Barry Hess, a Story of Mistaken Identity
My cohort, Shawn, and his wife are making their way through State by State. Currently they are learning about Arizona. I was able to contribute with a story of my extremely odd connection to a semi-famous Arizonian.
I am reprinting the original text just in case it ever leaves Shawn’s site:
I’m so glad that we’re doing this State By State reading, otherwise I’d never find out this unbelievable story from my friend, colleague and co-worker, Barry Hess. In his own words:
Let’s see what I can weave - it’s been many years. The odds of this being embellished are very good, but I remember it being a pretty damn good story when I was living it. Barry Hess is an Arizona politician who has run for various offices over the years, most recently running for governor in 2006. He has run for governor twice, senator once, and even sought the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination in 2000.
For some reason in the early part of the decade a few people out there found my email address and thought it was Politico Barry’s. Maybe his email address was similar to mine or, more likely, a Google search led to my email address. I’ve never really hidden or obfuscated it out on the ‘net.
While Politico Barry was still active in politics, I would get emails intended for him approximately every six months. An older gentleman emailed me, lamenting his granddaughter’s horrid political leanings. Clearly college had changed her. A woman invited me to a party celebrating her successful completion of the Bar exam. I had a friend in Tempe who was willing to go in my stead, if only he did not already have weekend plans. In every case, I would not pretend to be Politico Barry, but I also would not let on that I knew a Politico Barry existed. In most cases the dialog would end after a few emails as the other party would figure out he/she had the wrong Barry Hess.
One particular conversation stands out. A middle-aged woman contacted me and started the conversation off in a very familiar tone. She discussed our meeting at “the Peoria event.” To my recollection she was inviting me to attend an event of her own. I think she was running for a local or county office in Arizona.
My response to her was that I did not believe we had met, and indeed I had not been to Illinois in several years. See, the only thing I could think of when she mentioned “the Peoria event” was a city in Illinois. In any case, I did not pretend to be Politico Barry, nor did I offer any more information about myself than necessary.
Typically the conversation would end here, but this woman, who I determined was middle-aged based on a few Google searches, was insistent. We had met at “the Peoria event.” In fact, she had played piano at the event and I had complimented her skill. My response was vapid and confused.
Then came some of the most progressive HTML formatting I’ve ever seen in my years of emailing. A very liberal use of HTML formatting, I must say. Back-and-forth we went, me playing dumb and she restating her case. First the letters became capitalized. Then the font size grew. Then the letters turned red. Each step up the font point scale required an equal increase in exclamation marks. I had infuriated her in my nonchalance; my disinterest in her campaign and Libertarian credentials.
I don’t think I ever did come out and say “I’m Barry Hess from Minnesota, I’m 26 years-old and married to my high-school sweetheart.” She must have finally figured it out on her own, perhaps even with a phone call to Politico Barry. One day the messages just stopped, but the story lives forever.