So I’m minding my own business at work when my cellphone rings.

It is a local number and I answer to hear a recorded announcement from “El Paso Electric” (EE). It says my account is overdue and my electric service will be cut off this very afternoon.

“EE”: “Press 2 immediately to speak to a representative.”

[I did, and a man answered with an accent I couldn’t quite place.]

ME: “Hello. I just got your message that my electric service is going to be cut off this afternoon. That’s terrible. I really need electricity. What do I need to do to stop it?”

“EE”: “You need to go get your most recent bill and tell me when you paid it.”

ME: “Okay, but we always pay our bill right on time. I just can’t understand how this could have happened.”

“EE”: “Okay, you need to get your bill and tell me the amount, and we’ll check to make sure that is correct.”

ME: “Okay, but I have to go find the bill. Can you hold?”

“EE”: “Yes, I can wait.”

[A little over five minutes elapses]

ME: “Hello, are you still there?”

“EE”: “Yes, I am waiting for you.”

ME: “Great. The only thing is, I can’t read the little numbers on the bill so I need to find my reading glasses. Can you wait?”

“EE”: “Yes, I will wait.”

[A little over five minutes elapses]

ME: “Okay, I am back. I found my reading glasses. Are you still there?”

“EE”: “Yes, I am here. I need you to read me the amount on the bill and you can pay me with a credit card.”

ME: “Okay, I can do that. Let me see… I sure don’t want you to cut off my electricity. But I have to find my credit card. Can you wait?”

“EE”: “Yes, I can wait.”

[Another pause]

ME: “You know something just occurred to me. I mean, don’t you have that information? You are the electric company, right?”

“EE”: “I need you to read me the amount on the bill!”

ME: “But don’t you already have that information including what I owe and what the last payment was?”

“EE”: “Yes, we have that. But I need you to read me the amount from your last bill.”

ME: “Well okay. But I am a little concerned. I mean you are really with El Paso Electric, right? I mean you sound like an honest person.”

“EE”: “Yes, [sounding a trifle agitated] I am from El Paso Electric. I need you to read me the amount on the bill!”

ME: “Well, okay. I mean I’m sure you are who you say you are but I have been told there are an awful lot of old people like myself getting scammed from telephone calls. So, I just want to make sure you are who you say you are and that you are really with El Paso Electric.”

[The man hangs up.]

Moral of the story: Don’t mess with impish old people who have too much time on their hands.

___

Footnote: One of our junior employees bit on a scam recently after receiving an email, purportedly from me, asking for a favor. The favor was to go and purchase $300 worth of gift cards and email the numbers to a certain address. I supposedly asked her to do this because “I am too busy.” On the one hand it is nice to know at least somebody in our shop is concerned enough to do something like that on my behalf. What is less comforting is that Secret Wherrett, the publisher, and our controller, Ellie Fenton, have such a soft heart.

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