Tag Archives: Doppleganger

Tom Vander Well, meet Tom Vanderwell

Tom Vander Well and Tom Vanderwell

When I started blogging many years ago, I learned to set up Google alerts which would notify me if anyone mentioned my name on the web. Since people regularly spell my name incorrectly, I set up alerts for both “Tom Vander Well” and “Tom Vanderwell.” So it was that I learned of the existence of my name’s doppleganger, Tom Vanderwell, who was blogging on the subject of mortgage banking at the time.

It did not take long for Tom and me to make connection and over the years we’ve chatted online via Facebook, have exchanged e-mails and have even spoken on the phone. So, when I found out Wendy and I were going to be in Tom’s neck of the woods this week I immediately arranged for a face-to-face meeting. It was a lot of fun. While refilling my coffee this morning, a friend of Tom’s stopped to chat with him. I had so much fun walking up to the stranger, sticking out my hand and saying “Hi, I’m Tom Vander Well” to which he hesitated and did a double-take to look at Tom Vanderwell who laughed and said, “No, really, he is Tom Vander Well.”

We’ve not been able to establish a direct family connection. The difference in the spelling of the last name is likely from differences in the way the Dutch “van der Wel” was Americanized to either “Vander Well,” “Vanderwell,” or similar spellings. My great-grandfather came by himself in 1885 and settled in Boyden, Iowa. Tom’s grandfather came to the U.S. with a boatload of family in the early 1900s and settled in Michigan. If we go back far enough we may be able to find some connection, but at the very least we’re connected by both faith and the web.

Tom left the banking industry at the beginning of this year and has been working full time for God’s Littlest Angels orphanage in Haiti.

The Tom Hanks Phenomenon

Image via Wikipedia

It happened again at the opera last Friday night. During the intermission, the nice people sitting behind us struck up a conversation (she wanted to let us know how nice we looked!). We chatted about where we were from and what prompted us to come to the opera. Suddenly, the woman looked at me and the conversation switched gears:

Lady: Oh! I’ve got it! I’ve been trying to think of who you remind me of, and now I know…

Me: [Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Please, don’t say it.]

Lady: Tom Hanks! You remind me of a young Tom Hanks.

[Wendy laughs and shakes her head; The woman sees this, then sees the look of incredulity on my face.]

Lady: I’m sorry. Is that bad? Did I say something wrong?

No, lady. You didn’t say anything wrong. It’s just that, for more than the past 20 years, I have lived with the “you remind me of Tom Hanks” on a continuous basis. It happens at every play in which I perform. It happens when I speak at a conference. For goodness sake, it happens randomly after talking to a strange woman at the opera for less than five minutes.

For the record, I love Tom Hanks’ work. He is an amazing actor, he seems like a nice person, and I take it as oddly complimentary that I remind people of him (It’s better than living with: “You remind me of Rob Schneider”). I think Tom Hanks and I would get along well and would enjoy one another’s company. However, with all due respect, I have never tried to look like Tom Hanks, talk like Tom Hanks, act like Tom Hanks, or emulate Tom Hanks in any way.

I am perplexed (and, at times, really annoyed) by the Tom Hanks phenomenon.

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