Every time I pull out a credit, bank, library or business card, some really witty individual makes the connection and the jokes start.

For years, it was the finance minister gags. “So, you got some money for me, Mr. Martin?” Or, “I can’t wait to see your tip there, Mr. Finance Minister!” And on and on.

Then came the leadership campaign and ensuing wrestling match for Liberal power. The name game got even more intense. “Well, Mr. Martin, when are you going to kick out that rascal Chrétien?”

“Hey, Paul Martin, eh? P.M. for PM! Hah, hah!”

Now that he’s in office, my destiny appears sealed. “Well, the prime minister is here! Jody, look at this, the prime minister is buying coffee from us!”

The strange thing in all this is that people think they are really funny. What’s more, they think they are the first ones to have made the connection.

In some ways I am used to this.

Standing six foot eight, I have become accustomed to total strangers talking to me about personal matters. “What’s the weather like up there?” “Do you hit your head a lot?” “Do you play basketball?” Of course, there is an assortment of ways to handle this, such as: “You’re so small-do you pose for trophies?” Or, “How long have you been midget wrestling?”

But when it comes to the name thing, I just don’t know what to do. I mean, what if your name was Bill Clinton? What sorts of tricks is this other Paul Martin going to pull that I am going to have to suffer for? What kind of stigma is going to be attached to my name? I was so discombobulated by all this that I even thought about changing my name to Ben Mulroney—until Canadian Idol appeared on TV.

For a while I tried to make the best of it. For our annual garage sale last year I put a big sign up at the end of my street that said, “Come and Meet Paul Martin, Minister.” That was legal, since I am pastor of a church that meets in west-end Toronto. It wasn’t very effective, though. We only had three walkins from that sign (the rest came to buy the used clothes). I have also tried to use my name to get things like free pizza or discounts on car repairs, but that never seems to work either.

So I’ve decided the only solution is to pass a law that requires all politicians with common names to adopt unique stage names, kind of like wrestlers do. The other Paul Martin could go by something like King of the Seas. Web sites could even capitalize on the

names by selling branded merchandise. On Ki7igOfTheSeas.com you could, for example, order your own Canada Steamship Fines model tanker (Disclaimer: the real King of the Seas has no association with this toy).

I know, course, never happen. Instead, I will go on hearing derisive sniffs and comments such as “Yeah, right” every time I tell someone my name over the phone. Same from nurses asking for identification when I try to visit patients in hospital. And I will continue to smile and nod as family members write tribute songs that include lyrics such as, “We always knew he wanted to minister to his nation/But we didn’t know he meant a minister of the prime persuasion.” It appears my only hope for a quiet, anonymous life is for some new face to come out of the crowd and defeat the Liberals in the federal election expected this spring. I can’t imagine that the other Paul Martin would stick around to lead an opposition, so I might be freed from this difficulty forever.

Then again, perhaps the best solution would be for me, the real Paul Martin, to run for prime minister. What a trick that would be—mass confusion at the polls and not a hanging chad in sight. Of course, a confused press would never stand for this perplexity and likely label me “Dubya” in reference to my middle initial. I might as well show up at a news conference on a Jet Ski.

So, political tunes of the other Paul Martin dramatically change in the next few months, I am resigned to an ever-growing onslaught of stupid jokes and snide remarks. In the meantime, I will take joy in the fact that my son will never share a similar fate. After all, how many William Robert Whitefield Martins are there in the world, let alone little Canada? 1^

Paul Martin sometimes wishes his first name was Gustaf. To comment: overtoyou@macleans.ca