Posted in Short Story

Super Scammed

pool phoenixYou read about things like this happening to people, but they are other people…people you don’t know. Then one day someone close to you tells you a story and you go, seriously? I just thought that happened to, you know, other people.

Let’s call them Thelma and Louise. They decided to go on a vacation together.

They booked a house in Phoenix for a week. $1500. Not cheap, but being a whole house, with a pool, they figured they were getting more for their money than just a motel room could offer.

This was the first time they were going on a holiday like this together and it would be memorable.

They left the airport in a rental car, and talked on the phone with the owner, getting directions. He would be there to meet them.

Awhile later they called him for more details.

Finally they pulled up to the house they recognized from the photos. They had arrived before the owner.

They waited a reasonable amount of time for him to show up and then reluctantly decided to call him, but there was no answer. A few minutes later they called again. Still no answer.

There must be a reason. Maybe he was on another call. Maybe something had come up.

They called a few more times in the next half hour.

They needed the keys to get into the house. All they could do was wait, parked on the street, in the late afternoon.

The minutes ticked by and they turned on the car for the air conditioning and listened to the radio.

It suddenly dawned on them that they were at the mercy of the person on the phone. If they couldn’t reach him, then they were hooked. Thelma and Louise looked at each other. No way. This couldn’t happen to them.

They called again, more desperate now. It hadn’t been very long since they heard his reassuring voice on the phone. Maybe an hour ago. Surely he would be here any minute now.

But the phone calls had stopped. No more contact. Nothing.

This wasn’t really happening. What would they do if they couldn’t reach him? Sleep parked on the street?

Next door a man was outside doing yard work. They watched him for awhile, as he disappeared and reappeared at the front of the house. Finally, with no results from their persistent phone calls, they decided to go over and talk to him. Maybe he knew the owner. Maybe he could give them some information. He might have  another contact number. Maybe an office number, or know of some way they could reach him.

“Hey, we’ve rented the house next door for a week, but we can’t seem to get in touch with the owner,” Louise called out to him.

The man turned to them and looked, strangely, from one to the other and then past them at the house behind them.

“That house is not for rent.”

“What do you mean?” Thelma asked. “We’ve just been on the phone with the owner.”

“I am the owner.”

The two women stared at him. They hadn’t really heard right.

“How can that be?” Louise finally asked.

“I own that house.”

“But we rented it.”

The man’s brows drew together and a shadow crossed his face as he began to walk towards them. “I’m the owner of the house.”

house phoenix

He stood, a short distance from them now, and the space between the three of them became electrically charged as it hit them that something was seriously wrong here.

The women explained how they secured the rental online, through Craigslist, for $1500. They paid to rent it for a week. Since they left the airport they had been on the phone a couple of times with the person whom they believed was the owner, but then he had not showed up and wasn’t answering their calls.

The man listened patiently to their story. After they finished he once again repeated that this was his house, and the house was not for rent.

Indignation washed over the two women, as they realized the truth. They had been scammed.

Maybe the owner was in on this. But he seemed innocent. They told him about the photos on Craigslist, even photos of the inside of the house. How had someone taken photos of the inside of his house?

“It’s been up for sale. If you want I can show you the inside. Maybe it’s not the house you’re looking for.”

“But this is the address we were given. And it matches the photos.” They admitted there were a lot of similar houses in the neighborhood, but the landscaping was the same as the photos.

They became aware that having stumbled across the actual owner was an amazing coincidence. He had the keys to the house so it seemed evident enough that he was indeed the owner. He showed them inside.

When they saw the interior of the house, it was just as it was pictured. They saw the pool in the backyard, just as they remembered it from the ad. In the living room a chair was still positioned, just as the photo on Craigslist had shown.

But the house wasn’t for rent. They knew that now.

Thelma laughed, embarrassed. Louise glowered. Oh, if only they could meet that man on the other end of the phone line.

They finally concluded that someone looked at the house, during the time it was listed, took photos and posted them online and rented out the house. So simple. So devious.

After they left the house, and the owner, they called in a police report. Having given all the information they admitted with resignation that this would make little difference. The scammer had vanished into thin air, with their money.

Finding an available hotel room so late in the day was not easy. They paid an outrageous price for one night, but managed to book another, more reasonable place, for the remainder of their stay once they got settled.

Thelma and Louise don’t really like to tell this story, because who wants to admit to being super scammed out of $1500?

trees phoenix

Posted in Communication, Leadership, trust

Surviving the Pandemic – Thoughts on Vulnerability and Ellen DeGeneres

rose

I recently donated my newly purchased book Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, by Brene Brown. Her rise to fame began with a her first TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.” I’ve watched her and think she is fun and charming. I imagine, she would be a wonderful friend.

Being vulnerable has really not worked out very well for me, unlike Brene teaches. (Sorry I can’t figure out how to place the accent on her final “e”. Maybe somebody could help me out with that.) And, increasingly, with “cancel culture” I find that I don’t want to open myself to destruction, because that seems to be the result of vulnerability.

After seventeen years of hosting a super successful talk show, and no accusations of perceived negative off-screen behavior, Ellen DeGeneres is suddenly pelted with criticism to the extreme that her show has been cancelled in Australia and is under investigation in the U.S. That rarely ends well.

I’ll throw in this little bit. I am beginning to detect when the avalanche will come. Ellen did a “no-no” back in October and defended herself. What did she do? She sat and chatted with Republican, and former president, George Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game. They talked and laughed together.

Conservatives drew some hope from Ellen’s comments. But a certain element found this completely unacceptable.

Ellen said that she happened to be friends with George Bush and also with a lot of other people with whom she disagreed on some points. This may actually be what inclusivity looks like. But the mob came after her. She broke one of the commandments of the liberal far left, namely, you cannot endorse or give a platform to anyone on the right.

Ellen’s show focused on kindness and goodness and acceptance, and I’m sorry to hear she may not have been all of these things off screen at all times. But the way she was mobbed was unfair.

Let’s note that there are people who know her well and saw her in many different situations who have nothing but good to say about her. Her brother Vance DeGeneres wrote on Twitter,

If you think Ellen would knowingly allow bullying or racism on her show, you don’t know my sister. She has been and continues to be a bright light in a dark world. She’s one of the kindest, most generous people you’ll ever meet. And one of the funniest.

Maybe she is not the monster the media has made her out to be. Many of the allegations are unsupported, and many are about her staff, not even about Ellen. But it makes for plenty of fodder. News sites have become cheap tabloids.

I’ve thought recently about the statue of Jesus beheaded at a church in Florida and another in Indianapolis. The last prayer of Jesus Christ, as he hung on the cross, was, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Think for a moment. Jesus went about doing good, healing the sick, feeding the poor, teaching about forgiveness. I can only conclude that the people doing this know nothing about the significance of his life. Jesus was a peace-maker. But some people only want war.

praying hands

And speaking of war, the media is trying to prime us for war. Have you seen it? We do not want war. We do not want our men and women fighting and killing other men and women.

I’m going to throw something out here. It could be possible that the “influencers” who are behind the trouble we see in the U.S. are not even Americans, but people who do not have the best interest of the American people in mind.

Another intellectual has been forced to resign because of his scientific views. James Cantor resigned his 27-year-long membership in the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. Read here,

Top Canadian sex researcher quits scientific group after being blasted for views on transgender issues

The essay he posted on the listserv argues there is no defence for discrimination against transgender people in areas like housing, jobs, access to public washrooms and sports. But he says the dismissive acronym TERF — trans-exclusionary radical feminist — is used too broadly, including for Rowling or people who say children should not start transitioning before age 12, a view he says is backed up by science.

I learned yet another term from this article. It is sea-lioning. This professor was accused of sea-lioning. This is how the article ends:

Myeshia Price-Feeney, research scientist at the Trevor Project, a crisis-intervention group, said her only concern is to support transgender and non-binary people to live “their true authentic selves,” meaning that there is “literally nothing to debate here.”

Wayne State University PhD student Jami Pittman said “I would just like to express a great sense of violence that I feel from being exposed to this conversation.”

Finneran Muzzey, a PhD student at Michigan State University, wrote of having been subjected to Cantors’ “harmful tactics” previously on the forum.

Cantor responded forcefully to his critics on the listserv, asking them to point out any factual errors he had made. (my bold/italics)

Purnell, in turn, accused him of “sea-lioning,” an online trolling tactic that involves “pursuing people with persistent requests for evidence or repeated questions, while maintaining a pretense of civility and sincerity.”

Apparently you cannot discuss facts because some people feel “a great sense of violence” when they are exposed to facts. And requests for evidence are not welcome either. Your sincerity and civility is in question if you do this.

There is a saying that prophets mourn while the people are laughing and laugh while the masses are mourning. When the masses see catastrophe, they see deliverance coming. While others laugh and cast off restraint, the prophets see difficult times ahead and judgment on wickedness.

I don’t know if it was a prophet I heard speaking this week, but he was laughing. He was saying that this is the last act for the leftist activists. That is why they are so desperate and are behaving so irrationally. I don’t know if it is true. But it could be. Let’s not fool ourselves. We reap what we sow.

I’m not known for my vulnerability. When I try to be vulnerable it only comes across as pathetic. Not only that, I find people don’t value my vulnerability. They trample me when I am vulnerable. Sorry, Brene. Your book doesn’t work for me. Apparently it’s not working for Ellen DeGeneres either. Maybe we need another book.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Health

Surviving the Pandemic – Change Happening Here

cypress hike
Bowen Lookout on Cypress Mountain

The other day I was thinking about my “Home Body” Daily planner and how appropriate it is during this time of isolation. When I bought it I debated getting a more motivational organizer. However, I didn’t write in my planner for the month of July. What happened?

I have a bit of a habit of falling off the face of the earth for awhile. I see it in all of my journals, how I keep disappearing for chunks of time. But last month I had a reason. I went to the doctor and my fasting blood sugar was too high. So, I decided I needed to do something. I began intermittent fasting. I watched a couple of videos of Dr. Jason Fung who gives a pretty convincing presentation in which he claims that weight loss, low carb eating and intermittent fasting can reverse type two diabetes.

Last month I lost ten pounds. I recorded my blood sugar and my weight, daily. I still have another ten pounds to go, and maybe another five after that. I will see how I feel. This was my focus and the reason why my planner got neglected.

sympathy

I also experienced the loss of two family members, an uncle and an aunt. They were from two different families. One had just celebrated their 60th anniversary and the other was not far behind. I can’t imagine losing someone after so many years together.

I was distracted thinking about how we wait too long to get in touch. They lived in another country and I always meant to travel to see them. Since I don’t live near family, I am not around when relatives come to Canada to visit, so I don’t see them then. Even though our contact was minimal, what there was endeared them to me.

I discovered that I am a bit more interested in extended family than some of my siblings and this might be because of my long absences from the people I love and care about. COVID sort of highlights lonely times. I groan at the cliche, We are all in this together.

sympathy 2

This month I did something remarkable. I paid off the major portion of my credit card and will have the remaining $1000 paid by Christmas. I reviewed my spending record in the past five years and saw I have a habit of spending an extra $200 a month, on average, above budget on gifts, Christmas, travel, writers conferences and furniture/home decor. I see now that these are things I can’t really afford, so something will need to change, because I’ve decided no more delayed paying.

Another change that happened is my doctor set me up for a colonoscopy as a result of my sister’s recent colon cancer diagnosis and surgery. This is not a pleasant topic, but a necessary one. Look after your health. I had to change my eating during the week leading up to my test. I didn’t realize how much my body needs high fibre nuts and seeds and whole grains for balance.

I received a COVID screening phone call from the hospital and was asked a myriad of questions. If I have any symptoms, or if I’ve had any suspected exposure to COVID-19, my procedure will be postponed. I do hope I get everything right so I can get this over with.

my bonsai

On the fun side of things, I’ve started some small bonsais. I’m amazed how relaxing the process is for me. I think I seriously needed to spend some time planting and pruning and playing in the dirt. I grew up doing a lot of gardening. This time of year we would be harvesting vegetables in our family garden and there would probably still be strawberries and raspberries to pick. I miss it.

The difference between me and my husband is rather apparent when I look at our approach to bonsai. He has two quality projects going while I managed to get seven for the same price. We kind of went above budget this month, but it is our anniversary month and we are doing this instead of going away for a weekend or out to a fancy restaurant. I didn’t realize how therapeutic bonsai gardening could be, but of course, bonsai combines art and design with gardening, and there is no time pressure. What more could I want?

We see some activity going on next door and I think things are gearing up for a construction project. This will mean we lose some lighting on the side of our condo, as we will have a building next to our balcony. It will also mean losing my distant mountain view. I am grieving this. We knew this would happen when we bought and are actually surprised at the delay. Since the project was planned as part of the completion of our complex we expected it to start immediately after our condos were sold. Once again, my husband and I see this whole thing differently and he is excited that we will have a view of another courtyard and there will be a walkway beside us.

rose bowl

In addition to bonsai, I cut back a small rose bush and put it in a planter. It seems to be doing well. We also bought a trellis for our star jasmine. I love the scent of jasmine on the balcony.

We went out for Two for One Seniors Tuesday at Ricky’s this week. I’ll just let you know that this is false advertising. First of all, the price is higher for one senior’s meal than any other menu item. The meals are smaller, and you don’t get the “deal” unless you purchase two beverages. But you do get your choice of a tiny dessert that is included with the meal.

While we were at the restaurant we saw a nice family gathering of fourteen people seated at three different tables. There were lots of hugs and photos after the meal. I wanted to offer to take a group photo but my husband discouraged me. I guess this is not the time to do so. On our hike on Cypress Mountain, a couple of weeks ago, someone asked my daughter-in-law to take a photo and she got out her wipes and cleaned her hands before she handled their phone, and then cleaned them again afterward. There are still options.

patio at gc
Inviting Patio at Cedar Rim Nursery

We’ve had a lot of fun going to local garden centers and checking out bonsai plants and containers. Touring Garden centers is a great activity during COVID, I’ve discovered. Restaurants, not so great, unfortunately, although it’s important to give what support we can to local businesses. We made our first visit, after lockdown, to our favorite Pho restaurant. We don’t want them to close. They have the best spring rolls!

I watched a couple of YouTube videos of Dr. Debra Soh, who is a sexual neurologist, as she talked about her new book The End of Gender Identity: Debunking the Myths About Sex and Identity in our Society. An Amazon review summed up the following myths debunked in her book:

  • Gender is a social construct. (No, it ain’t.)
  • There are no real differences between trans-women and cis-gendered women. (The height of absurdity.)
  • Children with gender dysphoria should transition. (No, they shouldn’t.)

Giovanna Roma posted this in the comments:

If gender is a social construct then how can you be born in the wrong body? Also they don’t want to be defined by gender, but are willing to let gender roles define their sex??

We wonder why we are even having this conversation? Why are we having a lot of crazy conversations these days? My tolerance for some subjects is seriously disintegrating. I don’t know if this is due to lockdown. It’s a possibility.

Go J.K.Rowling! I identify with your unique experience as a woman. And thank you to Dr. Soh for pointing out the damage we are doing by transitioning children. Keep having these conversations, even if I’m losing patience.

crescent beach aug
Crescent Beach in August