Swindler’s List

I’ve never understood how some people fall for scams that cause them to lose their hard earned money.

Long before it made local news, I would open business mail that came from a high-placed government official in Africa – most times from Nigeria – who needed to use my bank account to transfer excess money from the sale of equipment, jewelry, oil, or some other precious resource – and my reward would be a cut of the funds.

The more “honest” letter writers, or the ones who couldn’t be bothered to make up a story about where the funds came from, would just ask for the use of my bank account in which to place an obscene amount of money – and my reward would be a cut of the funds.

The only thing more annoying than the letter writer’s assumption about my stupidity and willingness to ignore the padded contracts, was the awful grammar, syntax and punctuation that was weaved throughout the correspondence. I’m no English teacher but I did consider making the corrections and sending the letter back.

I was reminded of this scam when I viewed a parody of these types of letters that a person was receiving via email. The person showed us (hilariously) how to get the letters to stop, and that’s when I realized that the scammers, not surprisingly, had moved on from paper letters to electronic mail. Unfortunately, the spelling’s still bad.

And that’s another thing I didn’t understand. Didn’t all those grammatical errors give the readers some pause? I mean, for that alone I wouldn’t give them any information. Suppose they didn’t transcribe it correctly? Then where would my promised money go?

A few weeks ago I received a call to my cell phone from a woman who told me that the package I ordered had arrived and that she needed to get my address which she should have had (emphasis mine) – to facilitate delivery. The grammar was good, but the accent was a dead giveaway.

What she didn’t know is that despite all the online shopping that’s taking place here, she picked the one person who hasn’t ordered anything in years. Nonetheless, I played along and asked her for the name on her delivery slip. She asked me to hold on, and I waited while she rustled a few papers, called out to someone who may or may not have been nearby, and murmured to herself. She attempted to invent some legitimacy by repeating my phone number, as if that was just what I needed to hear to give her more information.

She was unable to find a name and assured me that she would call me back.

I know. I should have put her out of her misery sooner.



Who’s The Daddy?

On my wedding day, my mother was the one who walked down the aisle with me. For years I would call my mother and wish her the best on Father’s Day because I realized that since I was ten years old, she has been both mother and father to me… but apparently it’s not politically correct to do that anymore.

I listened to the radio where counselors said that mothers can’t take the place of fathers. I went to church and was told that my mother is my mother and she can’t be anything else. I perused Facebook and found some single mothers up in arms about being wished a happy Father’s Day – because, make no mistake – they are mothers and they are doing it by themselves.

Maybe those of us who make the calls to our mothers in May and again in June are seen as trying to muscle in on the father’s special day and some people are having none of it! I don’t really think that the men who aren’t there are that offended when we acknowledge the women who raise children without them. After all, they aren’t there to do it.

Not every absentee father is absent of his own accord. Some, like mine had no choice in the matter, so it’s heartwarming to know that a lot of people are still holding their places. But if they’re not coming back, what’s wrong with recognizing the women who try to straddle two seats?

Nobody’s denying that fathers are the ideal persons to teach a boy about sports and sportsmanship, about being resilient, about being protective, and about how to treat a girl. Everybody agrees that fathers provide the best example to girls of working to provide for a family, of helping yourself when necessary, of expecting only the best and accepting nothing less.

That’s why uncles, godfathers, cousins and grandfathers will sometimes step into the breach. But it was my mother who showed me that sometimes it is necessary to take on a masculine role if there’s no one around to shoulder it.

That’s why she’ll always be remembered on those two special days – because she was the one who did the work.


Is that a gun in your pocket?

On a previous visit to the Court House to get a birth or marriage certificate – I can’t remember which – the security guard at the door paid close attention to my footwear. That day, I was wearing sandals and happily, it was of the type that found favour with the wardrobe police. The woman just ahead of me had not been so lucky.

As I sat and waited for my certificate to be ready, I saw a number of other women (and some men) who had decided on the same style of footwear. It soon became clear, that the main responsibility of the guards was ensuring that visitors were appropriately attired. This meant that before they looked at your face, they looked at your clothing and then at your feet. I’d forgotten to take some reading material along for the wait that day, but it turned out to be quite entertaining to watch who got turned away at the door and who made it through.

It’s this stickler in these islands for proper dress that led this week to a man in Barbados, who was caught trying to enter a Court building with a gun being stopped – not because he was searched leading to the gun being found – but because he had been wearing a pair of shorts. The discovery of the weapon happened completely by accident.

On my most recent visit to the High Court a few weeks ago, I went prepared with an extra pair of shoes (in case the ones that really went with my outfit didn’t pass muster), but I discovered that the foot soldiers had relaxed their restrictions somewhat.

This time, any and all types of sandals seemed to be allowed – as if somebody realized that the slippers versus sandals determination depended on one’s perspective. And if he or she happened to sleep on a narrow bed the night before, well…as we say here, “Dog” could very possibly, “nyam your supper”.

Don’t Take It Personal(ly)

Image credit: cdn.com
Image credit: cdn.com

Doing business here can give you a serious inferiority complex.

Every so often the media reminds us that there’s something called “an ease of doing business” ranking and lets us know where this country falls on the index. Primarily designed for outsiders (also known as investors) who want to set up businesses here and others who need to navigate government departments for whatever reason, the ranking is supposed to give an idea of how easy it is to get through the red tape.

But what about the rest of us who have to live here? I don’t remember being polled, but maybe they didn’t want my opinion because I’d probably have to admit to not feeling the need to get up some mornings to do my daily exercise due to the amount of hoops that have to be jumped through that day. And that’s before I reach the person that I’m actually supposed to talk to.

It can take two calls per day for up to two weeks before you realize that you’ve been trying to reach the wrong person. And when you do get the correct name, you discover that the work required for their substantive post seems to conflict with what they’d rather be doing instead – so normal business hours don’t apply to them.

Waiting for a call back? Might as well go ahead and tackle those difficult calculations that you’ve been putting off. That way you can distract yourself from the fact that three days later you still haven’t received the call. So you can see how a person might come to the conclusion that “it’s my money they don’t want”.

You don’t want to go over somebody’s head, so probably the best thing is to find someone you know who knows somebody who knows somebody else who can move the process along. That’s when you rack your brain and play the game of six degrees of separation. Isn’t the person you’ve been trying to reach a cousin of the godmother of your best friend’s uncle? You’ll find that it’s a connection worth exploring when the usual channels don’t seem to work.

Let’s hope that the person you’re trying to reach is not away on a “business” trip, because then all activity moves from a crawl going nowhere to absolutely dead. Apparently only one person can do that particular job, so the absence leaves only an assistant to move some papers around and take your multiple messages which will be added to the others on the fire stack already waiting.

Nothing personal. Just business.


Whose Truth Is It?

Image credit: cdn.mumbaihangout.org
Image credit: cdn.mumbaihangout.org

In my former job I got to hear a lot of stories – some from people I knew and some from people I didn’t who probably hoped never to see me again, after realizing that they’d divulged WAY too much information.

I always wondered what prompted people to tell me things that were really none of my business, but maybe for them it was more than making conversation. Maybe they just wanted someone to hear their side.

I was reminded of one of those storytellers last week, when someone I knew gave a different spin on a TMI conversation that I had quite some ago, and I had a feeling that this version would have been pretty close to the other party’s story. My raconteur couldn’t have known this, so maybe it was a simple case of embarrassment that caused her to pass me straight when she saw me a while back.

But then there are times when you wish that you had been in the room.

That way you wouldn’t have to figure out the truth of a story by listening to both parts, deciding what doesn’t make sense and making your mind up about the rest. But since there are some people who don’t think like the rest of us, that might not be such a foolproof way of going about it.

He said/she said makes for an interesting story, but it’s a different kettle of fish when you have a horse in the actual race. Sorry for mixing my metaphors, but you get my point. Very recently I found myself wishing that I had been a proverbial fly on the wall when I was told two very different versions of a particular conversation.

Unfortunately my horse (or fish, depending on how you look at it), was at a disadvantage due to age, and although certain details of the other story seemed to change mid-stream the victor had already walked away with the spoils. We’ve heard that there are three sides to every story – two for the persons involved and the remaining side reserved for the truth.

The problem is that both always seem to claim it.


How are you? Really?


When you ask someone, “How are you?” do you really listen to the answer?

Normally the responses are “fine”, “good”, “not bad” or “I’m okay, you know”. Some get a little more creative and say that they’re “blessed and highly favoured”, while others with music in their voices declare that they are “living in the Lord”.

But let’s face it – when we ask someone how they’re doing we’re mainly trying to be polite; it’s something to say as a greeting in passing. We aren’t really looking for the unabridged version. There’s always Facebook for that.

So what do you say when somebody answers your “How are you?” question with an “I’m not doing so good” response? You’d give a double-take for sure and then wonder if you heard the person correctly.

That’s what happened to my husband last week when he visited a business establishment whose door he hadn’t darkened in a long while – and attached to his salutation was the familiar question. Surprised by the response, my husband said he worried whether the honest answer was really a cry for help.

I asked whether he pressed him for details, but my husband’s habit is never to pry so he left that one alone. I was brought up to mind my own business too, but I wondered whether he would have been upset if I had asked him “But (name withheld) what’s bothering you?”- since after all he was the one who brought it up. I’m sure I would have had a lot more to write about in this post if I had.

I don’t suppose it’s my husband’s fault though, because when you haven’t seen someone in a while it’s only natural that you inquire about their health. But when he inquired of a wife about the welfare of her husband and he admitted to being a little thrown by the response – “he was fine the last time I saw him” – it’s clear that he needs to stop asking these questions. I understood where she was coming from though, because any number of things could have happened since she left him that morning.

And therein lies the danger of asking about the health of someone who isn’t right in front of you. These days, if you want to inquire about someone’s mother, father or significant other, it’s best to just use the general “How’s everybody  doing?”and find out about the changes that have taken place in the family that you missed. Because the only thing worse than asking a woman who’s put on a few pounds when her non-existent baby is due, is to inquire about someone else’s physical condition and realise that good health is the least of his problems since  – unfortunately, he’s no longer with us.


Just a Suggestion…

Image credit: footage.framepool.com
“Say aah” Image credit: footage.framepool.com

It was probably a lot easier to be a hypochondriac before there was the internet.

But that might not be entirely true – since in that time before search engines became popular, it meant going to a doctor with a list of symptoms for $150.00 a pop. Additional symptoms would mean additional visits and possibly some phone calls, which could eventually result in avoidance on the part of your medical practitioner.

These days you can save yourself a little money and do some of the work yourself by visiting any number of medical sites and plugging in the indicators to determine just what it is that ails you. Quite a few diseases have similar symptoms, so diagnose yourself incorrectly and you could see your life flashing before your eyes for absolutely no reason.

Most of these sites will tell you what steps you should take – one of which is to see a doctor, along with list of questions to ask when you get there, some types of medication likely to be prescribed, cures (if any), causes, treatment and likely outcomes. Some even discuss ways to manage a disease or condition using less conventional methods.

But that’s if you know what you’re looking for. Add to this wealth of information – that may or may not apply to your particular problem, are numerous TV shows that document rare disorders that befall about 1% of the population, but somehow you think you’re unlucky enough to get. After a while, the stories told in “Monsters Inside Of Me” don’t seem at all far-fetched.

It’s one thing to find out what’s causing those eruptions on your skin, but what do you do if your search has you convinced that you don’t have that long to live?

You’ll probably make some promises you wouldn’t ordinarily keep, adjust your lifestyle and modify your behaviour to make the most of the little time you have left. You’ll count your blessings every morning, revel in the sunrise instead of recording it and reach out to the person who you never really cared for and who cared for you even less.

An inconclusive diagnosis from the doctor or a clean bill of health is not the kind of news you’re really expecting, because there has to be a reason you’ve not been feeling like yourself. While keeping an eye on your current symptoms you find a few new complaints, so instead of going back to start over, you decide on a new practitioner so that you can repeat the tests you already submitted to, in the hopes that he can find something else.

A physical examination is a little nerve-wracking because you’re not entirely sure whether you want to pass or fail the test. You carefully watch the doctor’s reactions when you give the answers to his questions. Was that a good one? What does that nod signify? Should you tell him about your elevated heart rate now? The fall from the swing in kindergarten? The spill you took in front of the bank in ’93? When he says “Okay”, you wonder “okay to what”? He breathes while he listens to your heart beat… and says nothing. Is that a good nothing? Or a bad nothing? What does his blinking silence mean?

He finally speaks.

You listen intently.

He says he doesn’t see anything, and as he reaches for the form to indicate the tests to be taken, you pull out your mobile phone and open to the bookmarked page, because you’re ready…to make a few suggestions.