The seventy-sixth annual North American John Smith Convention was to be held at the luxurious
Occidental Convention Center in Sacramento, California. John Smiths from around the United States,
Canada, and even Mexico would be in attendance. This event is big deal if you happened to be a man
named John with the surname Smith. To those outsiders the whole thing looked like a ridiculous
spectacle, bringing together people just because they shared the most common name in the history of
the world. But to those tens of thousands of John Smiths it was like a family reunion.
The John Smith Convention held a very strict guest list. Albeit all the names on the list are John Smith;
however, the organizers are very strict on the non-admittance of non-John Smiths, ever since a Joe
Smith infiltrated the sixty-seventh annual John Smith Convention, participant screenings and background
checks were set into place. A rules committee of nine John Smiths was set up, and they appropriated the
admission requirements for each subsequent convention. Hereinafter is an abbreviated summary of the
said appropriated rules: One being that it is acceptable for the member to have the varied spelling of
‘John’, those being: Jonathan and the shortened Jon. However, come convention time, those with the
name Jon or Jonathan must, on their entry forms spell their names as simply John. Secondly, the name
John Smith must be your birth name. There were not to be any impure John Smiths allowed, and that
included legal name changes, and in one instance, a John who married a Jane Smith and tried to take on
his wife’s last name.
At the lobby entrance two recorders would scan copies of your driver’s license or any various forms of
photo ID, your birth certificate, Social Security number, and home address (so they can be mailed the
quarterly John Smith Review, which included articles and art by various John Smiths from around the
world).
For hundreds of years having the name John Smith meant you were a somebody. Each John Smith was
taught the John Smith handshake which helped younger John Smiths recognize other John Smiths.
Certain establishments such as restaurants, galleries, multiplexes, et cetera that were owned by John
Smiths offered a secret John Smith password that gave discount for John Smiths.
The exclusivity of it all was even compared to the Freemasons. Yet there really is no comparison. It is
true that both clubs offer membership exclusively to men, however the John Smith club is only available
to the certain few who were born with the admissible moniker. Masons could vote in suitors to the
Freemasonry; John Smith was a birth rite that could neither be rebuked nor questioned. The number of
John Smiths dwarfed the number of Masons and the John Smith organization stretched back thousands
of years before the Masons ever put chisel to stone.
As a fathers, John Smiths were almost required to name each son John. One family from Latvia had John
Smith Sr., John Smith Jr., and John Smiths I-VII at the European Convention just a few years back.
Of course times change. Some Smiths had the audacity not to name their sons John. Smith boys not
named John were shunned by their communities and looked at as exiles.
But nothing revolutionized the John Smiths more than the coming of technology, especially the Internet.
Websites and portals housed hidden links that would only be taught to John Smiths by other John
Smiths. Secret passwords let John Smiths enter into a whole nuther section of the Internet. This is
where John Smiths come to talk to other John Smiths about everything ranging from sports to politics.
This is also the place that heavily advertises the regional John Smith Conventions.
Our hero, John Smith, a maintenance mechanic from Duluth, Minnesota was headed out west to his
fifteenth appearance at the North American Annual John Smith Convention. John Smith had served as a
local organizer when the convention was held in the Twin Cities some years back. But this year was going
to be different; John Smith was going to be taking his nine-year-old son, John Smith, to his first John
Smith Convention. John Smith’s wife was used to him going out every year to the convention, she
accepted it for what is was and was thankful that John wasn’t taking their youngest son, John Smith III,
who was still an infant.
John Smith and his son flew out to California a day before the doors opened at the convention. John
Smith got a room at the Occidental Hotel on the ninth floor and they spent the rest of the night watching
movies in the hotel and looking for John Smiths in the credits.
Eight A.M. the next morning John Smith and John Smith headed down to the convention floor. There was
a long queue that took forty-five minutes until John Smith could check in. John Smith went through the
whole rigmarole of taking down his information, and when it was over he and John Smith got their
nametags. Unlike other social meetings, the name slot was already filled out, typed in ink. They read Hi!
My name is John Smith.
For four and a half hours John Smith took his son around the massive convention floor. They attended
various booths that passed out pamphlets and various other literature signifying the John Smith culture.
They listened to the lectures, and John Smith watched with interest a power point presentation that
showed the history of John Smiths and a graph indicating the growth spike of John Smiths worldwide.
John Smith unenthusiastically followed his father around the floor, trying to find something in the whole
place that was of interest to him. He couldn’t find any. It was all just a bunch nobodies who would never
have anything in common with each other if it weren’t for their names.
“Dad…” John Smith whimpered.
“Please, John,” John Smith said. “Call me John Smith here.”
“I want to go home, I’m bored,” John Smith whined while stomping his feet causing a group of John
Smiths to take notice.
“Don’t act up, John Junior,” John Smith said, “or else I’m not going to be taking you to the zoo.”
“This whole place is a zoo,” John Smith said folding his arms.
John Smith checked his watch. He and John Smith had been strolling around the convention for several
hours without a break. It was in the afternoon and neither John Smith nor John Smith had had anything
to eat or drink the entire day. There would be plenty of time to see the rest of the expo tomorrow, and
the next day.
He took John Smith by the hand and led him through the crowded rows of John Smiths. They came to
the elevator and were surprised when they were stopped by a hotel security guard. A non-John Smith
security guard.
“Can I see your room key, sir,” he asked. “Sorry for the inconvenience, but there is a lot of congestion
here on the floor, and the management doesn’t want people who aren’t staying at the Occidental to use
the elevators.”
John Smith nodded. He understood. He reached to his back pocket, but his wallet wasn’t there, he must’
ve left it up in the room…But surely he remembered the room key…He quickly check his front pockets and
shirt pocket and came up empty. He then asked John Smith if he had taken the room key.
“No,” John Smith said.
“I’m sorry,” John Smith said, turning back to the guard, “but I don’t seem to have it with me.” The guard
raised his eyebrow in concern.
“You leave your room without your room key?” The guard asked him sternly.
“No, I thought I had it with me.”
“This can all be solved if you talk to the lady at the front desk. She’ll get things straightened out…that is,
of course, if you do indeed have a room with us.”
“I do,” John Smith said, trying to convince himself more than the guard.
The first thing the woman at the front desk asked John for was some sort of photo ID. He told her that
he had left his wallet up in his room. Then she asked his name so that she could check it with the registry.
“John Smith,” John Smith told her.
She glared up at him. “Sir, I’m going to need more than that, seeing how there’s over four hundred John
Smiths currently staying in our hotel.”
“What do you need from me?” he asked her.
“Something that says you are who you say you are.”
John Smith snapped his fingers. He knew how to sort all this out. He led John Smith to the front desk of
the John Smith convention.
“Excuse me, John, I have a question.” Two John Smiths behind the desk looked up to him.
“Sure John, what do you need?”
“I was wondering if I could get a copy of my driver’s license and social security card…there’s been a mix
up at the front desk, we can’t get back up to our room without some sort of identification.”
“Oh, sorry, John, can’t help you there.” One John Smith said smugly.
“I don’t think you understand,” John said becoming aggravated, “these people won’t let me and my son,
John Smith here, back into our room unless I show them some photo ID.”
“Can’t help you.” “We’ve got a strict policy.”
“I can’t express to you the direness of this situation,” John Smith pleaded, “I need that copy.”
John Smith turned to John Smith and with a none-too-quiet tone said to him, “I think there’s something
wrong with this John Smith. Something doesn’t feel right.” The John Smiths turned back to him and John
Smith asked him:
“What did you say your name was?”
“John Smith,” he said getting angrily.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure, I was born with the name, and it’s something you mistake!”
“Because I was just wandering,” John Smith sneered, “if you’re not some sort of spy.”
“Spy?”
“An infiltrator.” “A Joe Smith.” “Or a Bob Jones.” “A liar.”
“No! I am John Smith.”
“Move along imposter.” “Don’t make us call hotel security.”
John Smith reluctantly moved away from the table and looked down at his son who was staring back at
him, confused.
“What’s happening?” John Smith asked him.
“Don’t worry, John,” John Smith said putting his hand on John Smith’s shoulder. “I’ll get us out of this.”
He led John Smith back to the hotel front desk, where the woman sat, looking non-too-enthused. “Did
you get some ID?” She asked.
“No, but, I can tell you my room number, then you can send up one of your staff, and they can get my
wallet and we can sort this whole thing out.”
The woman thought about saying no. This was all against Occidental procedure, but she felt sorry for
him because he had his son with him. “Fine. Tell me the room number, sir.”
“Nine-three-six.” John Smith said quickly, glad he had actually remembered it.
The woman pounded about on her keyboard for a few moments then frowned. Looking back up to them
she said haughtily, “It appears that you’ve already check out.”
“No, that’s impossible.”
“Computer tells me you check out three hours ago.”
“Well tell your computer that it’s wrong. I would know if I’ve checked out, I would have been there, and
that hasn’t happened.”
“Room 936?” “Yes.” “You’ve checked out.”
“No!” John Smith pounded his fists on the front desk, causing everyone around them to jump. The
security guard came over in an instant.
“Do we have a problem here, Mary?”
“Yes,” she said, rolling her chair back away from the desk, “this man is trying to break into the hotel
rooms, please remove him from the premises.”
“No. No. This is all wrong!”
“Please follow me, gentlemen,” the guard motioned them towards the door.
John Smith and his son had no choice but to obey.
As they walked out the door of the Hotel Occidental, John Smith’s phone rang. He picked up.
“Hello and thank you,” a mechanically simulated voice said, “for your purchase of one of our fine SkipTrail
excursion boats. We thank you for your purchase and hope to serve you again very soon!”  With a clink!
the called was ended.
Boat, I didn’t order a boat, John Smith thought. Again the phone rang. It was the raised voice of his wife
half way across the country:
“John, what has happened to our credit cards?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I’ve been getting messages on the machine, asking about purchase confirmation.”
“Purchase confirmation on what?”
“Everything; jet skis, ATVs, Smokey Mountain knife sets, fishing boats, tool sets, treadmills, bicycles,
jewelry, tennis shoes, even something from the jelly bean factory. John, what’s going on? What the hell
is going on in California?”
John Smith listened to his wife talk, and all the while his eyes canvassed the block of stores across the
street. Then his heart did back flip up into his throat as he read the marquee signs: Bradley’s Boat and
Ski, Kevin’s Kawasaki, Smokey Mountain Cutlery and Armory, Sac County Cycles, Rae’s Jewelry and
Boutique, the Jelly Bean Factory…
It hit him all at once. There was a sinking feeling in his gut.
This can’t be happening…
“What’s going on, John?” He hung up and tried to wrap his head around the situation. Immediately there
was another call from an unknown number…
“Hello?” John Smith answered.
“Is this John?” a mysterious voice seethed.
“Yes.” “John Smith?” “Yes.”
“I’d just like to thank you from the bottom of my heart…”
“Thank me for what?” John Smith asked.
John was looking up at his father. “What’s wrong, dad?” John Smith asked. John Smith didn’t pay any
attention to his son.
“I’ve always wanted to be like you…” the voice continued in slow monotonous tones. “…to have what you
have…”
“And what’s that?”
“…Everything.”
“Who is this?” John Smith asked violently.
There was heavy breathing, then finally: “I’m you now…I’m John Smith.”
“You the one who stole my wallet? My credit cards? You’ve been spending all my money!”
“No…I’ve been spending all my money.”
“You’re not getting away with any of this!” John Smith screamed into the phone. “I will hunt you down!”
There was deep laughter on the other end. “Find me? How are you going to find me? That’d be like
looking for a John Smith at a John Smith convention. You’ll find John Smith, but you won’t find me.”
John Smith grabbed his son’s hand in a fury and led him back into the Hotel Occidental. “Look around,
John,” he said covering up the receiver end of the phone, “do you see anyone in there using a phone?”
John Smith scanned the crowd of John Smiths, but it was impossible to tell if any were using a phone. “I
don’t know…what’s this about, dad?”
There was more laughter from the caller. “Looking for me?” The deep voice asked.
He’s looking right at us, John Smith thought. “I got your number, pal,” he said, thinking quickly, “you’re
dead! I’m gonna find out who you are and—”
John Smith’s threat was cut short when the caller began to laugh even more.
“If you’re looking for the John Smith who owns this phone,” the voice creeped, “then why don’t you just
look at the person standing right next to you.”
John Smith whirled around, looking at his flanks, but seeing no one but his son.
His son.
“I took it from him some hours ago…If only I could get close enough to grab his wallet, I may have been
able to steal his identity, too. Of course a kid that young probably has only a few dollars in a savings
account…about the same you’ve got in your checking now!”
John Smith covered up the phone again.
“Where’s your phone, John?”
John Smith searched his pockets, frowned, and then redoubled his search, his eyes becoming frantic.
“Uhhh…”
“Stay close to me,” John Smith said. “And take your wallet out of your pocket and hold it tight in your
hand.” John Smith obeyed.
“Dad, tell me what’s happening?”
“Someone’s stolen my identity.”
“What? They can do that? But why?”
The John Smiths moved along the edge of the convention floor, all the while keeping an eye out for John
Smiths on cell phones.
“I don’t know why, John.” He moved the phone back to his ear. “What do you want from me?”
“But I don’t want anything,” the voice said coolly. “Except to thank you…”        “Thank me? Thank me for
what? For stealing my life out from under me?”
“…For giving me the life I’ve always wanted. For giving me the name I could never have.” There was a
pause on the line, and John Smith wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard the man whimpering for a
moment, then he came back, “I tried to be like you people…I wanted the name so badly. But no! I am
cursed! Forever shunned by the likes of your kind. My parents had the gall to name their only son Joe—
When they knew what the consequences would be! I would never be a part of the John Smith
community…As much as I tried I never would belong. I am a ridicule and a mockery! I want what you were
given on a silver platter! I want everything that comes with the name! I want to be John Smith…and now
I am.”
John Smith’s mind was racing. Joe Smith…Joe Smith. The name was taboo in the realm of John Smiths…
“Dad…”
He had heard the rumor of a Joe Smith infiltrating this very convention only a few years back…
“…Dad…”
Could it be the same bitter Joe Smith? One of the cursed few that had to suffer through life because
their parents would not give him the name...
“DAD!”
John Smith looked down at his son, and his son was pointing at something…
John Smith looked up, following the direction of his son’s finger…It landed on a man thirty feet away on a
cell phone, staring straight at them. A squat man with thinning hair and oversized glasses. The Joe Smith.
John Smith dashed forward, past the floor guards, picking up speed. Joe Smith took off running down
another aisle. John Smith was loosing him in the crowd
“Come back here!” He sprinted down past all the exhibits, knocking numerous John Smiths to the
ground. He came to where the Joe Smith had stood, but he could no longer see the man. But now
everyone was staring at him.
“What’s your problem, John?” Some John Smith asked him.
John Smiths were helping up other fallen John Smiths, and all were looking at John Smith for an answer.
“Well?”
John Smith was out of breath. John Smiths were crowding all around him.
“There’s…an…intruder…” he wheezed. There was a large collective gasp from all the John Smiths. It
seemed that every John Smith in the room had eyes on him.
“Where?” A John Smith asked.
“I…I don’t know…he took off running. But he’s here. And he’s a Joe Smith!”
“A Joe Smith!” “Again!” “A Joe Smith here?”
“It’s true…” John Smith cleared his throat and stood up straight.
“How do you know all of this?”
Before he could answer he realized that his son was missing.
“John?” he cried. “John Smith!”
“He’s the imposter,” came a voice from behind him. “That’s a Joe Smith there.”
“What? Me—NO!” John Smith countered, all the while trying to find his son in the crowd. The John Smiths
were turning into a mob, converging slowly on him.
“Are you who you say you are?” A John Smith asked.
“Yes! I’m a John Smith!”
“Prove it!” Said another John Smith.
“I…I can’t,” John Smith fumbled the words out.
“Of course he can’t prove it,” came the voice from behind him, and the short man with the large glasses
came to stand next to John Smith. “Because he is a masquerader! A fake! A fraud! He is a Joe Smith!”
“You…” John Smith said slowly. “You did this to me!” He reached out and began choking the real Joe
Smith, but was immediately torn away and restrained. “He’s the Joe Smith! Him!” But his cries went in
vain.
“Don’t believe him,” the Joe Smith said, “he’s an infiltrator! A disgrace to the name John Smith!”
“No! No! He’s lying! He’s not John Smith, I am!”
“Show us your ID, then,” a John Smith demanded.
“I don’t have it, he stole it!”
“John Smiths,” the John Smith said to the John Smiths holding back John Smith, “remove this Joe Smith
from our sight.”
They began to forcefully carry John Smith away, his feet kicking and scraping at the ground.
“You’re making a mistake!” John Smith cried out. “I am John Smith! I am John Smith!” More and more
John Smiths began to help drag along the flailing John Smith. “I—I know the handshake!” They didn’t
seem to hear him.
“Stop! Stop!” It was John Smith who came running out of nowhere, halting the mob that was carrying
away his father. “He is a John Smith, tell them the password, dad! The secret John Smith password!”
“Szechuan Machinegun!” John Smith shouted out.
The John Smiths stopped and let John Smith fall to the ground.
“How do you know the John Smith secret password?” a John Smith asked. “Only John Smiths should
know that.”
“I know it because I am John Smith,” he said getting up from the floor.
“Aha!” Joe Smith cried. “A spy as well. We John Smiths must be more careful and more discreet in the
future, lest the whole world know our secrets.”
“Ask him,” John Smith said quickly looking over to the real imposter, “if he knows the handshake.”
All the eyes of the John Smiths turned to the Joe Smith who stood awkwardly in the midst of the crowd.
“Well?” a John Smith prodded him.
The Joe Smith was visibly sweating.
“Is there something wrong, John?” Another asked.
“No, of course not…” And the Joe Smith reached out his hand to the nearest John Smith standing next
to him. The John Smith reached out his own hand, and somehow, the Joe Smith knew the handshake.
“You see! Enough of this foolishness, get them out of here, the both of them, the boy isn’t a John Smith
either.”
“Show them your ID, son.” John Smith said hurriedly.
There was a mumbling from John Smith. “Someone took it. Grabbed it from my hand.”
“And what about you, then?” a John Smith approached the Joe Smith. “That’s a brutal accusation,
someone calling you a Joe Smith, let’s see your ID.”
Without hesitation the Joe Smith pulled out a wallet, one that John Smith recognized to be his own. The
John Smith grabbed the wallet, pulled out the Social Security card and held it closely to his face. “What’s
your Social Security number, John?” he asked the Joe Smith was a raised brow.
There was a brief hesitation, then the Joe Smith spouted off a string of nine numbers. All the John
Smiths held their breath.
He’s right, John Smith thought, he’s memorized my number.
“That’s correct,” the John Smith holding the card said, giving it and the wallet back to the Joe Smith.
“Let this be a lesson to all John Smiths,” the Joe Smith sermonized, “that the Joe Smiths of the world are
devious and conniving and we must band now together, stronger than ever, in order to keep out these
impurities.”
John Smith hung his head. The battle was lost, the Joe Smiths have won, and now not only he, but his
son as well, were exiles.
“Get them gone.” And with that John Smith and his son were thrown out on the street of the Hotel
Occidental, and a security guard stepped out after to keep an eye on them. But John Smith had no
intention of going back in.
He stood up and helped his son off the ground. He dusted himself off and looked back inside where the
John Smiths were getting back to normal John Smith life.
“He took everything, John,” John Smith said looking down to his son, “I should have been more careful.”
Just at that moment a large pickup truck drove past the entrance to the hotel, honking. Towed behind
the truck was a trailer with a jet ski and 4-wheeler strapped down in the back. The new John Smith was
waving at them from the cab, and then he was gone.
“I should have been more careful…” John Smith began running his fingers through his hair and shaking
his head back and forth. “My life is gone.”
“I never liked the name anyway,” John Smith said suddenly patting his dad on the back and meaning
what he said.
John Smith smiled up at his boy. And something told him that when he got back home he’d be legally
changing his name as soon as possible.
Joe Smith had a nice ring to it.
I Am John Smith
by: Michael Mattson