Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fair and Serious Warning

The incident I am about recount to you happened a couple of weeks ago but, to be honest, I have had a hard time processing the total evilness and cruelty of the perpetrator.  So I decided about 10 minutes ago that if I don't write this right now, it might not get written.

Mr. and Mrs. Potter are very dear to me.  They are an elderly, retired couple who would do anything possible for the ones they love.  They are private people, not mucking about on the computer like the rest of us.  So whomever pulled the stunt I am about to tell you about hacked someone, somewhere very deliberately in order to put the pieces together.  The Potters received a telephone call on a Monday afternoon at about 1:30 p.m.  The caller identified himself as Fletch, their grandson, and said he was calling from Spain.  The man didn't completely sound like Fletch  but the phone line was a tad distorted as would be possible with an international call.  He said that he had gone to Spain for a wedding and talked in detail about said wedding and the events leading up to it.  Then he related that he had run into another car and caused a lot of damage.  However, his insurance company would not cover the damage, estimated at $2,000, and he couldn't leave Spain until he had compensated the other driver.  He then asked his "grandparents" to help him with this money.  He said that he didn't want to call his parents because he knew that they wouldn't be able to help. And he needed to get home.

Well, the Potters explained to this man that they didn't have $2,000.  Fletch asked if they had a credit card that they could use.  They said "no".  At this point he asked them if they could borrow against their house (!?!).  They said that they would see if there was anything that they could do but did question if he had called his wife.  At this point the man got very quiet and didn't really answer.  They asked for his phone number so they could call him back when they had any information.  He said that he had left the phone in the wrecked car and would have to get back to them.  He would call them again in an hour or so. 

Mrs. Potter, by now very worried and upset, called the bank and after explaining the situation was told that the bank would loan them the $2,000 and to let them know where to send it.  These people do not have money.  These people are not in good health.  But they were willing to put themselves on the line for their grandson because they love him so much. 

Hours went by while the Potters paced the house.  The phone did not ring.  They waited until the next day, Tuesday, at which point Mrs. Potter was beyond frantic.  She called one of her sons who lives locally to make sure she had the right telephone number for Fletch.  After telling him the story, Arther said, "Mom, it is a scam."  Mrs. Potter tentatively agreed that it probably was but she desperately needed to speak to Fletch.  She had to hear his voice.  Arther gave her the number that he had.  After repeated attempts and repeated voice messages, the Potters had still heard nothing. 

Of course, during this time the couple discussed the phone call endlessly trying to pick out clues.  First of all, there was no way Fletch would have gone to Spain without mentioning it to his parents.  They are a very close knit family.  Secondly, why in the world would his wife not have gone?  Well, maybe she had to work.  And then there was the fact that the man kept calling Mr. Potter "Grandpa".  That word has never been used.  In fact, Mr. Potter has always had a very specific name used by his grandchildren and great grandchildren, always.  And finally, at the end of the conversation as is the absolute norm in the Potter family, Mrs. Potter said, "We love you, Son."  There is always from all of them the same response.  "We love you, too."  The man said nothing for an extended pause and then hung up. 

Unfortunately, in this case, Fletch has two phones.  One he uses for work, the other he has had for a very long time but doesn't use very often at all.  On Wednesday, 2.5 days after the original phone call from "Spain", he happened to notice that there were messages on the older phone from his grandparents.  So he called them back.  The first words out of Mrs. Potter's mouth were "Where are you?"  Fletch said, "I'm walking the dog."  She said, "No, where are you walking the dog?"  And he replied "At home".  She related what had happened and after a long discussion during which Fletch talked about other things as well, the Potters felt relieved and much better.  Fletch then passed along his new number as well as the number of his wife which they just simply had not gotten before.  He also said, "I would never call you for money.  Why in the world would you have it when my parents don't?  And I would have called them first no matter what, if simply not to upset you!" 

Long story short, some evil, cruel, nasty person tried to scam the Potters for money they don't have by scaring them half to death about the safety of their grandson.  Thank God that creep (and I am struggling not to use bad language here) never called back.  But this couple's health was put in severe jeopardy.  Mrs. Potter has spent the last two weeks trying to recover from the terrifying incident.  They didn't call Fletch's parents because he asked them not to.  That was the only thing they did "wrong" by trying to protect their children.  Instead, Mrs. Potter has had severe repercussions health-wise.  After seeing her physician the other day he said that this could, indeed, have been  caused by the fear and anxiety they endured.  Mr. Potter, in ill health himself for quite some time, stepped up and took over while she was unable to do her regular activities.  It is highly possible that Mrs. Potter actually suffered a silent stroke.

I am beyond enraged.  We in North Carolina had heard of this sort of scam in the last year because it happened in the area.  But the Potters had never heard of such a thing.  These monsters are preying on older retired people because they are so vulnerable, from a different generation where this kind of evil was unheard of.  What is totally confounding is that Fletch and his grandparents live states away from each other.  How in the world were they connected?  Who could possibly put them together?

So if any of you have elderly relatives or friends, it is essential that you are aware of this scam.  It is dangerous and, I'll say it again, cruel and evil.  And I, for one, would like to personally take out "Fletch from Spain" with my bare hands!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Big Mama and the Earring

This is a true story, every word.  And believe me, Butch and I are still shaking our heads! 

We live in the home that Butch's grandparents built in the early 1940's.  Over the years it underwent some renovations.  The room in which we spend the vast majority of our time, the den, used to be a bedroom used by Butch's great-grandmother known as Big Mama.  Since the first day I moved into the house in 2001 I have frequently felt a presence here, especially when I am in bed.  I can feel someone coming down the hall and walking around the bed, sometimes sitting on the edge of it.  Now call me crazy if you want to but Butch has felt that very same presence and says he believes it is Big Mama.  When my sister and her husband visited for several hours the night before Thanksgiving one of the first things she asked me is if there were any ghosts.  I was surprised but said "yes" and she said she wasn't surprised at all.  Actually at one point during dinner Pam gave out a small gasp because someone or something had touched her behind through the chair but the dogs were nowhere to be seen.  Wes said he hadn't done it and Pam responded, "No, you would have been much more assertive!"  It was almost as though someone wanted her to move over so she could join us!  Big Mama is a benign presence, one I believe is watching over us. 

On our first anniversary Butch gave me a pair of small oval diamond hoops, really diamond chips.  We laughingly called them my "Oprah starter set".  Those have been my go-to earrings for daily and dress up if nothing else suited better.
One morning a week or so ago when I was sitting at this desk I realized that the right earring was gone.  I panicked and went over the bedroom thoroughly.  There was and still is a little knot in the lobe because obviously it caught on something and pulled out.  But even after Butch took that bedroom apart, the bed completely, and swept within an inch of his life, no earring.  He swept up at least 2 extra dogs from under the bed (but that is a weekly occurrence because they are, after all, furry babies).  He pulled out the nightstands and swept.  Nothing.  I was heartbroken.  And I felt very bad because I didn't know how I had lost it.  So I took the other one off and put it on the glass tray on the dresser.

Saturday night I was getting ready for the supper club.  I stood next to the chest of drawers and looked down as I pulled on my undies.  There was my earring!  I leaned over as I screeched for Butch and picked it up.  But as he got there I realized that this earring was from another pair.  Same shape but not the same earring.

Once again my spirits sank.  Butch and I looked at each other and questioned how in the world this earring had been on the floor.  He had thoroughly swept and I lean over every morning to pull on my undies but had not seen it before.  However, I decided I would wear that pair since I was wearing a black top.  So I went to the travel jewelry box where I had seen them last.  It was closed securely and when I opened it and rummaged through you will not believe what I found.  The other diamond earring! 

Please tell me why in the world I would take an earring out, put it in the travel box when I keep them on the glass tray and how in the world did the black outlined one land on the floor?  Butch and I looked at each and in one breath said, "Big Mama".  Butch looked upward and said, "Thank you, Big Mama!"  Say what you will but if you can come up with a better explanation I am more than willing to listen.  However, if you read the last several paragraphs again, I believe you will come to agree that any other explanation does not hold water!  The black earrings stay in the travel case.  The diamond earrings live on the glass tray but were in my ears and they have a locking clasp on them.  The floor had been swept and I had been bent over every day in the exact location where the black earring was found.  And there is no way I would have put the one earring in the securely closed box and left the other in with no memory of doing so. 

So all I can say is "Thank you, Big Mama!  We are glad you are here!"

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Supper Club Evening

First, let me say that Butch and I rarely go out.  If we get food from a restaurant, it is take-out.  The reason for this is not just economic but the fact that the vast majority of restaurants in Roanoke Rapids are chains.  The menus don't change and the food is not necessarily (!) good for you.  However, several of Butch's family members opened a restaurant called 1020.  That is actually the address on Roanoke Avenue.  The building used to house The Jewel Box, a RR landmark.  Butch's relatives readapted the historic building into Timeless Tea, a wonderful place with a vast and beautiful collection of teapots, cups and saucers.  Unfortunately, they found that men were a bit put off and didn't come.

So they changed to 1020, a lunch and dinner restaurant with incredible food made from scratch.  We love to get soup and sandwiches there, splitting the sandwich.  Their stuffed pepper soup is unbelievably good!  They have placed pictures of old Roanoke Rapids throughout the restaurant with captions explaining their significance.  It is a beautiful place but not stuffy in any sense.  And the staff is awesome.

The owners and the chef decided to start a monthly supper club.  A man named Steve, a baritone of incredible talent, performs every Friday night and also at the supper clubs.  1020 is a FB friend of ours so we know what is coming up.  When they announced that March 3 would be a 6-course meal with a choice of rack of lamb or chicken cordon bleu, I was instantly attracted.  I will admit that since being unemployed and then the shoulder disaster I have not left the house very much at all.  That means for 5 months, unless I am letting the dogs into the yard, I am in our home.  Very reclusive and probably some agoraphobia involved.  This opportunity struck me as a great way to let my husband take me out in public so we made reservations.  Mary had a little lamb and we were going to eat him!

We didn't know what to expect but the dinner was sold out.  The restaurant is small.  The evening started with wine and light hor deurves.  Steve was singing and the place is filling up rapidly.  People came up to us to introduce themselves or to say "hi" to Butch and meet me.  One of the first people to pull me into a conversation, an outgoing and delightful lady, turned out to be the wife of the partner, Dr. Moss, at my orthopedic surgeon's office.  I've seen him in the halls but never met him.  And when he came up, Charlotte, was telling us about their church's St. Patrick's Day dinner and inviting us to come.  Now a fun fact is that the wife of my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Holm, is the Episcopal priest at the local church.  And the St. Paddy's Day dinner we were invited to was at the Episcopal church!  We had met her as we came in and after we sat down, Butch said that he had run into Dr. Holm, Rich, in the hall.  I wandered down there, caught his attention and said "They'll let anyone in here, won't they?"  We laughed and before I knew it I had reintroduced myself to his wife, Marjorie.  She said, "We already met but it is hard when there are so many people", causing me to swat away any embarrassment I immediately started to feel. 

Who knew it was going to be a raucous, fun evening with the tableful of doctors leading the way.  Steven was wonderful, accepted requests and at one point Dr. Minielly stood up and sang "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" with him.  And actually quite well, thank you very much! 

One of the best parts of the evening was the fact that the Tarheels were playing Dook (Duke but who cares).  And we were all away from the TV screen.  So John Moss would go up to Steve every so often to give us a sports report.  The first was 4 minutes until halftime and the score was 36 to 20, Heels, playing at the Duke house!!! The place exploded and after that John would come up and give us reports from his phone.  It was awesome!  You have to understand ACC basketball to get the import of this but believe me, it almost like religion!  In actuality, if a lot of people had known when they made reservations that the game was the same evening, the crowd might have been smaller.  And, let me add, the Tarheels beat Dook in their house!!!!  We are now the regular season ACC champions.

Couples frequently got up to dance during the meal and Steve would go a capella walking through the room.  The atmosphere was so special and the wait staff was incredible, moving at lightening speed.  Here is what they served us:  An amuse bouche of shrimp in a shot glass, a salad of mixed greens with pears and walnuts, vichyssoise which was amazing and then a cleansing lime sorbet (yummy!).  Our lamb plates were two little racks of lamb with their bones crossed, asparagus wrapped in a little carrot ribbon and phyllo cups filled with mashed sweet potatoes.  Dessert was either an incredibly decadent strawberry cake with whipped cream frosting or creme brulee.  May I say that my blood sugar has been off the charts today.  I'll be paying for last night for awhile but it was worth every single bite!!!  The lamb was exquisitely cooked medium rare and gorgous to look out.

And last but far from least, we were seated with Mr. Hager, one of the owners who happens to be engaged to the chef after being together for 20 years.  Mr. Hager attended Marshall College in West Virginia, "We Are Marshall", and, as another service brat, developed a love of traveling and has traveled extensively all of his life.  Our conversation was so great.  He was the perfect dinner partner.  He is a theater buff so we had a great deal to talk about!

We now have a standing reservation for each month.  The evening was special enough that I can't even express it.  Steve's standards were the perfect touch and many times we were all singing along.  I even got a kiss from my husband, in public (!), during one particularly romantic song.  The furry babies were not happy that we had both been gone for several hours but you know what?  We will be doing it again, over and over.  Thank you, 1020.