Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Vacation Thief

Yesterday was a disappointment.

I was behind, sitting at the computer, burning dinner, and watching Nick doze on the couch when I thought about how much Nick now looks like Mike when he's asleep on the couch. I wanted to take a picture of him, one of my bits about gathering evidence of miracles, but I knew that coming that close and peering down at him while he slept would probably wake him up, even if I did manage to make my new phone silent instead of mimicking that stupid shutter sound when I press the button.

And then the landline rang. Nick didn't wake up. I'm not entirely sure why we've had a landline for the the past six years. I almost always ignore it. Sometimes I look at the number displayed. Rarely, I answer and tell them to take us off their list. This time, it was my credit card company. There was a suspicious activity on my card and I needed to call them. This phone number, that case number. Please call as soon as possible.

Here's the thing - when anyone, even someone I trust, leaves a message to call this number about my credit card, I'm suspect. I called the number on the back of my credit card instead.

I have an LL Bean credit card. That means that we can get coupons for free new clothes when we charge stuff on our card. What a great deal, don't you think?

Plus, they have great heuristics and often call to check that a charge is appropriate. The only time they made a mistake was once when Mike and I were traveling in different states and they thought that was weird. It was weird.

The LL Bean credit card woman who came on the phone gave me her name and said she was in Maine. Maine! I love Maine! Mike and I honeymooned in Maine. Right. LL Bean is in Maine. I like imagining being in Maine whenever I talk to these people on the phone. I wanted to ask how her weather was, but I usually have to work them up a bit before I get them laughing and chatting on the phone as if we were acquaintances.

"Thank you for checking with me about this," I said after I'd answered all the special code words only I would know. Even when I did make a charge that was refused for some reason, I try to remember to thank them for being proactive when a suspicious charge comes onto my card. It's hard to stay ahead of the guy who would steal my money, but they give it a good shot.

"Did you charge $173.14 at a bike shop today?"

"No," I said slowly. "I've been at home all day. No charges. Wait, let me think. No. I haven't even bought anything online. I think." Way to be certain of your answer, I thought.

"This was charged in Florida," she said.

"Florida. That sounds nice, doesn't it? A bike ride in Florida." She laughed. We went over a couple more of my charges, more local ones, but there was also a hotel in Florida, the DoubleTree in Orlando, that was refused too. Oh man. A nice hotel in Florida. This guy tried to charge $4000 in just a few hours. Wow!

"Did you charge $42.11 at Albertson's yesterday?"

"Yeah, that sounds more my speed, grocery shopping," I said. Boring. At home. Shopping for food to feed a teenaged boy.

"That four thousand dollar vacation in Florida is sounding pretty nice right about now, don't you think?" I asked. I'd forgotten to ask about her weather. Did she get any of that load of East Coast snow? Was it so cold her tongue would stick to the flag pole if she licked it?

"Yeah, it does," she said. I had her. I could hear the wishful thinking in her voice too.

"You know, maybe I need to double-check with my husband to make sure he wasn't planning an awesome surprise for Valentine's Day. That would be nice."

"But that would have been on his card number, right?" Way to burst my bubble. Her voice went flat. She had burst her own bubble too.

"Well, go ahead and cancel the card and I'll check with him just in case. A four thousand dollar biking vacation in Florida would be fun. I'll call you back if he was going to surprise me. That way, you could let the charges go through. Hey, it could happen, right?" She laughed again. I could picture her responsible but unimaginative boyfriend in that laugh. I swear I could. A good reliable guy, but not too interested in details like Valentine's Day.

Of course, when I called Mike, he actually snorted when I asked him about the great Florida biking vacation extravaganza for Valentine's Day. He doesn't do much for Valentine's Day any more but to his credit, he's learned not to ignore it completely. He tried not to snort, but even though he coughed afterward, I still knew it was still a snort. Yeah, there was a Valentines a couple of years ago. He wasn't feeling well. I told him not to bother, but when the day came and went, I ended up crying and telling him it was okay all in the same breath. He knew it wasn't okay, not really. Nope, he hasn't missed getting me something, anything, a mechanical pencil and a spiral notebook, a dried bunch of flowers from those slimy black tubs, a plastic grocery bag with hearts on it, something, for Valentine's Day since then. He told me to call the LL Bean people back anyway, even though he hadn't gotten me a surprise four thousand dollar biking vacation at the DoubleTree in Orlando, Florida for Valentine's Day.

When I called back, I got the same woman on the phone. I recognized her voice. She had to go through the whole rigamarole asking for answers to code words that she'd asked me before but I knew she knew who I was. She started laughing right away when I began to ramble on.

"You canceled the credit card anyway, but I wanted to let you know that my husband didn't order any stuff from Florida today, not even as a surprise. I don't think he'd even thought about Valentine's Day yet."

She sighed. I'm sure it was an involuntary sigh. I'm sure she was imagining the sad bouquet of carnations or the avocado or the spiral notebook her boyfriend was probably going to pick up for her at the grocery store in a futile attempt to placate her for the Hallmarkiest holiday on the calendar.

"Nope. There's no vacation in Florida for me this spring. Nothing. I have to say that I'm a little disappointed. This thief had a pretty sweet plan, to stay at a nice hotel with a pool, to rent bikes and ride along the beach, to be in Florida, Florida, the state that will probably disappear in the next ten years along with Venice, polar bears, and New York city because of global warming. We'd better get to Florida while we can, don't you think?" I said. Sometimes I don't know when to stop talking.  Okay, a lot of times.

"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea," she said in that tone that says that neither of us, short of using someone else's credit card and someone else's vacation time, was going to bike on a beach in Florida in the near future. "Thanks for calling anyway."

"You welcome," I said and signed off. I felt a little bad, disappointing my new friend in Maine with bad news like that so soon after meeting her. But it was important not to inflate her expectations too high. That way, when her dependable boyfriend came home with tulips and dark chocolate, she'd be happy. Maybe by then she'll forget about biking at sunrise on a beach in Florida for Valentine's Day and having him ask her to marry her there.

Some day I should tell you the story about how Mike asked me to marry him. I was in my pajamas. He's a true romantic, that man. I tell you. I'm hoping my friend in Maine tells her boyfriend about the thief who tried to buy a biking trip and a hotel stay at the Disney's Polynesian Village Resort so he could ask his girlfriend to marry him at sunrise on the beach. It won't make her boyfriend any more imaginative, but maybe he'll remember to buy her a bouquet of tulips and a package of chocolates from the grocery store.

Mike will probably remember too because I know he doesn't want to make me cry. I remind myself that even if I had married a romantic thief in Florida, I'd probably wake up one day in a year or two to find my checking and savings account cleared out and new charges on my credit card for a boating vacation at Lake Placid, a surprise for a new girlfriend. That damned thief stole my imaginary vacation.

Thank you for listening, jb


  1. Oh boy!Does anyone actually have that 'imaginative'' boyfriend or do they exist only in fairy I had to chuckle at your description-- oh that's my husband!Dependable,yes but imaginative? hmmm don;t think so-- never ever had a surprise on valentines day for past 17 years.He also thinks Valentines day is nothing but a marketing gimmick so no hope in the future either.I have learned not to expect.And he never disappoints me in that matter :) keep your dreams alive, though.You never know when they come true!have a great day

    1. Ha! You and I married the same kind of man. There are a lot of very good reasons why we did this, you know? There is kind versus romantic and dependable versus extravagant. It's a good trade-off.