I'll be the first to admit: Even if you don't know me, I'm strange. And the domineering, rather intimidating Fu Manchu I've adopted of late? That doesn't do anything to soften my appearance.
So I could see why "Peggy" came over quietly and rather gingerly to talk late this morning.
"Hi! I called Gino and Bingo a little while ago and told them two strange men were in their yard. Gino said you were there putting up holiday lights. I was worried you might be burglars or something ..." All the while, I was on my ladder. I'd turned Peggy-ward to listen and, when she was done, I dismounted from my perch and walked over to her. I stuck out my hand and she took it and shook it.
"I'm Michael" I offered.
"I'm Peggy. I live next door. We've had quite a few break-ins over the last year, lots of them right in this area. So I was wondering who you were."
"Well ... I can understand that completely. I've heard same ... and you can't be too careful. I'm glad you called Gino to make sure we were on the level ..."
"I'm the neighborhood watch president ..."
"Really?" I stated, startled. "How long have you been president?"
"Going on 15 years next year," she responded.
"Wow. The watch association must have an incredibly small pool from which to draw overseers, I take it. Because you're the worst neighborhood watch president I've ever met ..."
"Ooooooooooooooo ... ???" she said chillily. "And why do you say that?" Understandably, there was an underlying fire I could feel building within her suddenly.
"We've been decorating this house - and others in the neighborhood - about as long as you've been president. We're usually here two days in November decorating Gino and Bingo's place and another day breaking it down in January. On top of that, I've personally been here to fire up the place around Thanksgiving morning or afternoon all those years and I've checked on things when there were problems. In all that time you've never seen me or my van?" I looked at her with a broad, toothy grin on my face ... and she smiled right back at me, blushing.
"You know what deters burglars?" I asked her. "Christmas lights."
"That's just the reason I came over here after talking to Gino. Could you tell me what it would take to get some on my house?"
"I'd be more than happy to, Peggy ..."
"You know ... you looked a little suspicious when I saw you, but you seem all right."
"Just don't talk to anyone I know" I told her. "Or any of my friends. Or my relatives. See that guy over there I'm working with? Don't talk to him either. Don't talk with anyone about me and we'll get along just fine, Peggy ..."
A suspicious call came over my phone yesterday afternoon. "Unknown" was the caller.
S/he left a message. I accessed it. The message stated it was Chase bank asking I call about a possible fraudulent activity on one of my bank accounts.
With the number having come up as "unknown" on my ID, I continued to be suspicious.
I called Chase at another number, one I knew would be on the up and up. Various coded verification run-arounds later, I explained the call received to "Cindy" who confirmed the call was legitimate and she would be happy to help me after further verifying I was who I claimed to be.
Moments later, and with verifications in place, she confirmed there had been some attempted fraudulent activity on one of my accounts: "Someone tried withdrawing $459.15 via your bank card. Of course that didn't happen and we were flagged. The attempt was made in Las Vegas. Have you been to Las Vegas recently, Mr. Noble?"
I hadn't. "Nope. Guess the joke was on them. That particular account has a mere $7.00 and change in it, a far cry from what they were trying to get ..."
"We will of course cancel that bank card, Mr. Noble, and issue you a new one. Can we send it to the address where you receive your statements?"
"No. I would prefer to run down and get one immediately. I can do that at any branch, correct? There's one a hop, skip and jump from me ..."
"Of course you can, Mr. Noble. I'll put a note on your account you'll be doing just that shorty. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"Not a thing. Other than to note in your log that I appreciate Chase's efforts and customer service. Thank you, Cindy. Have a good rest of the afternoon."
30 minutes later - with additional verification in place and a few jokes tossed back and forth with several of the banking staff at my local bank branch - I had a new bank card.
You know? You don't want to go through any kind of fraud, but that crap happens. I'm appreciative my bank is on top of things.