This is a story which makes me _so glad_ to live in a small town
(population 8000) where most people know everyone else, and things are
handled in an informal way. I never realized -- seriously -- how many
people around this town -- Independence, KS -- know me and care about
me and try to protect me.
Here is how it happened: Saturday was a _very hot_ day; temperature
about 105 in mid-afternoon. But here it is mostly a dry heat, so you
don't feel it quite as if it were humid, but still, it was warm. My
house is in the middle of a block; there is an alley next to me. A
young guy I did not know -- still really do not know -- walked up and
down the street a few times over a five or ten minute period, looking
sort of exasperated. He finally walked into the alley next my house,
and said, "I am sorry to bother you, my ride did not show up, I really
was wondering if you had a bathroom I can use." I told him I did have
one, and he could use it. I also offered him a glass of ice water from
the water cooler/ice maker thing on my refrigerator, which he accepted
gratefully. Now I am _NOT_ trying to brag, or be 'holier than thou'
or any such thing; but I do sincerely believe in 'doing to others as
you would have them do to you', and _I_ have had situations being in a
strange neighborhood, needing to use a bathroom, being quite thirsty
on a hot day; I knew how _I_ felt on those days, so I thought 'this is
how I was raised, in this small town where nearly everyone always
looks out for their neighbors, etc, I will be damned if I tell this
guy he cannot use my bathroom or have a drink of cold water.' He
seemed very grateful when he left _with my checkbook and a box of new
blank checks_ (but I did not find that out until much later).
I found out about his 'tresspass' not on Saturday afternoon (when he
was here) nor on Saturday night, but not until Sunday about noon when
I came back home from the Episcopal church I attend here in
town. Phone rang, I answered it, and it turned out to be a lady who
idenfitied herself as 'the clerk at Mikies Conoco' up on North Penn
Street. "Did you authorize someone to come in with a check?" No, I
did not ... "Well, I know you are on the other side of town, and you
may not remember me, but I work part time also for Windsor and I have
been at your home to do the housekeeping stuff from Windsor, and I
could not imagine you ever coming all the way across town to Mikies,
or sending some guy with a check to get cigarettes and cash back."
She was completely correct. We agreed I would make a trip there Monday
morning when the manager was on duty to look at the security video (of
the guy cashing the check, and getting cigarettes).
She called me again, Monday morning to say "the guy came in again
twice last night, the same way, cigarettes and cash back; the
overnight clerk is the son of the manager, and he is sort of new, but
I found two more of your checks here, and he told me the guy had been
in twice last night." I told her I was going to stop at the bank on
the way to the store and get the affidavit Officer John Edwards
(Independence Police Department) had suggested I bring to him when I
filed my report about the theft.
I was sitting in the office of the bank manager (vice president Karen
Stoner) -- [don't be impressed, in banks Vice Presidents are a dime a
dozen]. Karen is the manager of our branch, but she also works on the
teller line now and then, and everytime I go in she always greets me
and is super friendly. [Again, don't be impressed, that's how folks in
this town are: either we interact through our work, through community
organizations to which we belong, through church, they are a next door
neighbor, or some combination of the above. Its not like I am a rich
old geezer customer tossing around piles of money at the bank, I am
not. I live from one social security check to the next ... barely ...]
And our Bank of America here in Independence has all of eight employees
I told Karen about this young guy who tried to rip me off; in fact had
done so, and I needed an affidavit for fraud, theft of checks,
etc. She was getting it drawn up (she is also a notary which is
important) when my cell phone rang again. It was Mikies Conoco again
... "hey! he came back again! he is at the front counter now, I told
the clerk to stall him a little while, are you coming over here soon?"
I told her I was in fact on the way then, would be there in five or
ten minutes at most. I told Karen I would be back ASAP and hustled
right out the door where our community taxicab driver Jeff had been
waiting for me. I told him let's get to Mikies right now, pronto.
He took off, but pronto was not fast enough. We pulled into Mikies, I
climbed out of the cab as fast as I could and went in the store, where
Officer Edwards, the store manager and her clerk were waiting for me.
The clerk spoke first saying, "I tried to stall him as Sandra (the
store maanger asked me to do. But then he turned around and saw Sandra
whispering in the telephone (she had placed a call to 911 then she
reached me (while I was in the bank). He saw her talking on the phone
and he took off at a gallop. My boy friend and one of his buddies saw
the guy split from the store on a run and they tried to go catch him,
but he was too fast."
The boy friend and his buddy watched all this and one of them said to
the clerk (about me) "Is this the dude that guy tried to rip off?" and
they were by the door, going to go look for the guy again, but the
manager and Officer Edwards said, "that's okay, a couple other
officers found him down the street; he is in custody; over at the
jailhouse now, waiting until I get back to interview him." The
manager showed me the security video tape and I identified him as the
guy who had been over to my house Saturday afternoon looking like a
sad, starved and very thirsty puppy who I had served on the 'do unto
others as you would have them do unto you' principle.
Edwards said "go back to Karen's office and get the affidavit, then
come by the jailhouse and ask for me; I will take your statement." I
went back to Bank of America (the Independence branch to which I
usually go), got Karen to finish up the affidavit and we stood there
chatting for a few minutes.
She said "you always pay all your bills by computer; your SSD deposit
and your Google AdSense deposits are always credited automatically;
always like a clock; Social on the fourth Wednesday of each month,
Google either a day before that or maybe one or two days after
that. Then you come either here to our ATM or you go by First National
Bank ATM a few blocks south and take out a hundred dollars for
spending money and you then authorize us to pay all your bills. Do you
ever write a manual check?" I told her it was very rare; since the
brain aneurysm my handwriting has pretty much gone to hell; it was far
better to turn it all over to the bank to handle my bills, etc. She
was reviewing my account on her screen as we chatted. She then said,
"Suppose I just note here on the computer comments the phrase
'question/confirm any manual checks written by customer'; that way in
the future no one will be able in a Bank of America at least, to try
and rip you off like that again. When you get bills, we pay them, when
you come around, you use the ATM. Oh, and if you see your mother
anytime soon, tell her I will see her at the next AWOL meeting." (She
and my mother are both on the board of the local animal welfare
shelter which is known as AWOL [Animals With Out Love]).
I left her office and walked a few blocks over to City Hall, (where
our police station is located in the basement); they called Officer
Edwards and as he came out to get me, two other officers were taking
Timothy Garotte (pronounced 'gah-RUTH', a French name) in handcuffs to
the jailhouse next door to City Hall. A thirty-year old resident of
Independence, Timothy did a 'stretch' at Winfield (Kansas State
Prison) for theft and forgery a few years ago, was released, and about
a month ago had done the same thing to someone else. On that second
time, he was bonded out of jail to wait for his trial, and _while on
bond_ had chosen me as his new 'mark'. Officer Edwards said he did not
think Timothy would be able to get bonded out this time around.
As he walked out the door in handcuffs in the custody of two officers,
he glanced at me. All I could think of to say was "Timothy, I am so
ashamed of you ... I treated you the way I would have wanted to be
treated, and you did this to me in return."
Edwards found a couple of my checks in Timothy's possession, along
with a reciept from Walmart. They _think_ he cashed one of my checks
over at Walmart as well, and Edwards suggested "watch your bank
statement or talk to Karen and tell her to watch for it; where the
local merchants deal with that sort of thing on an informal basis with
the victimized customer first in mind, an outfit like Walmart will
just keep trying to ACH you until they get their money. " Karen
agreed: "Walmart is bad like that; they will probably place you with
an agency and listen to no reason at all; take this copy of the
affidavit and police report so that when Walmart starts hassling you
about whatever Timothy 'purchased' in your name, you can get them to
call off the dogs." I will be watching my BOA account on the computer
very closely for a few days. I understand under 'check 21' Walmart
does not even send the actual check around any longer; just a computer
tape. Meanwhile, Mikies Conoco Station and the Ace Hardware store
downtown consider the matter closed, for which I am grateful. I'd like
to see how Walmart decides to deal with it; I've not had a good fight
with them in a long time now.
My brother, the well-to-do commercial artist in Chicago said to me
when he was here to visit a couple months ago, "What I have noticed is
that everyone in Independence seems to be, ... so ... innocent."
Well, yes and no ... there are still small town values and ideas here,
everyone still gives out their phone number as four digits only, and
the Timothy Garotte -style people are at a minimum. After all, our
Montgomery County Jailhouse only holds at capacity about 50 prisoners,
and when the County Jail gets more than 20-25 prisoners at any time,
they right away start talking about building an expansion to it.
And that was my weekend, how was yours?