I was looking for my wheelbarrow when the phone rang. So much depends on a red wheelbarrow, when it's spring and all. And you would think you could not misplace something as obvious as a wheelbarrow the color of a stop sign.
I looked everywhere: front
yard, back yard, garage, that little narrow corridor between the garage and the
next property (there should be a word for that -- crawlway?). OK, that's
not everywhere, but those places were the prime suspects. I was just coming to
grips with the notion that the wheelbarrow was gone -- stolen -- when the phone
rang inside the house.
Mr. Finley, this is Judy from the bank. Are you aware that your checking account
is? Oh, dear." I overdraw three or four times a year. But they usually send
me one of those awful thin letters with the cellophane window. A phone call
seemed to be rubbing it in. And did I just say "Oh, dear"?
afraid so, Mr. Finley. Did you recently write a check for $138,950.00? To Office
thought back. I didnít recall writing a check in that amount.
-- someone forged my signature on a check," I cried into the receiver.
"Someone bought $138,950 worth of office supplies with my money!" I
was beside myself, which was convenient.
said the bank office. "But it looks like your name is signed with a rubber
wasn't good. I own a rubber stamp with my signature on it. For check-signing
day, the 5th day of every month.
on," I said, booting up Quicken, my handy-dandy financial data tool.
Scanning the check register, I saw recent checks written in the amounts of
$24.99 (newspaper), $34.95 (bottled water), $138,950 (office supplies), and
$12(class pictures for my kid).
back up there. There it was. I had made out, and signed (or stamped) my
signature on a check for $138,950 to Office Max. The only notation I made on the
check was: "Lexmark carts."
had sent all that money to Office Max for four ink-jet cartridges (three black and
white, one color).
I think that's a mistake," I said.
big one," said the officer.
asked her if it was possible to stop payment on the check. "Well, we
already paid it. That's why youíre overdrawn by $137,632.41."
what can I do about this?"
would you like to do?"
like to get my money back, so I donít have to explain this to my wife," I
I were you, I'd call Office Max."
is what I did. I got hold of someone in customer service, and poured out my whole
stupid story, how I don't see things that are up close so good, a problem
I compound when I don't proofread things as important as checks, and I evidently
entered a comma (138,950) instead of a period (138.95) and didnít stop to read
the check, or glance at my check register. And could I have my money back?
one at Office Max had flagged the check for $138,950 as anything unusual.
Theyíre a Kmart subsidiary, you know.
she said sure, all I had to do was write her a letter explaining the screw-up
and including a new check, made out in the amount of $138.95.
I'm here to tell you I learned a big lesson that day about security and such.
Rachel never did find out, either, which is just the way I like these things.
I still had the matter of the wheelbarrow.
was a bad wheelbarrow, with a tire that wouldn't stay inflated and handles
wrapped in shredded duct tape in a failed effort to keep the wood from giving
you splinters. The only identifying mark I had on it was the wear and tear of
being left out in the cold eight winters in a row. The actual body of the thing
was more or less immaculate; all it ever did was fill with rain.
But here's the deal. Someone was running a stolen wheelbarrow ring on Saint Paul's west side, sneaking up to the sides of garages in the dead of night and making off with lawn implements. Wheelbarrows, fertilizer spreaders, weedwhackers and god knows what all else.
You donít feel safe anymore. Worse, it makes you wonder about people.
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