Identity Indemnity

Identity Indemnity

Somebody stole my identity. I finally made it!

So there’s a standard stock joke that all hack comics tell in reference to identity theft since it became a popular term about 10 years ago that ends in some version of “I feel sorry for them” or “Now they have a ton of debt and bad credit.” It’s stupid, but effective, however annoying for those of us who can’t even aspire to the smaller debt and better credit that a comic likely has. That being the case, this little act of thievery could be my lucky break.

It started last night when I couldn’t sign into my iTunes library to play “I’m Different” by Randy Newman. In this day and age, I have probably 10 different passwords for different things and my computer has been ill of late, so I figured I just couldn’t remember the correct password. But when I went to retrieve it, iTunes told me that my account didn’t exist. That’s weird.

Cut to the following day. I got a phone call from a strange number at 8:53am and they didn’t leave a message. I got another call from them at 10:53am and they hung up before I could get to it. Then again at 12:53pm. I don’t know what kind of program calls every 2 hours on the 53rd minute, but I was curious to find out. I was able to get to it this time. It was indeed an automated message, but it connected me upon my answer to the Bank of America. I’ve had things like this happen before. It’s never been good. I figured I missed a payment or accidentally didn’t use my home branch to withdraw money and it cost me an extra $1,500 and overdrew my entire savings account and they were going to start seizing my assets, which at this point in my life is basically a television and half a container of sushi rice.

Nope. They told me there was some suspicious activity on my credit card and wanted to know if I made these purchases. I’ve gotten this phone call twice before, both times it was me. Once I had used a couple different ATMs to download the last $600 to buy a car that wasn’t even worth that much. Then I was called because I kept mysteriously buying gas at these stations all along route 70 every couple hours or so from Cincinnati to Baltimore. Weird, I know! But at the inconvenience of a phone call, I wasn’t too upset. This time, however, I think they were onto something.

I had allegedly made two purchases earlier that morning for $41 and $45 on iTunes. That rung a bell. They may be onto something here. Last night made a little more sense now. So what I surmised is that somebody hacked into my iTunes account and that only. Or else they made some really specific decisions with the credit card info they had. The end result of that conversation is that they would take those charges off my credit card (which were the only fraudulent ones made) and they’d cancel the old card and issue me a new one. Sweet. Back to normal.

However, I logged onto my Bank of America account today to find that the savings and checking account were still there, but the credit account was gone. I’ve lost my wallet several times and needed to cancel my credit card and have them issue me a new one, but I’ve never had an account disappear like that. And if $10,000 in debt just disappeared because of some bank error in my favor that isn’t in a game of monopoly, that would be the best thing that’s ever happened to me and don’t tell Jen I said that, because I’m not kidding. I love you, honey – but $10,000 in debt just vanished? That’s the kind of miracle only Fletch could pull off. Guess I probably should have banked with Chevy Chase (groans are welcomed and somewhat encouraged at this point).

Just in case it was the unwitting error of some intern, I’m not making a financial move. No debit charges, no downloading money, no logging onto my account for a while. I’m lying completely still like I was being attacked by a black bear. Or a brown bear. Or a polar bear, whichever one you’re supposed to play dead around. Wait. Brown, lie down – black, fight back. OK, scratch that. Make it a brown bear. A huge brown bear who is not going to eat me, but looking to give me my $10,000 in debt back. It’s about now, I realize I should have used a different analogy. The point is, those hack comics who all say they want somebody to steal their identity to inherit all their debt. Well, I may have the opportunity to live it. Which serves them right for being so much less funny and yet still having more stage time than I do.

Chasing Sanity

Chasing Sanity

I teach a college class to actual college people about how to be more intelligent. My particular passion is trying to get the students to understand the importance of perspective. A mantra throughout the class, as all would agree, was “What is important?” It’s been a life-changing view that I’ve adopted thanks to a three-year sanity-deprivation experiment with Arnos and Seth. I’m proud to have a sign hanging in my office that simply reads “Stay Focused.” And yet, if somebody cuts me off in my car, none of that means shit and that dickhead has to learn.

I was reminded of my kryptonite last week on my way home from work when I was not just cut off in the sense that somebody swiped in front of me – but somebody decided to make a right turn from the middle lane onto a narrow road right in front of me. I was in the right lane making that same turn, but legally and safely. What this guy did crossed whatever line I had drawn in my head about what is acceptable in traffic maneuvers. And justice MUST find its way to him.

First of all, I had no idea what to do. I didn’t want to swerve into oncoming traffic to try to get around him. That would make me the bigger dick, enabling him to go home thinking “what a dick” and discredit my entire venture. I also might die, which would discredit a lot of things. Though I did look into the glass eye of a witch and that’s not how I go. So what choice was I left with? Flashing my high-beams? That doesn’t seem like enough. And we were coming up to my turn. I had thought of nothing. But there was no harm in following him until I figured something out, right? I had nowhere to be. And this is when I probably went a little too far.

I noticed that the driver was likely male and the passenger likely female. There was also a smaller person in the passenger’s back seat, the seat I almost plowed into as the guy cut in front of me from the middle lane. It was a Subaru Outback with a roof rack (I think that’s a standard Outback feature). So I surmised it was a married couple with their teenage or younger daughter in the back. And once I made it up in my head that the father was willing to sacrifice the life of the two women in his life to dangerously take what I learned was really just a shortcut, I was determined to serve up whatever my convoluted head had decided justice was. Which I still hadn’t figured out yet.

Now, I’m a reasonable guy. Like I mentioned, I was just seeking justice. Not wrath or divine vengeance. A rook for a rook; let the punishment fit the crime. However, I thought it should be my job to make sure he didn’t do that again. And as fate would have it, I had a few minutes on my hands. I decided to follow this guy home. Mostly for lack of a plan. This decision was surprisingly easy to come to. All I had to do was really not figure out anything else before I was supposed to turn back home. Once I was already following him and out of my way, what was too far? And I wanted to go far enough to make sure he knew I was following him or else, the project would be a failure and he’d be turning from the wrong lanes for the rest of his life and he’d pass that onto his daughter. And I couldn’t have this happen on my watch.

So here are some of the disturbing, however logical thoughts that went through my head during the next 7-10 minutes while trailing this Subaru around the back roads of Silver Spring, Chevy Chase and DC. I wasn’t sure if they knew I was following them. At first. After all, all I knew about him was that he was a reckless driver to begin with. But once he started swerving through left turns, signaling without turning and speeding up to get through yellow lights (I may have run a red light), I think he knew. Yet, I knew I wasn’t going to do anything so I wasn’t scared. I think that fear was the rook I was looking for. However, I started to get frightened for a second. But I figured if they were going to do anything crazy like get out at a red light with a baseball bat, they’d probably all have to agree to it. If it were just one person, I’d run the risk of that guy being crazy. But there are three of them and for all they know, I’m crazy. Shit, I’ve been tailing them for the last 10 minutes. They’d better stay in the car and try to run me out of gas. My entire goal of this activity was to hopefully make this guy realize that the next guy he cuts off might actually be crazy and it’s not worth the risk to his family at this point. That’s all. I’m not unreasonable.

It was about then that I realized that they probably caught on and my job had been accomplished. I didn’t want to necessarily follow them to their driveway. Well, at one point I should admit that I did, and drive by slowly so they definitely knew, pointing at them and putting three fingers up in the air to just confuse the hell out of them. Three what? Three days? Three times? Oh God, what have I done? But I didn’t want to walk into an ambush and I likely still had plausible deniability on my side should the cops show up. Plus, we were back on a road name that I recognized. So I let them turn off onto their (or likely some random) side street in peace. But I do know their tag number now. Though I have no idea how the hell I got there, so they’re probably safe anyway.

I got home and had to tell Jen exactly what I’d done, but not before I had a couple beers. She asked if what I had done had scared me. I was like “no, I knew I wasn’t in any danger.” But I knew what she meant. I like to think I maintained my cool the whole time, or at least I like to pretend I did. I guess the point of all this is that you shouldn’t go around endangering the lives of others. And if you do, prepare to suffer the consequences. Rook for a rook. I’m bringing vigilante justice to the roadways of the Greater Montgomery County area.

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The True Meaning of Giftmas: The 12th Day of Giftmas 2009

The True Meaning of Giftmas: The 12th Day of Giftmas 2009

So what the heck is the true meaning of Giftmas? Well, it’s a lot easier than the true meaning of Christmas, and certainly a lot easier than the true meaning of Moby Dick, which, according to the Cliff Notes I still have from high school, has nothing to do with a whale.

I remember being told as a child in Sunday School never to write out “Xmas” because it took the Christ out of Christmas. That makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t want to take the meaningful words out of things that I care about and replace them with an “X.” X and Meatballs; X Me Tender; X History X. But I think too many non-religious folk are celebrating “Christmas” as a default holiday. You don’t see non-religious people celebrating Hanukkah or Kwanza. Or Good Friday. Or Pentecost Sunday. And yet, come late December, they don’t want to be left on the outside of the giving and receiving party that everyone else is invited to. So for those of us who forget to say the work-approved “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas” is usually a decent bet.

Thanks to malls, Grandmas and guilt, Christmas has completely become a materialistic holiday, likely not what Jesus had intended when he was born on December 25th. Or January 6th. Or November 17th. This is fine because it’s fun. But let’s call a spade a spade. What Christmas really is is an outreach program for Christianity and Coca-Cola. First, let me explain the Coke part. See, there always was a Santa Claus – well, not always – but he’s been around for a while. But in the 1930s, Coke printed the image of the jolly fat man in the red and white suit drinking a coke and that’s become our picture of Santa Claus ever since. Probably even a better marketing tool than that whole Coca-Cola Original where they got 4 months of free advertising for their 4 new products simply by getting sued by Pepsi. And around this time of year, our image of Santa certainly pays dividends for the Coca-Cola Corporation.

Christmas is not all that different. What is really going on with Christmas is that people who have no religious affiliation, or at least no belief in the Christian faith, come out of the woodwork to participate in such a fun tradition. They’re pretending. And that’s fine because the Christians are all doing the same thing. They’ve got this awesome holiday that serves as a great marketing tool for their religion, and around that time of year, they like to think that all people wearing red and green are really Christians. It boosts their numbers, which is great for those all-important 4th quarter statistics. Just before the turn of the Fiscal year, when the boss is about to have to face a serious decline in membership numbers for his product for the year, He has a huge recruitment program which gets Him into the black just in time. So He can continue to operate within the same relative budget for the following year and won’t have to lay anyone off – which is huge because we all know what happened last time He had to lay somebody off. And just like in every job, those numbers aren’t real. They’re inflated for the sake of getting more funding and covering everyone’s ass. So now all the churches can get new organs and tetherball sets and the Pope can keep arbitrators from coming in. And as long as both sides are happy to play along for their own justifiable yet artificial reasons, Christianity will still boast 78% of the American population. And why not? Belief is a tough thing to prove or disprove even in one’s own head, which adds a degree of plausible deniability for both sides and makes it even easier to justify. But personally, just as I was told in Sunday School that you shouldn’t take the Christ out of Christmas, you also shouldn’t put it in. So a Merry Giftmas to all and to all a good night.

Steal Resolve: The 11th Day of Giftmas 2009

Steal Resolve: The 11th Day of Giftmas 2009

I was born on New Years Day 35 years ago, which makes me almost 28. So New Year’s resolutions have a little more meaning to me, as does New Year’s Eve and everything else that comes with the turning of a new year. For many years, I took great pride in getting together with Mike, Joe and Kevin every year on New Year’s Eve – whether in Baltimore, Boston or Edinburgh – so I could bring in the New Year with my best friends. Or maybe it was just habit. Or maybe I was just trying to cling onto a part of my life when I was actually happy while turning the page on not just a year, but an age. Or maybe they are my best friends and I try to use my birthday as an excuse to guilt them all into getting together. That sounds more like me.

I am one of the saps that makes New Year’s Resolutions though. And I’ve managed to keep a few of them too. My most proud accomplishment was giving up soda for all of 2006. With the exception of whatever they squirted in the top of a Long Island Ice Tea. I noticed I was going through a 30-pack of coke a week, which isn’t healthy or cheap. And guess what happened? Yep. I replaced it with beer and liquor. This was not any cheaper and cannot have possibly been any healthier. But I did it, nonetheless.

So now I’m back to about a 30-pack a week. But at least it’s diet coke. So I was going to try to do it again. And then I got the itch on Jan 2nd. And so I chugged a 6-pack of Yuengling. And a fifth of tequila. And did a line of cocaine. This is when I decided to take a different approach. So what I’ve decided to do is make a deal with myself. For every day I write one of these rants/stories/whiny diatribes and upload it to my website so that the five of you can read it, I’m allowed to have soda. Kind of an incentive laden contract, if you will, rather than a denial just for the hell of it. So instead of depriving myself of diet coke and getting drunk every night, I’m using my addiction to caffeine for the forces of good. Or at least for the forces of updating my blog. For the moment, we’ll call it good. Until I start to upload sentence fragments daily just to fuel my addiction. It’s only Jan 18th and I’m already 13 uploads in the hole.

Just to clarify, I don’t need any help uploading anything into my hole. Thanks for the offer, Russ.

Like a Good Neighbor: The 10th Day of Giftmas 2009

Like a Good Neighbor: The 10th Day of Giftmas 2009

My life has been fairly blessed over the past five to ten years with one very obvious and distinct exception: my Sisyphean automotive life. The car gods have been making me roll a Buick up a hill, only to forget to set the emergency brake and watch it roll back down again every night. So maybe they’ve had a change of heart. Or maybe the god of the law of averages finally took over. Either way, I was just given a huge gift in the form of a fender bender last month.

Now I realize a car accident typically doesn’t qualify as a gift. It was the first thing in the morning, I was confused, and it wasn’t even a hot chick that hit me. It was some old guy in an Explorer used the front end of my Civic like a ramp. He was backing into a parking spot with apparently no knowledge that I was just sitting behind him, desperately trying to find my horn. On a 1994 Civic, the horn is located in two small buttons by the thumbs. I spent way too long desperately beating the air bag hoping it would honk, as I was not practiced in activating the stupidly-placed horn strips. By the time I looked down at the gear shift, the Explorer had already explored the hood of my car.

No one was hurt as this all happened at about 2 MPH. In fact, very little damage was actually done. My headlight was scuffed up a bit and the fiberglass was cracked. After a couple days of talking to the other guy’s insurance, an agent came out to inspect it. He left saying simply “We’ll mail you a check next week.” That was it. No mechanics, no lawyers and no bullshit.

I had completely forgot about it until I got the check a couple weeks afterwards. I figured on about a couple hundred bucks. $1004.46! Thank you, State Farm! And there’s no way I’m going to ever need that for the car. A little windex and a green sharpie and you can’t even tell anything happened. I figure that it knocks the resale value down a bit, but that doesn’t matter with me. I’ve run every car I’ve ever owned right into the ground, most of them literally. I’ve owned 5 cars before this one and I haven’t sold any of them. Unless you count scrap heaps. So this is basically free money. I’m going to start to look for people in tall cars and follow them around the city until they need to park. I figure if I can do this once a week, I can make a decent living and finally afford to quit my day job. I don’t know why more people don’t do this.