Mistaken Identity, Part 1

On May 3, 2011 · 5 Comments

I know it’s sometimes difficult for us to believe, being all geo-geeky and such, that not everyone shares our interest in geography. I couldn’t help being reminded of that when I started drafting my latest new visitor roundup. It brought to mind a story from my past when an incorrect geographic assumption caused quite a ruckus. As I recalled that incident now somewhat nostalgically, it also reminded me of a couple of other times over the years when others’ basic lack of geographic awareness complicated the lives of unwitting people at the receiving end.

Nobody gets hurt in these stories so don’t worry. Nobody blindly following a faulty GPS until the automobile crashes into a ditch or anything like that. They’re quite a bit more harmless.

Part 1 is the vignette that came to mind initially. I’ve titled it:

Call the Inspectors

I worked in an office many years ago that served as a liaison between many other offices located throughout the United States. We gathered managers of these widely scattered offices together periodically to share national priorities, formulate strategies, and hash-out operational differences. Technology is a great thing but it can’t replace face-to-face conversations in their entirety. Three or four times a year we would pick a city, find a hotel and meeting space, develop an agenda, and send out invitations to the managers. We would shift locations to spread the (in)convenience around.

This worked well most of the time but once our internal inspectors contacted us due to an anonymous complaint they’d received. They wanted to know who came up with the crazy idea of sending an entire management team on an obvious boondoggle to the South Pacific and how many thousands of dollars that was going to waste. They insisted that we cancel the meeting immediately and identify the responsible party for possible disciplinary action. Our director was practically apoplectic. South Pacific? SOUTH PACIFIC? She’d selected a site in Maryland.

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This is Solomons Island, a waterfront weekend-getaway town outside of Washington, DC. It shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out where this story goes next.

People from the area commonly refer to it simply as "Solomons." To the folks working on meeting logistics, all of us from the DC area and all aware of Solomons, this hardly seemed like an exotic or unusual choice. The hotel offered a great group rate, it was convenient to nearby airports and it provided a relaxing spot where managers could focus on important issues without a lot of distractions.

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The complaint arose from the San Francisco office and that’s where the investigation began. It appeared to be an obvious case of complete malfeasance according to the anonymous tipster who failed to catch or reconcile the slight name variation. The managers were all going to the tropical Solomon Islands for a free vacation! This outrage had to be stopped at once!

Fortunately the investigators were logical people who quickly understood the situation. We provided a copy of the hotel agreement, they felt a little embarrassed, and we all had a good laugh.

Articles in this string:

Mistaken Identity, Part 1: Call the Inspectors
Mistaken Identity, Part 2: Invasion of a Maryland Beach Town
Mistaken Identity, Part 3: Baltimore, DC

On May 3, 2011 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Mistaken Identity, Part 1”

  1. Bill Harris says:

    When I was in college,long before the days of Google maps, two of my friend were offered an interview in Dover for an interesting summer job. They were quite excited about the opportunity and I, being from Delaware, filled them in on how to best get there, where to eat, and other sundry items. The day of the interview came and in mid-morning I received a phone call from one friend telling me they were lost and asked me to dig up the company’s phone number. I found the phone number but noted that it was not the Delaware Area Code. A moment of silence on the other side of the line and them my friend quietly asked, “Well, give me the number anyway.”

    Later that day, they were unusually quiet about the trip and interview; it wasn’t until the next day that they confessed the interview was in Dover, New Jersey, not Dover, Delaware.
    Fortunately they were able to concoct a believable story about car problems and rescheduled the interview and actually landed the job.

    Thirty years later, we still get a good laugh at the mention of Dover.

  2. Fritz Keppler says:

    The German Air Force has had occasion to fly to Jacksonville FL on numerous occasions, primarily to bring personnel to the many Naval bases in the area, occasionally to Cecil Field but usually to JAX, the civilian airport. A few years ago we flew a group there, but it wasn’t until after arrival that the group discovered that they were supposed to go to Jacksonville NC, to MCB Camp Lejeune, rather than to a Naval facility in Florida. The Air Force flew exactly as ordered, it was the unit in Germany requesting the flight which specified Florida. So, the group was obliged to rent several vehicles and drive all the way up to North Carolina. (If I recall correctly, they flew back commercial.)

    Then there’s the time that a passenger had me call Walt Disney World because he had parked his rental vehicle in one of the lots there, then forgot to retrieve it….. But that’s another story entirely.

  3. Peter says:

    Almost all of those stories about people driving off cliffs and whatnot in response to faulty GPS directions are urban legends. There was a much-publicized case here on Long Island a few years ago, when a woman driving in an unfamiliar area to pick up runners after a road race pulled onto railroad tracks and promptly was squashed by a train. At first the investigators thought that she had been misled by her GPS, but that later was proven to be wrong.

  4. Bill Harris says:

    One other lost location story- my first job out of college was at a large facility in South Carolina where the company had recently hired a large number of engineers fresh out of college from all parts of the country. One friend was sent to Newark, Delaware for a conference. When I saw him later that week, I asked him about the trip. “It was nice,” he said, “but it was a long trip from the airport.”

    “I guess it is about a 45-mile trip from the Philadelphia airport.” I noted.

    “No, I flew directly into Newark.” he responded.

    I was taken aback for a moment, because Newark Delaware is a small town without a commercial airport of its own. Then it dawned on me…

    “Dave, you flew into the Newark, New Jersey airport, didn’t you?”

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