Transcript from a voicemail I received yesterday afternoon.
"Hello Mrs. Carter my name is Michael X and I'm calling from the Department of INS. I'm located in Southern California. We have a question regarding your marriage, immigration status from approximately fifteen years ago. So, we need you to give us a call back. It's very important but it's not an emergency. So... uh, give us a uh, give us call back during lunch or whenever you can. Uh... we have a local number, we're actually down in the Federal Building in San Diego. That number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. I look forward to hearing from you soon. If not, then we need a way to contact you via address. Thank You."
This had hoax written all over it, of course.
First of all, the guy was clearly out of breath. It sounded as though he had just finished a marathon and was catching his breath after every third word or that he was on crack or something. Secondly, he sounded like a surfer-dude, totally not federal government material - unless he was deep undercover. Third, I am not "Mrs. Carter". Fourth, although there is an immigration review center in San Diego it is downtown with a 619 area code, not an 858 area code, which is slightly north of San Diego city limits. Finally, there is no INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) any more. After 9/11 and the subsequent inter-agency reordering, immigration duties were transferred to the newly-created department of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
And then, there was something about his voice that was familiar... it was a passing, fleeting thought. Maybe this was someone who knew me, since I did used to spend a lot of time in San Diego about ten years ago and I was moving to the U.S. fifteen years ago? I could think of one person but quickly dismissed it. More likely someone trying to snag my social security number and steal my identity.
Then, as I was listening to the voicemail today and decided to blog it, I thought wouldn't it make a better blog post if I actually called the number back and confronted the fraud? And that's right where this blog got me in trouble. The things we do for content!
Yes, I called it, blocking my number. First I just listened to see if I recognized the voice, while keeping my phone on mute. Guy picks up and answers "hello?". First big giveaway that this wasn't an official number (not that I ever thought it was) but also a huge clue that whoever it was didn't exactly have a stealth operation. I didn't recognize the voice immediately. I put down the phone and then called back several minutes later. Guy picks up and answers "US Immigration" this time. (Pah!) I told him I was responding to a voicemail about my immigration status. He asked who this was. I responded and said I wanted to know who he was first and what this was all about. That's when I heard the laugh and he said "It's me! Rick James!" (Not his real name.) Which was when I said "What THE HELL, man!?" and he laughed "I knew you wouldn't fall for it!"
Now we pause for a brief history lesson. Rick was a blast from the past. Not really an ex boyfriend, we worked together for a while and hooked-up once, while drunk. (I know, one of my prouder accomplishments.) We were in our mid twenties and he was very cute and very full of himself - you know the type. In many ways, my contact with Rick changed the trajectory of my life. He was the one who got me into lifting weights heavily and eating well after writing a nutrition plan on the back of a bar coaster one night. And, well, some other things besides.... there are some things one doesn't need to include on the blog. Suffice to say, the impact my contact with him had on me at that time of my life was more significant than any relationship we did or did not have. He stopped working for the same company I did around twelve years ago and we lost touch after that aside from one phone call a year or so later when Hubby and I called him to see if he could do some work for us. The project didn't ultimately happen and I haven't spoken to him since.
So, you can imagine, it was a big surprise to have him on the end of the phone after twelve years and rather bizarre to have the contact made in such a ... strange way.
What followed was, without a doubt, one of the strangest phone conversations of my entire life. It got so strange that, at one point I opened a word document on my laptop and started writing random notes, lest I forget the wacky things he was saying. Then, when I couldn't bear the craziness of it alone any more, I called up Hubby on the home phone (who, as I said, knew him also from back when) and held the two phones together so that he could hear him talking (or, more accurately, rambling breathlessly at speed.) I honestly thought he would think I was exaggerating if I tried to explain it to him afterward without first-hand proof.
First he started by talking about some friend who he had scammed with a similar phone call in the past. I lost the gist of it about one minute in because he was talking so fast and all over the place and was only half listening because I just wanted him to get to the punchline - what the hell this had to do with me. Anyway, it was something about him pretending to be with the U.S. Marines and them falling for it or something. Apparently I wasn't so dumb. (Well, I did call him back so maybe I'll retract that.)
Like an idiot, when he finished his ten minute story without stopping for a break, I asked how he had been. BIG MISTAKE. Here we go, as briefly as possible (recognize I am synopsizing; this phone call lasted almost an hour and he was talking at lightening speed without almost any interaction needed!)
He said that, several years back, he had not been sleeping well - only one hour a day, every other day - and got addicted to prescription narcotics. He listed at least fifteen of them, all at the speed of an pharmaceutical auctioneer - I only remember percoset, vicodin, diladed .He said he was working in sales for a telecommunications company and making a ton of money but, because he couldn't sleep, was losing his mind (ahem), having almost schizophrenic-like episodes. He lost friends. He couldn't work well. Then he found out that he had fibromyalgia after going to a sleep specialist in Birmingham, AL, who was a psychiatrist to NASA. (K, you're beginning to understand why the word doc, yes?)
Then he started talking like he was applying for a job, a sort of verbal resume or self-directed character reference, saying that he wasn't in any trouble with the police, didn't have a criminal record, and had an excellent rental history. Of course, he'd had the money to buy a house out-right several years ago - $500k he said - but he didn't want the burden or financial responsibility, which was good because now the house would only be worth $200k and so it was a good decision and all. He'd had a lot of jobs over the years and had made a "shit load of money" and that he had been selfish in the past but now he was all about helping other people, that was his passion in life. Now he didn't care about the money so much any more. But he was thinking about going back to Medical School, or maybe even Law School. Maybe he would get an MBA, maybe a doctorate. He had lots of options. Uh-huh, he was doing well. Doing great now.
He asked if I was still with Hubby and I said yes, emphatically; we were married with a kid. I was happy. He said he had only had two long-term girlfriends in the last several years and that they had both had kids and that he had insisted he go to parenting classes and that they had really taught him a lot about being a parent and would I like him to give me the name of the guy who teaches the class in Sacramento?
Then, out of nowhere, he began to refer to the night of the "hook up", which is where I started getting uncomfortable; he remembered too much about it. For some reason, I don't picture guys like him remembering much about such events. Maybe I'm wrong there but still, it seemed odd to me. He talked about how had been a bit of a player back then (I'm editorializing and... you're welcome) and that I had been different. (Yeah, I know, this is creepy.) He remembered missing an "opportunity" with me in a different hotel room later (it was a work thing) and said that he wishes he would have seized the.. um... day back then.
Then he remembered the beer coasters that he wrote my nutrition plan on and was I still in shape and eating good? Again, something that had been important to me at the time but not something I would have expected him to remember ten years later. I told him that I was still trying to get back in shape after the baby but that life was busy and it was hard work. Which was when he said he would write a new diet plan for me and that he would even go to the same restaurant, pick up beer coasters, write it on the back, and mail it to me. (I mentally decided to avoid giving him my address at all costs.) And, get this, he didn't want anything for it. Nothing. Although, if I wanted to, I could come down to where he lived and we could have a re-do of the missed opportunity in the hotel room. (You saw that coming too, huh?)
Silence from me.
But, of course, he was only joking, because he did that now, a lot. He used to be so laid back and serious but not any more, now he was a joker and much more into life. I told him I was glad he was joking and left it at that.
Next proceeded a conversation (albeit one-sided) about how he doesn't lift weights any more but that he was in the "best shape of his life", more "ripped" than he had ever been, closely followed by a chronological history lesson of his personal fitness achievements and challenges.
Finally, he ended with the bomb that he would be up in our area (where he was originally born - GROAN!) next week and would LOVE to get together with me and Hubby. And could he get my email address to send the beer coaster tips to? Time to end our conversation, I thought, so I told him to text me on both accounts (since he already had my cell phone#) without making any promises or commitments.
I still don't know exactly why he called, although it seems there was some underlying desire to perhaps "hook up" again (although he did know that Hubby and I were together.) But why me? Why after twelve years? It's not like I'm the girlfriend who got away. Was he just going through his sexual history and Googling all the girls he'd hooked-up with once upon a time to see if he could get some? Possible, I guess.
What's in no doubt is the fact that he clearly not OFF the narcotics or ... whatever. The guy needs some help. Back in the day when I knew him, he had that slow California surfer drawl. Like I said, he was smart but arrogant and laid back, a man of few words. This Rick was talking at a hundred miles a minute, coming up for air in gasps, going off in tangents, not even understandable at times. I felt sorry for him yet, at the same time, a little concerned for myself as I got off the phone. Hopefully it was one of those random "buzzed" connections that come and go and are best forgotten and that he doesn't show up on our doorstep one day, or start stalking me. Fingers crossed.