I’m not Paul.
And my apologies to Paul if anyone thinks he’s me.
It’s a persistent case of mistaken identity.
One day recently, I was sitting near the entrance of Gaunce’s Deli & Café having a bowl of chili and a grilled cheese sandwich when a woman who was leaving with her friends or family gave me a smile of recognition.
Who was she?
I’m only 63, but I’m becoming more forgetful when it comes to remembering people I know I should know, and I couldn’t think who this woman might be.
I stalled by sipping my Ale‑8, returning her smile and fluttering my fingers around the straw as I racked my brain for some hint of recollection. Then right as she was walking out, she said, “Hi, Paul!”
So that was it. She thought I was him.
It happens quite often. Someone will walk past me at the courthouse or on the street and think I’m Paul.
I really don’t know Paul, but I’ve met him a few times.
One of those times was a couple of years ago at a luncheon at Woody’s. As I watched him from my table, I not only noticed the physical resemblance, but his mannerisms. He reared back in his chair with his fingers hooked over his belly like I do and threw his head back and laughed like I do.
It was like watching myself in a video.
Later, I walked over, introduced myself and told him it finally made sense.
Paul must be a good guy, because when people mistake me for him, they are always amiable.
Sometimes they’re exuberant.
For example, last year, on Election Day, I was working the polls, and a beautiful little girl saw me and lit up.
“Mommy! It’s Mr. Paul!”
No, honey, it isn’t, her mother had to tell her.
The first time it happened was more than a decade ago when I was managing editor of The Winchester Sun.
I often ate lunch at JK’s, which was on Main Street near the courthouse. One day I was waiting to order when a woman I had never seen before greeted me with a big hug and gushed about my wife and kids.
I’ve never been married and have no children.
I must have looked startled.
She looked slightly embarrassed.
“You’re not Paul, are you?” she asked.
“No, ma’am, I’m not.”
I almost wished I were, though.
After that, it happened again and again. I found it funny, and thought others might, too, so I wrote a column about it for the newspaper.
Then one afternoon or evening that week, I was walking across the parking lot at Kroger, and a young woman made eye contact, smiled and walked on. Then she turned and asked, “Are you Paul?”
“No, but you’re not the first person who’s asked me that,” I said.
Or words to that effect.
“I know,” she grinned. “I read your column. I’m his daughter.”
When I moved to Bardstown in 2012 to work for The Kentucky Standard, I thought my days of being mistaken for Paul were in the past.
But then I started running into people who thought I was Jim.
Jim Brooks was a former reporter and photographer for the Standard who had started his own online newspaper, the Gazette.
One day soon after I arrived in Bardstown, I was snapping pictures of kids at a drugstore soda fountain around the corner from our office when someone asked, “Weren’t you just here a little while ago taking pictures?”
“I wasn’t,” I said.
“You’re the guy from the newspaper, right?”
“You were just here.”
Over the years, people mistook me for Jim and Jim for me. We laughed about it, and I told him the story about Paul and me.
But Facebook had the last laugh.
My last year at the Standard, The Cox’s Station Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution invited Jim and me to an annual dinner and presented both of us their 2019 Media Award for our attention to Nelson County’s rich history in our news coverage.
Jim thought it would be a good idea for us to be photographed together with the women presenting the plaques — just to prove to our readers that we were two different people.
The picture was printed in the paper and on the websites of the Standard and the Gazette. But when I shared it on Facebook, the social media platform’s face recognition feature gave it a surprise twist: It labeled me “Paul!”
Randy tips his hat to country singer Willie Nelson for the title of this commentary.