So what's in a name? A lot, it would seem, especially in the automated matrix of the Information Age. But the Scunthorpe Problem isn't limited to geographic locations. Get ready to meet a retired radiologist who unexpectedly found his life shifting from X-rays to accusations of being X-rated.
Dr. Herman I. Libshitz is used to people giving him, uh, crap about his name. The doctor, raised in Philadelphia and now living in Chestertown, Maryland, learned early on he'd have to defend his family's honor.
"When you're named Libshitz, you expect problems with your name," he says. "Can you imagine what a drill sergeant did with Libshitz?"
Still, Libshitz's foray into cyberspace proved more irksome than the teasing he had endured in his younger years. It started around 1998, when he and his wife bought a computer and tried to sign up for an AOL account.
"AOL told me my name was insulting and offensive," he remembers. "They wouldn't give me an e-mail address."
Libshitz fought and won that battle. But it was only the beginning. Fast-forward to July 2008, when Libshitz and his wife decided to upgrade their home Internet service from dial-up to broadband. They logged on to Verizon's Web site only to find that, once again, the ISP wouldn't accept their name for use in an e-mail address.
"Verizon could use my name in the phonebook. They could use my name to bill me. Lord knows they cash my checks with my name on it," Libshitz says. "But somehow, as an e-mail address, it wasn't good. That offended me. I told them it was fine when Uncle Sam wanted me to be in the military, and I proudly served."
Four phone calls and a rotating lineup of unseen supervisors proved inadequate to the task of solving the Libshitz issue. Finally, a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer managed to get through to someone at Verizon to discuss the doctor's DSL purchase problems and ultimately to reverse the decision declaring his last name off-limits.
"They condescended to let me use my own name as an e-mail address. Wasn't that gracious?" Libshitz remarks.