One Man Lost His Memory.
Another, Auctioned His Name
This post is about two people, but it could also be about the same person. One man woke up one day and didn’t know who he was; the other, thought of making a buck out of his own name. In the end, what identifies us may be somewhere between these two extremes.
‘Benjaman Kyle,’ found unconscious next to a dumpster in 2004, still doesn’t remember anything about his previous life, and is desperately seeking a new identity. Jason Sadler, who’s either broke or bored with his own life, decided to auction his name to the highest bidder.
The hospital to where Kyle was taken had run out of ‘John Does,’ so his rescuers did the sensible thing: they named him after the joint he was, until he got knocked out by reasons unknown. Sadler, who has a knack for ingenious schemes, in just a few days, will be called HeadsetsDot.com.
You could say that it’s a classical tale of wanting what you can’t have, and selling what you’ve got for free. While Kyle’s story has its share of poignancy, a grown-up American with no recognizable ID, Sadler’s tale is more in tune with these pragmatic, hold-no-barriers times.
THE MAN WITH NO NAME
Despite eight full years, no one has come forward to identify the enigma of Richmond Hill, Georgia. But he did attract attention of at least two people, Miguel Endara, who’s drawn an exquisite portrait of his, and a film school student, John Wikstrom, who’s directed a documentary about him, Finding Benjaman.
Endara‘s hyper-realistic, hand-made portrait was done using a technique called stippling. It took 2.1 million ink dots and 138 hours to complete. As painstakingly as that sounds, it pales in comparison with Benjaman’s still ongoing journey towards a new identity. In fact his story has touches of Franz Kafka and it seems made for Hollywood.
Even his condition, retrograde amnesia, draws expressions of disbelief. That’s because it’s actually known as Hollywood amnesia, that strange condition that seems to afflict 99% of soap opera plots, in which one character suffers a bump in the head and, suddenly, forgets all about his past. But albeit rare, it is a recognized medical condition.
A FIGHT FOR A NUMBER
Neither an investigation by the FBI nor fingerprints or public records have brought up clues about this man. It’s as if he never existed, and some federal bureaucracies seem perfectly comfortable with such an absurd arrangement: you may be a flesh and bone person, but if you can’t produce an ID, you really can’t be real.
The fact is, Benjaman’s drama is no longer about his previous but about his current life. As he’s been denied a new Social Security number, he can’t have a job or a place to live. The government agency argues that it won’t issue a new card, since it has presumably done so in the past. Thus he became the only U.S. citizen who’s been declared officially missing, even though he’s not.
It’s this seemingly meaningless piece of bureaucratic zeal, which wouldn’t be misplaced in a novel written by the great 18th century Czech writer, what has effectively interrupted his life, not so much what happened in 2004. That event, by the way, had its own share of grit and brutality too, as he was found severely beaten, naked and covered in blood.
Endara’s portraits and Wikstrom’s film aim both at raising public awareness and funds for Benjamin, so to help restore the place in society he so longs to regain. And they seem to be working: he was issued recently a ‘legacy ID,’ which for all ends and purposes, does provide a base for his claim towards a new identity. And has his own Wikipedia page. So far, though, no SS card.
YOU MAY CALL ME YOUR FIRM
What would make a perfectly reasonable young man to decide to auction his own family name, in exchange for cash? That’s the first thing that would occur to anyone who’s learned that, on Jan. 1, 2013, Jason Stadler will be no longer. For the whole year, he’ll be legally called Jason HeadsetsDot.com. We know what you’re thinking and no, we haven’t asked his Mom how she feels about that.
But for those close to him, the decision is not so far out as it seems. Or unprofitable. One of his early ideas was through his Web site, IWearYourShirt.com. Stadler set himself up to wear a different corporate-sponsored shirt for an entire year. He made videos, promoted his clients on social networks, and by last year, he was making 250K. Not bad for such a low-maintenance effort.
Still, it’s one thing to advertise a product, be it on your clothes or, as it’s happened elsewhere, with tattoos on your body. Another, is to rent out what’s essentially been given to you as your blood signature, your last name. But that seems not to bother him the least.
To get going, he came up with yet another poorly imaginative Website name, BuyMyLastName.com, and got different brands to bid on his last name, which will be changed on his driver’s license, passport, and his social media profiles. And it seems to have worked. You just don’t need to learn about the other ideas he’s considered too, to make money.
But for all his entrepreneurial spirit, and initiative, Stadler, or rather, Mr. HeadsetsDot.com is, at heart, a gifted old-fashioned sales person, with an unflappable flair to convince gullible chiefs of companies that he can offer something they don’t have, and we wouldn’t dare to speculate what that is, exactly. You can say whatever you may, though, but it does seem to be working for him.
* Tattoo On You