Source: The Arizona Republic (Phoenix)
Author: Dennis Wagner
(Arizona) License ordeal no fun for Mr. FUN
PHOENIX - A Valley man who legally changed his name to a single word - "FUN" - ran into a bureaucratic buzz saw last week when he discovered that his driver's license had been revoked, ostensibly in the interest of homeland security. The 28-year-old Arizona native, formerly known as Courtney Blair Schwebel, had his name legally changed in Texas six years ago and has been licensed to drive as FUN in that state and Louisiana ever since. He obtained an Arizona license when he returned to Scottsdale last year, but officials at the state Motor Vehicle Division immediately canceled it and sent the notification to a former address. FUN said he learned about the revocation Tuesday when he applied for a job delivering pizzas. "I'm having some serious issues," he said. "You only have one life to live, and you should be able to choose your own name." Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more scrutiny is being paid to driver's licenses, Social Security numbers and identity verification. FUN said he understands all that but had good reason to change his name. Although his mom liked the sound of Courtney Blair, bullies picked on him all through childhood. "They saw me as a victim, and they victimized me. Usually it was three or four guys just basically kicking me while I was balled up on the ground . . . People were always insulting me for most of my life." So, around age 15, FUN began thinking about shedding his birth name. One day he drove past a costume shop and noticed the business sign: "Fun Services." Presto! And because he was not keen on his last name, either, FUN decided to start over entirely. As a prospective screenwriter, he saw the singular appellation as the perfect way to establish an identity. His new one-syllable name transformed his life, FUN said. "It helps me cheer up and gives me something to look forward to. I get treated totally different now because your name does matter. People are very happy to see me." FUN made the name-change official on March 9, 2000, while living in Austin. He went to the Travis County Courthouse, filled out an application, got it approved by a judge, then went down the street to obtain a new driver's license. "It took like 30 minutes," he recalled. FUN said he filed tax returns, registered for college, got jobs and rented apartments under his new name. Things went smoothly until after the terrorist attacks. While applying to rent an apartment in New Orleans, he learned that the Social Security Administration had changed his name. FUN contacted the agency and got a terse letter back explaining that, because the federal computer requires a first and last name, he had been given a new moniker on the database: "Unknown FUN." From that point on, he began carrying around court documents and other paperwork verifying his legal name. He ran into occasional hassles and confusion, but always managed to clear things up. In November, after moving back to Arizona, FUN got a driver's license. He assumed it was valid until he applied for a job last week at Papa John's Pizza and was told otherwise. FUN went to the MVD and confirmed that his driving privileges were canceled one day after the license was issued; a notice had been mailed to his old residence in New Orleans. At the Scottsdale MVD office, a supervisor explained that FUN's name did not match with Social Security records, so the license was revoked, he said, "because I was a possible homeland security risk." Cydney DeModica, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said states are required to verify applicant names and birth dates under a federal regulation enacted to track deadbeat dads. She said it does not matter in Arizona what name a person uses, so long as it matches the Social Security database. After 9/11, she said, that verification became doubly important. DeModica said FUN was able to get his Arizona license because the MVD link to Social Security databases wasn't working the day he applied. As soon as the connection was re-established, the computer advised: "Name did not verify. Date of birth is valid." Lowell Kepke, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, said the government recognizes one-name people, but its computer doesn't, which is why FUN received a letter of explanation. "We would hope that would be sufficient for the motor vehicle bureau or whoever else needs verification," he added. It was. DeModica said FUN's license to drive has been reinstated. She also noted that he's not alone: 118 other Arizona motorists have only one name.