Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor
Science fiction and superhero fans live in fictional worlds that are awash with alternate realities. The concept is popular enough that it sustains one of the best superhero movies of the previous decade, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
With Disney developing properties like Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and What If?, these alternate worlds appear to be a big part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it moves forward. Nerds are accustomed to encountering multi-dimensional versions of their favorite characters. I am always amazed at how quickly they adapt to this notion. I found dealing with something close to an alternate Mike Robinson somewhat complicated.
I was in graduate school in Indiana at the time. For many months, I had received late night calls asking for a particular woman. I cannot remember her name, but I do remember the anger of the man who was looking for her. I kept telling this guy that nobody at this number had that name.
Finally, late one night he called, woke me up, and asked me if I was sure she was not there. Using several choice expletives, I explained to him my absolute certainty. I received no more calls.
If you are wondering why I kept answering the calls, this was in a time when Caller ID was a relatively new and slightly extravagant expense for a grad student who racked up huge phone bills making long-distance calls. Also, I like to answer the phone. I do not know why, I just do.
Months later, I received a call and when I answered, an unfamiliar voice asked, “Is this Mike Robinson?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Well, this is Reverend Brown!” the voice replied cheerfully.
I paused a moment and said, “And?”
“This is Reverend Brown!” he repeated, somehow with more enthusiasm.
“I am sorry,” I said, “I do not think I know you.”
“Is this the Mike Robinson who is getting married soon?” Reverend Brown beamed. He really was an astonishing enthusiastic clergyman.
“No,” I replied, “Unfortunately it is not.”
“Oh,” he said, “Well this is Reverend Brown!” We talked for a short while until I could politely escape his relentless positivity.
After that call, I started to theorize that the other Mike Robinson had perhaps been involved in a tricky relationship. His bride-to-be had maybe escaped from a bad situation with an aggressive man who angrily called looking for her.
Whatever his origins, I started to see a more domestic side of this Mike Robinson later. He was apparently involved in the community and had started coaching a youth sports team.
For those unfamiliar with the state, Indiana is home to spectacular lightning storms. Yes, there were frightening days with tornado warnings and watches. There were also breathtakingly powerful displays of weather with imagery that often rivaled any fireworks extravaganza. Residents got used to brooding storms, the hairs on the backs of their necks rising. On afternoons like that, I would get phone calls from adorably young kids.
“Coach Robinson?” they would ask, “Are we having practice today?”
I would try to patiently explain to them that I was not Coach Robinson, but a different Mike Robinson. With their young minds too consumed by impending meteorological crises, these kids would often not understand their encounter with what they must have seen as an alternate universe Mike.
It would take a lot of time to convince them to call another number and sometimes the same kid would call me over and over again. “Coach Robinson?” “Coach Robinson?”
So finally, I just started cancelling practice.
“Do me a favor and call the other players, okay?” I said to stave off more calls.
I am sorry if I messed things up for Other Mike, but it was just easier. And frankly safer for those kids. Other Mike should have had a better system to keep those kids informed. It is what a guy like Reverend Brown would expect of him too.