Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 06/19/2011

Honestly, I couldn’t make this stuff up….


Yesterday afternoon the phone rang.  I saw that it was an unknown area code and in an impulsive moment picked it up.  (I usually let those calls go.  It’s generally a nuisance call — someone needing a donation or someone telling me that I’ve won a 3 day 2 night stay somewhere no one wants to go, or someone wanting to set up an evening appointment in my home to discuss burial plots.)

What followed was about six minutes of Life Flight-able cardiac arrhythmia.  In the red zone.  As in get the crash cart ready and someone who knows what they’re doing behind those paddles.  (I had a writing professor who once told the class that women tend to do “medical report” in their writing.  That last sentence qualifies…..)

“Hello?”

Slight pause, then, Is this Patti Dickinson?  Nothing cordial here.  Stern.  Authoritative. This is Sergeant William Torres with the FDA. Odd.  Rarely even take an Advil.  What could he want with me?

I confirmed that he was talking to said Patti Dickinson.  We have a very serious matter here.  We are conducting an investigation.  Recently we have been made aware that you have been buying prescriptions on-line.  You have purchased a controlled substance without a prescription.  And that is illegal.  (Emphasis on illegal)

I tell him that he must have the wrong person.  That I have never purchased on-line medication, legal or otherwise.  That I am just a regular citizen (not a drug lord, but I didn’t say that part).  I thought that was going to be the end of it, an ooops-sorry-to-bother-you kind of conversation.

Nope.

He leans into his role of interrogator.  He is doing the bad-cop routine.  I am wondering when/if the good cop is going to show. You have broken the law.  Mrs. Dickinson, I have a list of 65 names here in front of me.  I can hear the rattle of the paper he is holding.  The list.  With my name on it.  Gulp.  These are the names of people who were involved in illegal international drug purchases.  You are one of them.  I am just not sure that you understand the seriousness of this crime.  In an odd twist, he’s sounding like he’s given up on me, already made the decision that he’s confirmed his earlier suspicions.  That I am a scoundrel. A perpetrator. White collar crime at its basest level. That I am a thug in khaki shorts and he knows it.  Have I been tried and convicted already? Now I am wishing that I’d paid a little closer attention in my American Government class…and don’t they have to read me my Miranda rights???

My heart is about ready to pound out of my chest.  My breathing is shallow and I am wondering whether I need an attorney. Whether I will be wearing stripes for the rest of my life and eating slop from a chow line off a dented tin plate in Leavenworth.  (At least I will be close to home.)  I take a different tack….Look.  I am really not sure that you are who you say you are.  I mean, anyone could call and say they were a Sergeant.  I am appalled at what just came out of my mouth.  I have been confrontational and  I am alarmed at my momentary aggression, So I backpedal, saying, I am sure that you mean well, and are just doing your job.  Start with a compliment, Patti.  Regroup.  Nothing accusatory.  But there are a lot of people that use the phone to intimidate people.  And you are intimidating me.  I am not sure that you realize that you are coming on kind of strong and I have done nothing wrong.  So I don’t really understand why you are talking to m this way.  I mean, are you telling me that I am in trouble? Are you asking me to help you put the bad guys in jail?  

You are not listening.  You have not heard anything that I am trying to tell you.  I. am. conducting. an. investigation.  This is serious.  Do you know that we have recently intercepted a package of 90 pills, mailed to your address, that are laced with cocaine? This package came from the Dominican Republic, so this is an international issue.

Oh. My. God.

Surely this is enough to have me in leg shackles and if I am lucky, shuffled off to a life of general population living.  Maybe I will be perceived as a snitch.  That ought to get me a solitary confinement classification.  I know all this stuff because I have watched Breaking Down the Bars and Jail.

I am scared senseless.  I am wondering how I am going to prove that I didn’t do all this stuff when it sounded like this Sergeant had overwhelming, albeit incorrect evidence that I had done it.  So I go for broke and say, Look, I don’t think you are who you say you are.  I would like you to write me a letter and tell me this stuff in writing.  I am a soccer mom (oh, good grief, did I really say that????)  I don’t want to continue this conversaton.  If you give me your number. I maybe can call you back.

He ratchets up the stern-factor.  He never raises his voice, which makes him sound all that much more menacing.  You are making a mistake.  You are getting in the way of my investigation.  You are being uncooperative.  If you choose not to continue this conversation, I can and will  have  patrol cars in your driveway in under three minutes. They will ransack your house.  We have a search warrant.

Are you kidding me?  I just cleaned the house.  I even organized the spices.  They’re going to come to my house and turn everything upside down?  What will the neighbors think when they see patrol cars screeching to a halt at all angles in my driveway?  I don’t even know an attorney that could handle this sort of thing.  So I tell him I will call him back….I ask for the number.  I can hear his impatience, his disgust.  (Don’t ask me how you can hear those things, you just can.)  He barks the number at me and I hang up.

Now I wish I had speed dial.  I call Wood at work. Hysterical.  Ask him how much money we can lay our hands on at 5:30 in the afternoon after the bank is closed.  I guess about $37 if I count the two dollar bills I found in the dryer last week, the change in the console of my car, in the couch cushions and on Wood’s dresser and in the bottom of my purse where the half-eaten fuzzy unwrapped mints lurk.  I keep looking out the window.  No SWAT Team cars, no one in uniform lurking behind the trees, brandishing weaponry. No yellow tape, no handcuffs.  Not yet, anyway.

So how does this six minutes from hell end?

Wood calls the FDA here in Kansas City.  They tell him that when they suspect cocaine importation, they do not do a phone interview and announce their intent to ransack a house.  And they don’t have sergeants.

I call the FBI.  Now that I have relaxed a bit, I am kind of hoping that I can be a pivotal piece of capturing this phone-terrorist.  Perhaps being flown in at FBI-expense to Washington, D.C.  Instead, they told me that this was an old, weary scam.  They said that had the  phone conversation continued, I would have wound up with the good “sergeant” asking for a credit card number to make this whole thing disappear.  I even tried to call the number back (intending to hang up really fast if this same scoundrel answered the phone.  Got a recording.  Didn’t leave a message.

How’s that for a bit of a shake-up to a pretty hum-drum summer afternoo?.  Beats the prison shake-down any old day.

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