Hi There!

(For my Dutch-English translating and proofreading business, please go to my D-E Translating WordPress site. Thank you.)

Welcome to my blog.

I’m an energetic, slim, reasonably pretty thirty-year-old. However, I reside in a rather shocking, obese, aching, apathetic 56-year-old body. I love living in Austin but I’m chock-full of criticism of America in general. The Rockies bring me to tears, but so does the health care system. I’ve adopted Thanksgiving, but not the Pledge of Allegiance. If I seem elated and unbearably grouchy in sometimes dizzyingly quick succession, this is why.

I love the usual: my husband, my children, my friends and our pets. I hate heat, willful ignorance, bone spurs, spiders, and walking or cycling in place.

I collect raft books and I’ve developed a weird obsession with the bottoms of bridges.

When I lived in the Netherlands, twenty-three years ago, I loved hot tea, wild camping in Great Britain, gardening, reading for days on end, and I walked and cycled everywhere. Now that I live in a pretty darn hot part of the US, with kids who have to be driven everywhere by car, I love reminiscing about hot tea, wild camping in Great Britain, gardening, reading for days on end and walking and cycling everywhere…

My blog is a crazy—some might say completely unhinged–collection of posts about any of the above-mentioned issues and then some. Nothing is sacred. I blatantly ignore all American no-nos. Which means I talk politics, religion, I don’t idolize  teachers and I swear (but not that much).

As you read my posts you might laugh, seethe, weep or shrug your shoulders. If you like a post, great. Let me know. If you hate a post, great, let me know. I’d like to think I’m always right, but don’t let that stop you from telling me if you disagree. We Dutch love a good debate.

If you want to know more about how I ended up in America and an overview of how that’s been, visit my About page.

Otherwise, have at it!

(In my posts, I refer to my husband as T, my 20-year-old son as B, and my 18-year-old daughter as R.)

The Zwarte Piet Debacle From the Outside, Again

zwarte clownOkay, it’s the end of November and that means that Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) is arriving in the Netherlands, with his helpers, who have traditionally been all called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). The Zwarte Pieten are traditionally white people with blackface. People of color in the Netherlands have gradually become vocal about not liking that and the Dutch reaction is incredibly embarrassing to me.

Four years ago I wrote a series about this, and at the time I truly thought that by now the Dutch would have seen sense and changed Zwarte Piet into Groene Piet (Green Pete) and Paarse Piet (Purple Pete), etc. But no. Anti-Zwarte Piet demonstrators are still trying to get the Pieten to change and local governments (understandably) are preventing them from demonstrating anywhere near the Sinterklaas procession, so the kids’ fun isn’t spoiled. You can start reading the series here, but today I felt the urge to re-post this post in particular, I suppose because it addresses the Zwarte Piet issue as well as the immigrant issue. So here it is, again:

Several people have pointed out–in a somewhat accusatory tone–that I’m looking at the issue of Zwarte Piet being racist from the outside. To a large degree it’s true. But first let me point out to what degree it’s not.

Like I said in my second Sinterklaas post, I mostly grew up in the Netherlands. I learned songs like “Moriaantje zo zwart als roet”  (a Little Black Sambo kind of song) and my very own grandfather depicted black people in the first graphic children’s books in the Netherlands in what I can now only see as a painfully racist manner. But at the time I thought nothing of them. I was no different than any other Dutch child of my generation.

And no, I’m not saying my grandfather was an active, consciously rabid racist; he was just unthinkingly continuing a stereotype he himself grew up with.

Like all other Dutch people, I grew up with Sinterklaas. Sure, there was a hiatus when I lived in Australia (1965-1970), but I was at no risk whatsoever of acquiring any racial sensitivity Down Under and my maternal grandparents dutifully sent us Sinterklaas packets every year, so the tradition was kept alive.

I was a Zwarte Piet for the NOS (national public television) myself when I was sixteen and even though by that time I was well aware of and stridently appalled by the history of slavery and by racism in general, I never put two and two together. I was as Dutch as Dutch could be when it came to Zwarte Piet.

Even having lived in the USA for twenty years, when  I became aware of the Zwarte Piet controversy a few weeks ago, my very first reaction was: well, yeah, it is racist, but-but-but-but-but … he’s Zwarte Piet! You can’t get rid of Zwarte Piet!

Where living in the USA makes a difference is that it only took me about an hour of thinking it through to come to the conclusion that changing Piet’s appearance wouldn’t be the end of the Sinterklaas tradition as we know it, and that we should accept that it’s about time to get rid of this one racist aspect of the holiday.

I started following the discussion on other WordPress blogs. It’s interesting that a lot of other Dutch people who are as flummoxed as I am about the defensiveness regarding the issue also live abroad.

So the fact that I look at the issue from the outside isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion. It just proves that when Dutch people are able to take a step back, the conclusion they come to is that, yes, obviously Zwarte Piet is racist, and yes, obviously we should change it–what’s the big deal?

The other reason I feel so strongly about this is that, as an immigrant here, I know a thing or two about taking on things that are ingrained in the prevailing culture. I know what it’s like to be at an unfair disadvantage, or discriminated against, and then hitting a brick wall at about 100 miles an hour when I bring it up. Over and over and over again.

When I moved here, my world was pulled out from under me because my Dutch library degree wasn’t recognized.

(Oh, here we go again, some of my veteran readers might be thinking, but bear with me.)

My degree wasn’t recognized because it was a three-year college degree that I took straight out of high school.

It didn’t matter how much I talked, how I explained that we have national school standards in the Netherlands, so students go straight to library school or law school or medical school after high school, because they don’t have to sit through three-quarters of a bachelor’s degree first to learn in very watered-down form what they should have learned in their first twelve years of education.

The registrar of the local “university” (I still can’t help putting the damn word in parentheses) had no clue what I was talking about because he knew absolutely nothing about European education.

The so-called independent degree evaluation companies knew not one iota more than above mentioned local yokel, but that didn’t stop them from charging me $300 to tell me that my three years of library school were the equivalent of three years in American college, and so I should shut up and go back to school.

I put my library school courses and those offered at UT Austin side by side and approached the dean of their library school. But he was unavailable. The various library schools across the country all passed the buck, referring me from one to the other, until I was finally referred to a long-retired library school professor in the mountains of Colorado, who agreed that I was obviously qualified to run libraries, but he had absolutely no say in the matter. He couldn’t imagine why anyone thought referring me to him would do any good. So sorry.

For my newer readers: you have to understand that I was somebody in the Netherlands. I had had a pretty good library career in the eleven years between graduating from library school and emigrating to America.

My last job was being the librarian of Europe’s second-largest archaeology library. (Which made it also automatically larger than any American archeology library; there was only one, somewhere in the northeast and it was a third the size of mine. Other American archaeology collections are thrown in with anthropology.)

I had personally written two classifications; one for police subjects that was adopted by most of the country’s other police libraries and one for archaeology. I had automated one entire library and had prepared and begun the automation of the archaeology library (which was stuck in 1956 before I took over in 1992).

In short, to say that it was frustrating and insulting to be told, as a 34-year-old Dutch librarian, that I had the equivalent of three years at a little rinky-dink American state “university” is an understatement.

And to add insult to injury: I went to said  “university” and had to sit through 5-week summer courses of World History and a second language and Math and such because it didn’t count that I had had those subjects extensively and for years in middle school and high school. And what do you know? I got high grades. And everyone was amazed. My professors gushingly referred to me as an intellectual. (Yeah, my Dutch friends are now rolling on the floor, laughing their asses off.)

I graduated magna cum laude, which not one single person in the whole damn “university” knew how to pronounce. Suddenly complete strangers in Washington D.C. offered me unsolicited help getting jobs I was not remotely interested in.

Even if anyone had taken the time to really listen, admitting that my library degree was the equivalent of a 3-year American Master’s degree in Library Science  would have meant admitting that American kids are all getting royally screwed because after graduating high school they have to spend the next four years of their lives and tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to half-assedly learn what their teachers failed to teach them properly during the first twelve years of their school careers. So that was never going to happen.

That was my brick library degree wall.

During this time we had kids. And we were pleasantly surprised that there was a Montessori school in our area. No Pledge of Allegiance! Our kids could avoid the nationalist indoctrination of American public schools. What a relief.

And then 9-11 happened and those Montessori teachers, who until then had been so proud of the international character of the school, started saying the Pledge of Allegiance in the classrooms. In my 3-year-old daughter’s classroom.

So there I was, emotionally and tearfully trying to explain to Montessori teachers why Maria Montessori would turn in her grave if she knew that the Pledge of Allegiance was being said in a school that bore her name.

Blank stares.

And I tried, even more emotionally and tearfully, to explain where I as a Dutch person was coming from–that we associate the Pledge of Allegiance with Hitler Jugend tactics.

Glares stares that did their best to remain blank.

And then dismissiveness: But it’s just the Pledge of Allegiance.  It’s not indoctrination; it’s harmless. It’s just showing pride in our country. You should come see when the kids do it. It’s the cutest thing; most parents get tears in their eyes.

Then compromise or what was supposed to pass for it: How about if R (3-year-old R, mind you) went and stood out in the hall while the rest of the class said the Pledge of Allegiance?

By this time I was getting seriously upset, so the teachers were getting seriously hostile. I was that crazy Dutch person. One teacher–the only one who had been paying attention when an outside Montessori consultant had visited years earlier and had pointed out that the American flag or the Pledge had no place in a Montessori school–eventually came to the rescue: R could come to her classroom; she didn’t say the Pledge. Problem averted, until that teacher left a year later, anyway.

Around that time I started volunteering in the school library. Pretty soon I was working there full-time, for free, running the library, computer-cataloging and labeling the collection. My kids stayed in the after-school program because I was often the last to leave the building, along with the custodian, who locked the door after me around 6 pm.

I turned the library from a storage room with a bunch of books falling from dysfunctional shelves into a real library.

I developed and carried out comprehensive, hands-on weekly library skills classes that started  in 1st grade with filling out a blank map of the library and ended in 6th grade with writing short research papers. I also gave weekly literature appreciation classes–the first year we read and wrote different types of folktales and the second year we read and wrote different types of poetry.

The library had no budget, so I bought everything from my own–or rather T’s–money. From a new desk chair, a filing cabinet and any office supplies I needed to I don’t know how many books, bought by the carload at Half Price Books up in Austin each month.

But it didn’t matter how hard I worked and how hard I tried and how much I gave; I was forever that crazy Dutch bitch who had dared to criticize the Pledge of Allegiance. Whenever I walked into the staff room, conversation all but stopped. I was largely ignored, except, of course, when I  called in sick and a teacher suddenly didn’t have that precious hour when a third of her students were gone.

When we told the school we were moving to Austin, especially R’s initial teacher couldn’t wait to see me go so she could start using the space as a storage room again. The director didn’t say goodbye. Only one teacher’s aide wrote me a thank-you note for all I had done.

That was my brick nationalism wall.

My point is this:

I know what it feels like to bash your head against a cultural brick wall.

I know what it feels like to have to address something that’s unfair or offensive to you, but that’s sacred to everyone else.

I know what it feels like when nobody listens or if they do listen, they don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

I know what it feels like to be dismissed as just another  crazy disgruntled outsider.

I know what it feels like to be told that this is the way it is and if you don’t like it, then just go back to where you came from.

I know what it feels like to have to choose a hundred times a day between speaking your mind or being accepted because the two are mutually exclusive.

I know what it feels like to just want to scream and pull your hair out. (And I did regularly scream until I was hoarse in the privacy of my car, on my way home after having to listen to a professor tell college seniors that the age of revolutions was called that because there were revolutions like–anyone? anyone?–like  the American Revolution and like–anyone? anyone?–like the Industrial Revolution. Blank stares. Jesus Christ!)

I know what it’s like to feel like you’re losing your mind. And being acutely aware that everyone around you is convinced that that’s exactly right.

And I wasn’t even taking on the whole country, although at times it sure felt that way. All I wanted was to continue to be a librarian and to get my 3-year-old daughter through the school year without having to pledge unquestioning loyalty to Uncle Sam.

I’m not saying I know what it’s like to be black, either in America or in the Netherlands–no white person can ever get close to knowing what that’s like, I expect. But I can imagine, at least to some degree, what black people in the Netherlands are up against when they address the racist aspects of Zwarte Piet.

White Dutch people whose initial but-but-but reaction I share have the same reactions to the notion that Zwarte Piet is racist that I have encountered in America to the notion that the education system elsewhere could possibly be better different or that the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t that innocent.

They are the reactions of people who have never been in the minority, who are incapable of putting themselves in an outsider’s shoes, who are complacent and dismissive at best, and hostile at worst toward anyone who has the audacity to point out flaws in their heretofore unquestioned beliefs.

That–and the fact that bashing my head against any brick wall in my path has become second nature–is why I feel so strongly about the Zwarte Piet controversy, and about my need to make my point exactly because I can look at it from a distance.

Dubious!

Okay, today’s prompt is too good not to link to yesterday’s post!

Playing the Scammer

20170507_173005And now for something completely different.

Friday morning, when I planned to sleep in and then do some work, I got a call from my Microsoft support company, or so I thought.

I had had a subscription to one of these services before, and they’re great. They’re located in India. You have a problem with your computer? Just call them and they will give you instructions to get to the point where they can take over your cursor, and before your eyes they go to work. Sometimes it only takes a moment, but it often lasts hours–they fix the problem and add updates and better security, etc, from India! I had let my last subscription expire, but I was having a recurring problem with starting up my computer, so I got another three-year subscription and they fixed the problem, partly. I still needed to call them again to fix more, but I hadn’t wanted to invest the time yet.

So I get a call, supposedly from this company, and the friendly man with the wonderful accent on the other end tells me that the company has to shut down because a lot of their customers who have received the new security software are complaining that it’s not working. So they’re reimbursing everyone for their subscriptions and then they’re closing up, for now, at least, until they’re sure they can guarantee that the products they download onto my computer are the very best.

So let me ask you, ma’am, do you know how much you are paying for your subscription?

Well, it was around $400, I think.

That is correct. So while you and I get that sorted out, another technician will get to work on your computer to take off all the software we installed and any malware that may have entered, and then we will reinstall the standard security software for you, alright, ma’am?

Okay.

So, ma’am, on the bottom left hand side of your screen is a Windows key… [and he takes me through the set-up for long-distance operating].

Okay ma’am, now I can use your cursor. Do you see me moving it across your screen, ma’am?

Yes, I see it.

Good. Now, how much did you say you paid for your support subscription, ma’am?

Around $400.

That is correct, it was $399. Now tell me, please, which bank do you use, so we can credit this amount back to your account.

It’s [such and such] bank.

[Such and such] bank, good. Can you go to their online banking screen and log in for me, please?

No, I’ve never done the online banking. I’ve tried to set myself up with the online banking, but it doesn’t work. My husband deals with that.

I understand completely, ma’am, but you can set up the online banking right now, this very moment. Just go to the bank’s website.

[This takes a while, because the problem that I’m having with my computer–that the cursor freezes and then I have to restart–has decided to rear its ugly head.] Okay, I’m there. And yes, I see here where I need to click to set up online banking. I suppose I can try again.

Yes ma’am, because it is of the utmost importance that we reimburse you before we shut down our company.

Okay, I have a form in front of me that asks for my name and a lot of other stuff.

That is good, ma’am, just go ahead and fill that out. We can not see on this end what you are doing, because that is confidential information between you and your bank, so let me know when you are done filling out the form, okay ma’am?

Okay. [And I start filling out the form, until I come to having to give the last four digits of my social security number.]

Hello? Are you still there?

Yes, ma’am, I am still here. 

Well, I’m not sure I’m comfortable filling this out. It’s asking for my  social security information.

No, no, ma’am–remember that I told you that we can not see what you fill out. This is a very, very secure procedure. Let me show you. [And he directs me to what he tells me is an opposite thing, where he is filling out a password and all I see is stars appearing.] So that is what I see when you are filling out your form. It is strictly between you and your bank. I can not see what information you enter, okay ma’am?

[This is supposedly the company that I trust with my computer, and though I hesitate a little, I feel bad seeming mistrustful of him, so I fill out the form. In the end it says that it can’t verify this information and that I have to go to a physical bank. That’s what always happens when I try doing anything online with these stupid American banks. So I tell him this.]

Well, ma’am, are you sure you filled out everything correctly? Is it possible that you placed a typo somewhere? Just try it again, and let me know when you are finished. And double-check everything first, okay ma’am?

Okay, hang on. [And I do it again, with the same result.]

Oh, so you will have to go to your bank.

No, I can’t go to my bank–it’s 45 minutes away! Can’t I just give you my account number and the routing number, and then you can deposit the money?

Yes ma’am, but you see, we do Instant Money Wire. What that means is that the money transfer happens within seconds, and I want you to see that it has been deposited into your account, and if I deposit it the way you describe, it might take five days or even more, and I will have to call you every day to see if you have received the money yet.

Well, how about you deposit it on my credit card?

Your credit card? Yes ma’am, I think we can do that. What is the number? [I give him  the number, the expiration date and the number on the back. I know, I’m an idiot, but at this time I haven’t figured that out yet.]

Okay ma’am, let me see if I can transfer the money onto your credit card. Stay on the line with me for a moment.

Sure. [I wait for a moment.]

Ma’am, it seems your credit card is not set up to receive money. Do you have any other bank accounts?

No, just that one.

What about your Chase account? [What I only realize later is that I apparently had a Chase account once, and in my perfectly organized Usernames and Passwords folder in my Documents, which the other technician now has access to, I have a username and password for a Chase account that I no longer have.]

My Chase account? No, I don’t think so.

You do not have an account with Chase Bank?

No, just the [such and such] one. But how about PayPal?

You have PayPal?

Yes. It’s easy to deposit money in there.

Okay, let me try that, ma’am. What is the email address connected to your PayPal account? [I give it to him.]

That is good–so let me try that. Just stay on the line, please, ma’am.

Okay. [I wait a minute or so.]

Ma’am, that did not work, but let me talk to my supervisor–he knows more about PayPal than I do. Can you hang on for a little while longer, please?

Sure, no problem. [I wait a little longer.]

Hello, ma’am? I have spoken with my supervisor, ma’am–here is how we can do this. Is your screen black right now?

Yes, it is.

Okay, [and he gives me some instructions, and then:] do you see a DOS command appearing on the screen now?

Yes, I do.

Now, first we have to see if this works, so we will try it with depositing $100 first, okay, ma’am?

Sure.

Okay. at the DOS prompt, please type 100.00. That is one, zero, zero, decimal point, zero, zero, okay ma’am?

Okay. [I do just that. And then a lot of stuff just goes scrolling really fast down the screen.] What’s all that?

That is the money transferring to your PayPal account, ma’am. So now please log in to your PayPal account and we should see that $100 is deposited.

[I log in and we see that there is $10,000 deposited!] Ooooh, ma’am, you forgot the decimal! Now it’s $10,000! Do you see that?

Oh-oh. Yeah.

That is not good, ma’am!

No. But I see that it’s still processing, so you should be able to abort it from your end.

I am trying to do that, ma’am, but your PayPal account is now locked.  You must have a personal account and not a business account, so you can not do transactions this large.

Yes, that’s true, but on your end you should still be able to stop it, right?

No ma’am, this is what I am saying: the account is completely locked! That $10,000 is now kept on hold in your account! This is not good!

[I try doing anything from my side, but sure enough, it’s locked.]

Okay ma’am, here is what I need you to do. Because your PayPal account can not do transactions this large, you need to go to your bank and take out $3,000 [he saw on my online banking form what our latest bank statement was and it was three thousand something] and deposit it in a bank account that I will give you, and then we can do the other $7,000 tomorrow or something.

[While I know he’s saying that I need to take $3,000 out of my checking account, at the same time I assume he’s talking about me taking $3,000 out of my PayPal account and putting it into our checking account, so that then there’ll be only $7,000 in the PayPal account, which it should be able to handle. I’m not putting two and two together yet.]

So ma’am, let me tell you what you need to do. This is very, very important. You need to go to your bank right now and take out that $3,000, okay? And make sure to set up your online banking as well. You need to put me on speaker phone and I will stay on the line. And please do not forget your phone chargers.

You’re going to stay on the line all the way to the bank?

Yes ma’am, my supervisor is very, very angry with me right now and I have to get this money back today. This is of the utmost importance!

I understand. [So I get dressed and leave. I talk to him when I get in the car and ask him if he minds if I put the radio on, and no, he doesn’t mind. Halfway to the bank I do call T and leave a message about the fact that I’ll be taking $3,000 out of the checking account for a very brief time, until it’s transferred from the PayPal account and that it’s a long story, but not to worry. He does worry and calls me back, doesn’t understand what I’m talking about but says that I should transfer $3,000 from my PayPal account to the checking account first, because he needs to pay for stuff today.]

[So I get to the building, and when I’m in the elevator on the way to the bank, he asks me if I’m there yet.]

Almost. I’m walking in right now.

Okay, ma’am, that is good. Now, if they ask you why do you want to take out $3,000, just tell them that it is for your personal use, okay, ma’am?

[I find this a little strange, but I don’t think too much of it, because they’re not going to ask me why I’m taking out money. So I walk up to the teller.]

Good morning, how can I help you today?

Good morning, I’d like to transfer $3,000 from my PayPal account to my checking account, but I’ve never done it before, so I don’t know what’s involved.

No, no, no, ma’am, your PayPal account is locked! You need to take $3,000 out of your checking account. Please do not tell them anything about the PayPal account. Just get the $3,000 from your checking account and go to your car and then I will tell you what to do next. [I still have the phone on speaker mode.]

[I turn speaker mode off, but I’m still at the teller’s window.] But how does taking $3,000 out of my checking account change anything about my PayPal account being locked? Your $10,000 will still be in my PayPal account. [And then to the teller:] I know, this sounds like I’m paying a ransom or something, but I accidentally got $10,000 transferred to my PayPal account from a Microsoft support company, so this poor guy’s freaking out.

No, no, ma’am! Do not tell the teller anything about this!

Why can’t I tell the teller about it?

He can not know that this is a business transaction because then we have to pay a very, very large transaction fee. Just tell him you need to take $3,000 from your account for your personal use and go to your car and then I will tell you what to do next. But stay on the line, okay?

No, I’m going to hang up, because I can’t do two things at once. Call me back in about ten minutes. [I hang up and try to go to my PayPal account but I can’t get good reception in the bank. While I wait, I realize that none of this makes sense, but I’m thinking I’ll take the $3,000 out and then see what he wants me to do next, though there’s no way I’m going to send it to him. Then a lady walks up to me and asks me to step into her office.]

I don’t mean to pry, ma’am, but are you sure you trust the person you were on the phone with? [So I tell her what happened and that it makes no sense because taking $3,000 out of my checking account isn’t going to unlock my PayPal account, and she agrees.  She suggests I call PayPal and tells me that there’s a bench outside where I can get better reception.]

[I go outside and after a few minutes of being completely unsuccessful getting a person on the line at PayPal, the lady comes outside and tells me she called someone at Microsoft and they said it’s a scam. Which I have now finally begun to realize, too. This guy now has my credit card information, my bank account information, and another technician is snooping around on my computer at home, “working to fix the security problem” while I went to the bank. I know, God help me when I’m really an old lady!]

[So I don’t take out the $3,000. All the while, since I hung up on Scammer Guy, he’s got his phone calling me non-stop, and I dismiss him every time. On  the way to the car I call T to tell him to block the credit card. He just happens to be home, so he turns off my computer as well. When I’m back in the car I answer Scammer Guy’s umpteenth call. It’s around noon–he has scammed and wasted my time for a good three hours. Now it’s my turn.]

Hi. Okay, I’m in the car and I’ve got the money.

You have the $3,000, ma’am?

Yes.

You have it in cash in your hand?

Well, I put it in my wallet, but yes, it’s cash, all hundred dollar bills.

That is really good, ma’am. Now what you must do is you need to drive to the nearest Bank of America…

No, first I have to go home to get on PayPal on my computer…

No, no, that is not necessary, ma’am, that can wait. First you need to drive…

I’ll do that after I go home. I need to check out PayPal because I couldn’t get any reception in the bank, so I can’t see it on my phone.

[He humors me.] Very well, ma’am, that is fine. Go home first, but we do really need to get this $10,000 back today. This is very, very important!

Oh, I know. Believe me, I understand. Don’t worry, I’ll be as quick as I can.

Yes ma’am, I will stay on the line with you.

Okay. [And I hang up.]

[I let Scammer Guy call for a few minutes.] Yes, hi.

Hi ma’am, we got disconnected–I apologize about that. Listen, ma’am, somebody has turned off your computer. My technician can not continue loading the standard security software back on.

Oh, that was probably my husband. I’ll call him and tell him to turn it back on. Hang on. [I hang up and wait five minutes, dismissing Scammer Guy’s calls until then.]

Hi. Yes, it was my husband, but he’s already left again.

But he needs to turn the computer back on again, ma’am!

Well, he can’t because he already left again, but I’ll be home in about twenty minutes.

You are only twenty minutes away from your home now?

Yes. Don’t worry.

Okay ma’am, but please stay on the line, okay?

Okay. [And I hang up.]

[I ignore his calls until I get home, and then:] Hi, I just walked in the door, so I’m turning the computer back on now.

That is good ma’m, but you need to stay on the line. I have been calling and calling you.

Okay, I will.

Are you at your desktop screen yet, ma’am?

[I am.] No, it’s taking a long time to turn on. This could take a while, because I’ve been having this problem all week. Like I said earlier, I’ll get to a certain point and then the cursor just freezes, the screen turns black and I have to shut it off and start over. [Meanwhile the first thing I do is uninstall the program they used for the long-distance operating.]

That is quite alright, ma’am, I understand. Take your time–just let me know when you are in the desktop, okay ma’am? I will stay on the line.

Okay. [And I hang up.]

[I let him ring for a good twenty minutes while I get myself breakfast and tell T what exactly is happening, and then I pick up the phone again.]

Hi.

Ma’am, we were disconnected yet again–I have been calling and calling!

Oh, sorry. But I’m in my desktop now.

Okay, that is good, ma’am. Do you see the Windows key at the bottom of your keyboard? [And I let him think he’s directing me to the point where I have to enter a number and then he’ll have control of my cursor. In reality I’m beginning to change my passwords.]

Okay, I will now give you the number that you need to enter. Three…

Oh no, my cursor just froze again! I’ll have to start over. [And I hang up.]

[While Scammer Guy is calling and calling, I eat my breakfast and go to my Usernames and Passwords folder and start going down the list, changing passwords. This will take a while and I’m supposedly only turning my computer back on, so after ten minutes I answer his calls again.]

Hi…

Ma’am, we keep getting disconnected…

I know, it’s so weird. Anyway, I’m back in the… oh, never mind, it’s freezing up again.

Well, just turn it off and…

Yes, I know, that’s what I’ve been doing. But you know what? I’ve been needing to go to the bathroom since before I left to go to the bank, so is it okay if I do that first?

[Chuckling goodnaturedly:] Yes, of course, ma’am.

I might be a while.

Okay, but do not hang… [I hang up.]

[After about 45 minutes I’m only about halfway through changing all my passwords, but I figure I should really be getting off the potty now, so I pick up the phone.]

Hi.

Yes, ma’am…

Hi. Hang on… [And I hang up. I’m making all this up as I go along and at this moment I’ve got nothing.]

[About twenty minutes later I answer his calls again.] Hi, sorry…

Yes, ma’am, what is going on? We keep getting disconnected and…

Yes, listen, I’m really sorry, but I have a family emergency that I have to take care of!

But ma’am, we need to take care of this money first! It is of the ut…

No, this is an emergency–I have to get to my daughter right now! I’m sorry! I’ll talk to you later. [And I hang up.]

[About half an hour later I answer his calls again.] Hi. Okay, the emergency’s over. Sorry about that.

That is quite alright, ma’am.  I am glad your emergency is over. [Did I mention that he’s gradually sounding more stressed?] So ma’am, are you back in your desktop screen?

No, the emergency’s over, but I’m still half an hour away from home.

Oh [disappointed]. Well, just drive home, ma’am, and I will stay on the line and…

Okay, bye. [And I hang up.]

[Half an hour later I answer his calls again.] Hi, I’m back home. Let me try again to get into my computer.

No, no, that is not necessary, ma’am–in about an hour the banks will be closed and the most important thing now is to take care of the money. This is very, very important, okay ma’am?  This is of the utmost importance. So you need to take the $3,000 and go to the nearest Bank of America.

Okay, well, at least that’s a whole lot closer, only about 15 minutes away.

Oh, that is good, ma’am, that is very good! Only 15 minutes away! So you need to take the $3,000 and drive to the bank and then park the car in the parking lot of the bank and then I will give you the numbers you need to transfer the money, okay ma’am?

Okay.

Now, when you have deposited the money, you will get a receipt for the transfer. You will come back to your car, with the receipt, and you will give me the number on the receipt, okay ma’am? This is very, very important! I need that number to unlock your PayPal account, so we can get the $10,000 taken care of, okay, ma’am?

Okay.

But do not hang up, okay ma’am? This is very, very important.

Okay, I won’t.

And you need to put me on speaker mode. You can put on the car radio again–I like listening to your radio.

You do? Oh, good! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And if we’re lucky it’ll be Irish hour now!

That’s great, ma’am! I love Irish music!

Great! Okay, bye. [And I hang up.]

[Fifteen minutes later I pick up the phone again.]

Ma’am? We were disconnected yet again, ma’am…

Yes, but I’m at the bank now.

You are at the Bank of America?

Yes, in the parking lot. So tell me again what I do next.

Okay, ma’am, this is very good. We are going to get this taken care of today. [He thinks he’s so close!] Now, please get a pen and paper ready so you can write down the bank account number and the routing number I am about to give you.

I already have a pen and paper. [I really do, because I figure he’s going to ask me to read the numbers back to me.] 

Very good, ma’am. I will now give you a name… [He spells out a name:] A as in alpha, …. [until he’s spelled out AKM Iqbal Hossein, [and then the account number:] 000-394-943-599, [and the routing number:] 122-000-661.

[T enters the bedroom during all this and I have to gesture for him to not make a sound, because I’m pretending to be in my car, at the Bank of America.]

Do you have all that, ma’am?

Yes, I have it.

That is good. Can you read it all back to me, please?

[I do.]

That is correct. Good! That is very, very good! Now you must go inside and deposit the money in this bank account and…

But tell me again how depositing this money will change the fact that my PayPal account is frozen because of the $10,000 transaction. I still don’t understand.

Ma’am, I have explained this to you already! First you just need to go to the bank and you need to deposit the money, okay ma’am?

Okay.

And when you have deposited the money, you will get a receipt for the transfer, okay ma’am?

Okay.

Now, on that receipt will be a number, okay ma’am?

Okay

So when you have the receipt you go back to your car, okay ma’am?

Okay.

And when you get back to the car, you will give me that number, and then I will use that number to unblock your PayPal account so we can take care of the $10,000, okay ma’am?

Hmm, okay. I still don’t really understand, but here’s what I’ll do: I’ll deposit the money and I’ll get the receipt and then I’ll go back to the car and I’ll give you the number on the receipt, okay?

Yes! Yes! That is absolutely correct, ma’am! But please stay on the line, okay? Please! Don’t! Hang! Up!

Okay. Bye. [And I hang up.]

[I take a shower, because we’re leaving to have dinner somewhere in half an hour, and while I’m showering I realize that the actual support company might be able to give the name and bank numbers to the police where they are, so when I’m done showering I call them, make sure it’s actually them, explain the situation, and give them the info. The man on the other end doesn’t seem too excited, and I don’t know if that’s because he knows there’s no point taking it to the police, or because he’s the inside man who’s giving these scammers the information about new support customers.]

[When T, B and I get in the car to go to out to dinner, I tell them to be quiet, and I pick up the phone again.]

Yes, hi.

Hello, ma’am?

Yes, sorry it took so long. This is a small town and they had never dealt with a routing number before so they were hopelessly confused. I had to explain it all to them, what a routing number is and that it was really quite simple. Anyway, I deposited the money and I have the receipt…

You deposited the $3,000, ma’am? [He can’t believe his patience has finally paid off!!!]

Yes, so are you ready for me to give you the number on the receipt?

No ma’am, that will not be necessary–what I need you to do is take the receipt to a UPS store or a Staples and scan it…

But you said that when I got back in the car I would give you the number and…

No ma’am, you give me the number by scanning the receipt at a UPS or Staples.

But…

What color is the receipt, ma’am?

Uh, it’s white.

White and black?

Well, yes, the letters are black.

And what does it say at the top of the receipt, ma’am? Does it say Approved, or Transferred, or Deposited or something of that nature?

Yes, it says Approved. And the number is actually a lot of numbers and letters combined… [because I reckon this is going to be the end of the game and I’ve got one last idea.]

Ma’am, you do not have to tell me the number on the receipt. You need to scan it and then you need to send it to me from a UPS store or a Staples.

Okay, but meanwhile I could give it to you over the phone anyway, right? It’s pretty long and…

[He decides to humor me.] Okay, ma’am, you can go ahead and give me the number.

Good, do you have a pen and paper?

Yes, I do.

This might take a while, because I’m driving [T’s driving], but here goes. All the letters are in caps, okay?

Okay, ma’am.

It’s 1, 5, 3, F as in frozen, 5, 9, 9, U as in unicorn, 8, 4, 0, C as in… [You see where this is going, right?]

Okay, listen ma’am, I really do not need the number. You need to take the receipt to a UPS store or a Staples. What is your zip code? [Like he doesn’t know.]

[I give him my zip code.]

Okay, I see that the UPS and the Staples in your area are both open until 7 pm, so you still have plenty of time. [It’s 5:30 by now.]

Okay, I’ll go to the UPS store, but it’ll take a while, because it’s in the opposite direction of where I’ve been going.

That is quite alright, ma’am, I will stay on the line, okay, ma’am?

Okay, bye. [And I hang up, absolutely thrilled that it isn’t over yet.]

[About twenty minutes later I answer his calls again, sounding close to tears.] Hi, I’m at the UPS store but it’s closed! And what if the Staples is closed, too?

No, ma’am, the Staples should be open. Just take your time–do not worry. And please stay on the line, okay? Please do not hang up.

Okay, I won’t. Bye. [And I hang up.]

[Another twenty minutes or so later we’re in the restaurant and I answer his calls again.]

Hi, I’m sorry, I didn’t get to Staples. I’m at a restaurant.

You are at a restaurant, ma’am? [Sounding exhausted.]

Yes, I was on my way to the Staples and then my husband called and said he wanted to meet at the restaurant…

But ma’am, can’t you…

No, I can’t say no! He beats me. [At this point I completely lose it, and B just about choking on his lemonade across the table doesn’t help, but I think I was able to make it sound like I burst out crying.]

What?!?

[I turn away from T and B and manage to say, supposedly whimpering:] I couldn’t say no because he beats me. I’m SO, SO sorry, [and here I really crack up, but I make it sound like crying], I’ll really do it tomorrow, I promise! Oh no, here he comes! I’ve got to hang up. I’m sorry! I’m SO SO SORRY! [And I hang up.]

He kept calling until about 10:30 am on Saturday. I guess he figured it out eventually, when the $3,000 wasn’t appearing in the bank account. Meanwhile a very real $10,000 is still on hold in my PayPal account until they finally give up and pull it out, or until PayPal unblocks it and returns it, whichever happens first.

Anyway, let this be a warning to all of you dolts like me. If you’re easily confused when you have to share the bill and the tip at a restaurant, especially when one person pays  the whole bill with a credit card and the others pay that person, and, on top of that, someone needs change from a twenty, then you are the kind of person these scammers prey on. If I had had online banking, I probably would have given away $3,000 before I even figured out what had happened. Thank you, American banks, for being so incredibly unintuitive when it comes to your online services!

Also, when I called the real Microsoft support company where I have my service subscription, they told me they would never call me or email me–I call them. They would never ask me any personal information, they just fix my computer. And if someone calls you, supposedly from a company you deal with, and they ask you for information they should have, like the amount of your subscription, don’t give it to them, but say, “You tell me.”

Because most of all, I went for it much longer than I was comfortable with, just because I didn’t want to seem rude and I hate being mistrustful. Looking back, there were several moments when I should have cottoned on. When the real support company does work on my computer, I see what they do. These guys turned the screen black. And me typing in the amount in their program that they would pay me? After a DOS prompt? Once I finally decided that this guy was definitely scamming me, I felt so incredibly stupid! But I think I made up for it a little by not letting him know that I was on to him before T could stop the credit card and before I had a chance to get back to my computer and change all my passwords, which I had been meaning to do for a while, anyway.

Scammer Guy almost scammed me and wasted my time for three hours, but I then played him and wasted his time for a glorious six hours! Oh, sweet revenge!

The November 4 Demonstration

20171104_132226Well, there was supposed to be a November 4 demonstration calling to impeach Trump and Pence at Republic Square Park today from 1 – 5 pm, but I was there from 12:45 to about 2:30 and there was pretty much nobody. One guy with a sign, everyone else could have just been there because it was a park. Continue reading

Fascism in America 11: Conclusion

dutch police homeless

Image: funnz.nl

Most of you Americans on the left were gobsmacked when Trump won the election. You did not see it coming at all; you thought that common sense would prevail in the end, but it didn’t. You completely underestimated the allure of Trump. Continue reading

Fascism in America 10: Suppression of Dissent and Propaganda

trump tv

Image: thedailybeast.com

Suppression of Dissent

An important aspect of fascism or any kind of dictatorship is forcible suppression of opposition. In a fascist country, the state is all-powerful and all-important–if you’re not for it, you’re against it and therefore an enemy of the state. Continue reading

Fascism in America 9: From Toxic Masculinity to Annihilation?

trump masculinity

Image: nydailynews.com

Hitler made sure the German youth was indoctrinated at school and in the Hitler Youth. His idea of a perfect Germany with perfect Germans was a country populated by blond-haired, blue-eyed people–the men strong and handsome, doing manly-man things like intimidating and killing the Untermenschen, starting with the Jews, and the women buxom and beautiful, keeping house and having as many perfect German babies as possible. For the purpose of this article I’ll focus on the men. Continue reading