Deep thoughts, random insights, and musings by Susan Jacobs

Monday, July 23, 2007

Being Susan Jacobs

Just over two years ago, I got in touch over e-mail with another Jewish journalist named Susan Jacobs. I had seen her writing for The Jewish Journal Boston North among the stack of newspapers from other Jewish communities that arrive every week at The Jewish Chronicle, and so I sent her a friendly note, and we wrote back and forth a few times, before letting the correspondence drop off. The connection amused me enough that I wrote a column (with the encouragement of Susan Jacobs), detailing my various brushes with other Susan Jacobses. (Susans Jacobs?)

I sent Susan Jacobs (not me, the other one) a copy of my column, and she encouraged me to look her up if ever I were in the Boston area. Last week, I had the good fortune to participate in the Gralla Fellows Program, so I let her know that I would be around, and we managed to meet, thanks to the help of Ben Harris, who termed our meeting last Wednesday at Government Center in Boston "The Susan Jacobs Summit."

I am pleased to say that this summit did not get mired in political wrangling, as Susan Jacobs and I have agreed to share our name, and both agree that it is one to be proud of. Despite our sameness of name and job title (we are now both associate editors), Susan Jacobs and I are different enough from one another that people should be able to tell us apart.

Perhaps Susan Jacobs and I will meet again someday, but in the meantime, we can both laugh at the inevitable occasions when folks in our profession will mistake one of us for the other.

And now, for your reading pleasure, I present the Susan Jacobs column.

A Susan by any other name

When I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me, "There's only one Susan," by which she meant (as Mr. Rogers would say) there is only one person in the world who is exactly like me, and I am special. Of course, I knew even then that there were many other girls and women in this world who are named Susan. Beginning in first grade, there always seemed to be at least one other Susan in my class. That was OK, because we had different last names. After all, how many people named Susan Jacobs could there be? Quite a few it turns out.

When I was still in elementary school, I recall my grandmother pointing out that the local newspaper had a photograph of someone named Susan Jacobs who sold cars and lived in North Dakota. I was excited that my name has appeared in the paper and was shared by someone semi-famous. That was my first exposure to another Susan Jacobs, but there would be many more.

As a college student in New York, I once got a call from a pleasant sounding man who asked to speak to Susan Jacobs. "That's me," I said. "Is this the Susan Jacobs who is a music producer?" he asked. "No, I told him. You have the wrong Susan Jacobs." He sighed. He had been calling every Susan Jacobs in the phone book and hadn't found the one he was looking for yet.

A couple of years after that, on a flight from New York to Cincinnati, I was surprised to find another woman occupying my assigned seat. "Excuse me," I said, "I think you're sitting in my seat." She assured me that the airline had assigned her what I believed to be my window seat. Not wanting to make a fuss, I sat in the aisle seat instead.

When a flight attendant walked past me, I pointed out that the airline had assigned the same seat to two people. She said she would look into it and asked us to give her our tickets. When she returned, she said, "It's funny, not only do these two tickets have the same seat number, but they also have the same name."

"What's the name?" I asked. "Susan Jacobs," she said. "I'm Susan Jacobs," I responded, and then looked over to the other woman, who was laughing because she was also Susan Jacobs.

"Whoa, go play the lottery!" exclaimed a man in the row ahead of us. With an hour-long flight ahead of us, there was no easy access to lottery tickets, but the other Susan Jacobs and I had a nice chat about our lives. She was about 10 years older than me, and worked for a television station. (It seems that women with our name are good communicators.) She was on her way to visit her parents, and I was traveling to a cousin's wedding. It turned out we were headed to the same neighborhood, so when we landed in Cincinnati, her parents gave me a ride to my cousins' house.

My latest Susan Jacobs encounter has been via e-mail with a woman who holds a job similar to mine at another Jewish newspaper. Susan Jacobs is the Assistant Editor of the Jewish Journal Boston North. I contacted her and we exchanged some friendly messages, and she encouraged me to write this column about our name. So, please note that full credit for this column goes to Susan Jacobs. The editor. The one who works for a Jewish newspaper. You know who I'm talking about.