I was christened May Tabina by a computer at a place called Young America in Minnesota -- which sent me a free softball for two cereal proofs-of-purchases and a 40-cent check.
You would think the computer would have realized it changed my name when it cashed my check, which had my real name on it.
I have received mail addressed to May Spring, Mary Bina and Miley Tapina.
Cheery letters urge me to buy magazines or want to know what brands of pet food, shampoo, detergent or floor cleaner I buy or hint I am on a selected list to possibly win up to several million dollars if my number is selected from among the 10 billion sent out.
A few write me cozy but concerned letters that begin in a confidential tone:
"Dear May (Morey, Mony, Murray or the more formal Mr. or Ms. Tabina, Tbina, Sping, Spun, Bing), if you should be hospitalized your current insurance may not fully cover your expenses which would be an additional burden on your family."
In one week's mail alone under a variety of names, I was alerted to specials on tires, vinyl siding, storm windows, home equity loans and offers to send me credit cards with pre-approved credit lines ranging anywhere from $2500 to $25,000.
If I had applied would I use my real name or the one the computer gave me?
I heard on the news that a dog somewhere was issued a credit card with a $5,000 pre-approved limit. The announcer did not say whether the dog had applied.
If I win one of the multimillion-dollar giveaways, should I endorse the check using the name the computer gave me or my legal name?
Would the IRS require I get another Social Security number under that name or could I use the one they issued me 35 years ago?
I don't know.
A department head at the State University of New York (SUNY) showed me what lengths computers will go to get business.
He received an enticing letter from a home finance company addressed to Mr. Cliff Suny.
"Dear Mr. Suny," it began, "our current low interest rates make this an ideal time for you to add that extra room the entire Suny family will enjoy this winter."
"Should I fill it out?" he asked.
"Why not?" I said.
Does the computer know that Suny is an acronym for the State University of New York?
Are they willing to loan him enough money for a room to hold the more than 20,000 students, faculty and staff on our Buffalo campuses?
"Oh, go ahead and sent it back and sign the governor's name on the application," I begged. I could see Mr. Suny was weighing the decision.
"I would lose my job if they found out I sent it in as a joke," he said.
Said I, "But think of the movie, the talk shows.
"Laugh all the way to the bank as a celebrity!"
"Or cry all the way to the penitentiary for fraud," he pointed out.
"But if you go to the pen, then they'll send you another letter addressed to "Dear Mr. Occupant -- our current low interest rates make this an ideal time for you to add that extra room the entire Occupant family will enjoy.
Will the room be large enough to hold all the inmates in the penitentiary?
MARY BETH SPINA lives in Clarence and has been a writer and reporter for 30 years.