(Author's note: All names have been changed!)
Since my third-shift work schedule begins on a Sunday night my weekend starts on Friday mornings. It's not an ideal situation, since I pick up my daughter from school in the afternoon I'm pretty much restricted to the house all day, something that at times drives me crazy. On the other hand I do have the house to myself and can get a jump on various chores, read or write without interruption, or simply watch Netflix all day.
Truthfully, it can be rather boring at times especially when some honey-do task absolutely has to be tackled, like cleaning a bathroom where the mold is showing signs of not only rapid evolution but development of an industrial civilization. Despite the fact that pondering the philosophical implications that maybe humans are just a strange form of mold clinging to an otherwise pleasant rock orbiting an yellow-dwarf star I'd rather be doing something else entirely. However, there are occasions when chance interjects itself and makes things far more lively.
Just yesterday I was mopping the kitchen floor while taking care of my daughter, who had come down with a minor stomach bug when the telephone rang. No big deal, I figured it was my wife calling, yet again, to ask about our daughter, Darth Wiggles.
“She's fine babe, there has been no change since you called thirty-minutes ago,”I said feeling slightly irritated.
“Hello, Mr. Johnson?” the pleasant sounding female on the other side of the call said sounding perplexed.
“Oh yeah, sorry, I assumed my wife was calling. What can I do for you?” At this point I automatically figured this was some sort of business call concerning an upcoming doctor or dentist appointment.
“No problem, I'm Mindy Blake,” this unknown female said with enough perkiness to power a small city, “and I'm calling on behalf of the Southeastern Breast Cancer Medical Institute.
The mental image I constructed of this Mindy was of a late teen or early twenty-something college student working at a call center so she could earn her degree in education and become the kindergarten teacher she dreamed about since childhood.
“Okay,” I said with every intention to cut her off but she didn't give me the chance.
“We're in the middle of a fund raising drive and I'd like to know if you could contribute something to our organization...”
From there this Mindy Blake launched into what was clearly a well thought out and rehearsed speech that bordered on being hypnotic with its cadence and her voice that had the verbal texture of a soft fluffy pillow. For several minutes this Mindy explained all the remarkable and wonderful good works the organization she represented did in the fight against breast cancer, so much in fact, I half expected her to say it had branches dedicated to world peace, ending hunger, and stopping climate change.
“So Mr. Johnson can you support us and our vital work?”
You might be wondering why I continued to entertain such a call? See my wife and I regularly give to several charities and on occasion give to new ones that catch our attention. For example my wife is big on a local charity that helps battered women along with an international one that helps orphan kids in Asia. My favorites are the Sea Shepard Conservation Society and Smile Train.
“Yeah,” I said absentmindedly, “I figure I can handle twenty dollars.” That being the standard amount my wife and I have agreed upon before we consulted each other.
“Oh Mr. Johnson,” Blake said clearly disappointed, “ you can do better than that. How about I write you down for fifty.” She said with her voice leaving the realm of fluffy pillow and moving toward rough wool blanket.
“No, sorry,” I responded, “that's going to be the maximum amount.” At that point the tone of my voice began showing that my friendly, laid back demeanor was clearly being frayed. So Mindy easily backtracked and agreed, thanking me for my generosity and assuring me that my contribution would be put to good use.
“So now Mr. Johnson,” Mindy began trying to set the hook, “you can give me your most convenient credit or debit card number and I'll stop taking up your valuable time.”
Truthfully, I really didn't smell anything wrong with Mindy and her organization until that moment. I personally have had more charity and business solicitations where they ask for me directly by name than I can count. As I have already said, my wife and I regularly give because we both feel its important to give back in some way. But the one thing neither of us have ever fallen for was a blatant scam.
“No Mindy, I will not give you a credit or debit card number over the phone.” I said laughing slightly, clearly indicating both disappointment and derision. “You can send me some information in the mail and that's when I'll send you a check.”
I'll give this Mindy credit, she had lead me along this far and was not going to lose a potential sucker this close to hitting pay dirt. “But Mr. Johnson,” she said beginning to plead, “to cut down on administrative costs and do more for our patients we don't send out printed fliers anymore. We handle everything strictly over the internet or the phone.”
“Sorry, this is a game changer,” I said, “you send me something in the mail assuring me this is not some scam and we can talk again.”
Everything went silent for a second with Mindy whispering something to some unknown person near her. When she returned all the Disney-level perkiness had drained away or gone sour. “Thank you Mr. Johnson, something will be in the mail soon.” She said then breaking the connection on her end.
For the most part I wasn't too happy either, while I hadn't fallen for the scam Mindy had pulled me in far more than I wanted to ever admit to anyone. It was then that I remembered there was a state agency I could report charity fraud with them at least warning others of Mindy and her cohorts. As I pulled up the caller ID off the small screen on the phone it was then that I made unsettling discovery. Not only did the area code say the call was made in the Midlands region of South Carolina but the three-digit prefix was one from the Greater Columbia area.
I called the number back and, not surprisingly, got no answer. I seriously thought about calling the cops but didn't, something in the back of my head said chasing this Mindy down might be more trouble than it was worth. In the end, I let it go and figuring that at least it was a little excitement in an otherwise boring day.