My Lame Utah National Parks Vacation

My Lame Utah National Parks Vacation

These are the “Mighty Five” national parks of Utah. We recently visited all of them and hiked…. and hiked… and hiked… and hiked…. You get the picture. This is my expert review of these five highly over-rated parks.

These are the “Mighty Five” national parks of Utah. We recently visited all of them and hiked…. and hiked… and hiked… and hiked…. You get the picture. This is my expert review of these five highly over-rated parks.

I don’t want to sound negative, but my recent two-week vacation visiting all five of Utah’s national parks was, well, disappointing. I was utterly unimpressed. Utah contains five national parks that they call The Mighty Five: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion – or as I prefer to call them, The Forget ‘Em Five.

My wife and I went with two other very nice couples. They all seemed to have a great time. But I can only conclude that it’s because they never get out much. What sad, pathetic lives they must lead. I sure hope they’re not subscribers to this blog.

Here’s what we did: We hiked – I mean, EVERY SINGLE DAY – for hours at a time. Every day, out of the hotel by 7:30am to start trudging over rocks and in between trees, in search of well, rocks and trees.

Over the course of a three-hour hike, one gets a bit parched. And yet not a single one of the “Mighty Five” had a Starbucks – I know this for a fact, because I asked hikers coming from the other direction “How far to the Starbucks” and every one of them looked at me like I was deranged.

Here is my takeaway review of the five national parks:

Arches National Park: If you like reddish-brown rocks and a handful of crumbling arches, then you’ve come to the right place. But seriously, you might want to see a doctor first, because, what’s wrong with you? And the arches are not even that good – with several of them revealing large chunks where part of the arch has given way. And they don’t even let you jump on them or ride your scooter across them.

Canyonlands National Park: Lots more of those reddish-brown rocks, which my artiste wife was constantly correcting me by saying “they’re actually the color of burnt sienna.” Thanks, sweetie. This place also has no shortage of rather large crevices, which once again my wife constantly pointed out were more appropriately known as “canyons.” Whatever. Same difference.

If you like seeing a giant hole in the ground, then be sure to check out… The GRAND CANYON INSTEAD. Because, honestly, this place totally copies the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon that we know of today was formed roughly seventy million years ago – a full ten million years before the formation of Utah’s Canyonlands. So, they had TEN MILLION years to come up with something unique and different. But no, they just had to plagiarize another national park. Talk about mailing it in.

Capitol Reef National Park: If you’d like to visit a landscape that feels like the surface of Mars, but with Big Horn Sheep, this park might be to your liking. But if you ask me, don’t waste your time – unless you have a Big Horn Sheep fetish, in which case, I don’t want to know about it.

Thinking of going to Canyonland, Arches or Bryce? Save your money and go to Disney World instead. Take the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride (seen here). The scenery is the same, plus your train goes through a splash zone. A much better value.

Thinking of going to Canyonland, Arches or Bryce? Save your money and go to Disney World instead. Take the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride (seen here). The scenery is the same, plus your train goes through a splash zone. A much better value.

Oh sure, Capitol Ree’s environs look other-worldly, much like Mars. But I saw the Matt Damon movie, The Martian three times, so I think I know what the surface of Mars looks like. (It looks like Capitol Reef.) So, this park is just copying the look and feel of that movie. I hope Matt Damon sues you for millions.

Bryce Canyon National Park: This park is filled with a unique rock formation called “Hoodoos.” The hoodoos all had the same color: Orange. Bright flaming orange. Here’s an idea – why not try adding ANY OTHER COLOR BESIDES ORANGE? Perhaps a pinch of purple or mauve?

The rock formations reminded me of the Terra Cotta Army of Xi’an, China. Only the Xi’an exhibit has far more places to sit down and signs explaining what you’re looking at. My advice? Check out the China exhibit instead.

Zion National Park: This was the last of the five parks we saw. Like the other four, this place was another one-trick pony, with canyons, switchback trails, and crumbling rock formations. (Okay, so technically, that would make it a three-trick pony.)

The food selection at Zion, like most of the parks, was extremely limited. All it offered were Big Horn Sheep, Mule Deer, and chipmunks – which you have to kill and prepare yourself. And let me tell you, the chipmunks were disappointingly gamey.

There, I just saved you five thousand dollars in airfare, hotels, meals, and Smokey the Bear stuffed animals for your kids. No need to thank me.

In all of these parks, which range in altitude from 4,000 to 8,000 feet – the trails all have two things in common: First, they often are right at the edge of a daunting sheer cliff with a 2,000 footdrop-off straight down. And second, there are virtually no railings anywhere. Apparently the National Park Service has concluded that if someone’s enough of an idiot to take a selfie perched on the ledge of one of their precarious cliffs, they deserve what’s coming to them.

When the group wanted a break from hiking – which for me was after about 15 minutes – we took some side trips to investigate dinosaur tracks and pictographs. The dinosaur tracks turned out to be giant paw prints left from some 65 to 125 million years ago. If you looked really closely, you could almost make out ambiguous blobular impressions in the rock that looked nothing like dinosaur prints. What am I missing here? The high point of my dinosaur tracks exploration was when our rental car got stuck in the mud, and I had to push us out. So, yeah, I guess that’s a story I can embellish and tell my grandkids someday about how I save our car and its five passengers from sliding off a 2,000 foot cliff.

Pictographs are ancient paintings in the rock made between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago. Most of the ones we saw looked like space aliens or antelopes painted in reddish brown, I mean burnt sienna, on the sides of cliffs. If you ask me, these drawings are basically just primitive graffiti. Those ancients really had a good PR machine, I guess.

Zion has one cool trail called Angel’s Canyon, which is so treacherous that every year a couple of idiot hikers fall off the cliffside trail to their death. So, I have to give Zion style points for that. Pretty intense.

Zion has one cool trail called Angel’s Canyon, which is so treacherous that every year a couple of idiot hikers fall off the cliffside trail to their death. So, I have to give Zion style points for that. Pretty intense.

I don’t get the whole national parks allure. I guess if you’re into meandering through some of the most stunning scenery you’ll ever find on our planet, then sure, go ahead and check out Utah’s national parks. But it’s just not my sort of thing. That’s because there are no benches for resting, very few signs, and good luck finding an espresso bar – or even a snack machine – anywhere along the trail.

I’d have to say my favorite place we hiked during our tour of Utah’s national parks was our final night – when we reached Vegas. There Michele and I made one final trek – down the famous Vegas Strip to see the Bellagio’s towering fountains, as we listened to them roar to the sound of classical music. Ah, so mesmerizing – and not a canyon or ancient volcano to be seen. The volcano’s two doors down at the Mirage.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021

The Burden of Being a Good Sport

The Burden of Being a Good Sport

If you look up “Good Sport” in the dictionary, it should simply show a photo of me getting hit with a cream pie, then smiling afterwards and saying, “Man, you guys got me. Well played.” It’s a part of my quirky personality and the reason my kids refuse to be seen with me.

If you look up “Good Sport” in the dictionary, it should simply show a photo of me getting hit with a cream pie, then smiling afterwards and saying, “Man, you guys got me. Well played.” It’s a part of my quirky personality and the reason my kids refuse to be seen with me.

I’m not the most handsome man in the world, nor the smartest, nor the most successful at business. But there is one area where I shine: I’m a good sport. I can take a practical joke in stride, laugh it off, and not seek revenge (most of the time).

Throughout my entire adult life, friends and co-workers have delighted in pulling practical jokes on me or otherwise looking for ways to thrust me into embarrassing situations. They know I‘ll laugh along with everyone else at my very public humiliation. I really don’t really mind. I believe that they’d never attempt these stunts if they didn’t like me. Or maybe they viewed me as an easy mark. Yeah, now that I process this further, the latter explanation is starting to make a lot more sense to me.

Ladies and gentlemen: the stories you are about to hear are true. Only the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

In my freshman year at UVa, my dormmates signed me up for a computer dating event without my knowledge. I was understandably mystified to receive a letter that I had a date scheduled for Friday evening, since my social calendar was wide open from September through the end of Spring semester. I donned a suit and tie and went to the dance to meet my mystery match.

30 minutes into our first (and this may surprise you, our LAST) date, this guy storms in, gets in my face, and shouts, “That’s my fiancé, buddy. This date is over.” Apparently, the two were indeed engaged and thought it would be fun to see who they each got matched up with. Lucky me. I just wish I had had the presence of mind to have a snappy comeback like, “Hey buddy, she may be your fiancé but tonight she’s MY date. So take a number.” Several hilarious snappy comebacks would come to mind after our aborted date. But I didn’t say anything in the moment because, um, I was a good sport.

I was pretty OCD about grades in college, and often pulled all-nighters to cram for final exams. After one such ordeal, I came back to the apartment and collapsed on the couch. I was dead to the world when my roommates (Larry, Assad, and Bill) hovered over me and clapped loudly. As I came to in a fright, they snapped a photo. Ok, ha ha.

Well, two weeks later, I find Larry, Assad, and Bill huddled around our 13” black & white TV. They appeared rivetted. I asked what was so newsworthy on this lame cable channel at 3pm on a Thursday. Bill answered with earnest, “Tim, you gotta check this out. This station has some fantastic programming.” Intrigued, I peered over his shoulder as every 10 seconds a new screen would appear announcing local matters of no import. “These guys need to get a life,” I mused.

I always wanted to be on television – just not looking like this. Maybe some Hollywood agent would catch this program and offer me a comic gig with Jim Carrey.

I always wanted to be on television – just not looking like this. Maybe some Hollywood agent would catch this program and offer me a comic gig with Jim Carrey.

Then came a series of birthday announcements featuring images of adorable young children with messages like, “Happy Birthday, Melody Bishop, age 7” and “Birthday Wishes to Amy Johnson, age 5” followed by… “Happy Birthday, Timmy Jones, age 20.”

Staring back at me was the photo my roomies had taken after my all-nighter. I looked like a crazed serial killer, eyes maniacal, pointing at my next victim. The guys at the station evidently loved the photo because they continued to air my birthday message for three weeks. But I laughed because that’s what good sports do.

College was truly a training ground for me in becoming a really good sport. One morning while heading to classes, I noticed a giant 3’ x 2’ poster plastered to our mailboxes, with another extremely unflattering photo of ME!  Beneath my visage was a disquieting headline:

COME HEAR TIM “BARFY” JONES LECTURE STUDENTS AND FACULTY ON ICE CANDLES AND SNOW PICNICS AND THEIR EFFECT ON THE OUTER COSMOS. Tuesday night, 7pm at Wilson Hall.

My roomies were pranking me again – and they were just getting started. At my first class – a 300-seat lecture hall – this same giant poster was plastered on all the walls and even on the professor’s lectern. Same thing for my next class, and  the next… you get the point. Even the hallways were covered with this same mortifying poster. I vividly remember sitting behind two girls who were staring at the poster commenting, “This guy looks like a dork. What a freak show!” Well played, roomies.

In grad school, my girlfriend pulled a most unexpected prank for my birthday. She came to my apartment, handed me a rabbit, shouted “Happy Birthday!” and walked away. I thought, “Somebunny’s pulling my leg,” only it wasn’t a joke. The rabbit really was her birthday gift. (Rabbit cage, food and $600 in subsequent vet’s bills not included.) My relationship with this rabbit would continue three years longer than that with my soon-to-be ex-girlfriend.

This is exactly how I felt each time I had to dunk myself in the icy cold fountain, for a worthy cause. Great fun. And I found my subsequent pneumonia to be hysterical.

This is exactly how I felt each time I had to dunk myself in the icy cold fountain, for a worthy cause. Great fun. And I found my subsequent pneumonia to be hysterical.

My reputation for being a good sport followed me into the working world. During a United Way fundraising campaign, my boss signed me up for the “Dollars for Dunking” event. Every time someone donated $100, I would take a plunge into an outdoor fountain – in January – in a suit and tie. Let me just say, fundraising records were broken that day.

But nothing will quite match my ultimate indignity – the time my (formerly) dear friend Mark volunteered me to assist a street magician with his act. The fellow needed a sucker for his grand finale, which sadly wasn’t to make me disappear. That would have been a far less humiliating outcome.

As the performer scanned the crowd of 500, Mark thrust my hand high and shouted, “Tim will do it!”. What ensued was nothing short of a stripping of my dignity – and apparel. I was helpless as this street performer coaxed me into removing first my shoes, then socks, shirt, undershirt, pants…until all that remained to cover my nearly naked body were my tighty-whities. The crowd went wild, chanting, “Take it off, Tim.”  To find out whether I ultimately succumbed to their wild pleas, you’ll just have to read the full story here.

Being a good sport has defined my nature throughout life. I really have not minded all the embarrassment – and occasional humiliation – inflicted by supposed friends and obviously jealous co-workers. After all, it just means they like me…. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021. Edited by Betsy Jones.

A Newcomer’s Guide to Hockey’s Newest Team – The Seattle Kraken

A Newcomer’s Guide to Hockey’s Newest Team – The Seattle Kraken

This is a Seattle Kraken player trying to score. Modern ice hockey was invented in Canada in 1872. That’s because Canada is totally covered in ice and snow 9 months of the year. It quickly became the national sport, eventually overtaking the previous #1 pastime, getting drunk and making beaver hats.

This is a Seattle Kraken player trying to score. Modern ice hockey was invented in Canada in 1872. That’s because Canada is totally covered in ice and snow 9 months of the year. It quickly became the national sport, eventually overtaking the previous #1 pastime, getting drunk and making beaver hats.

Most people know very little about the sport of hockey. But did you know that, except for baseball, the National Hockey League (NHL) is the oldest of North America’s professional sports leagues? The NBA was launched in 1946, and the NFL started in 1920. But the NHL dates all the way back to 1917 – a full 41 years before the Professional Bowlers Association was founded. Isn’t that fascinating? Okay, maybe not, but stay with me.

I live near Seattle. This October, for the first time since 1924, we launched an NHL franchise. Now, hockey is the sport everyone here is talking about.

The newest NHL team is called the Seattle Kraken (pronounced “KRACK-in”). If you’re like most hockey fans, you probably have many questions, such as “What is a Kraken?” and “Seriously, what the heck is a Kraken?” and “Technically, shouldn’t there be an “s” at the end, as in the Seattle Krakens?” and “What the hell happened? Were all the good team names taken?”

These are all excellent questions. To be clear, the name is KRAKEN (not to be confused with CRACKLE, one of the three Rice Krispies cartoon characters). I did extensive research into the name’s meaning, by which I mean I Googled “what is a kraken.” It turns out, according to Wikipedia, it’s “a legendary sea monster of gigantic size and cephalopod-like appearance from Scandinavian folklore that was fifty feet in length.”

The sheer size and fearsome appearance of this evil beast have made it a common monster in books and movies about the sea. Most Americans first heard the term “Kraken” in the film Pirates of the Caribbean. So, yeah, it’s basically just a big, fat, ugly squid.

Seattle fans are thrilled to have a new professional sports team, especially since their hopes of having a professional baseball team are still several years away (sorry, Mariners fans) and our Seattle Seahawks football team has totally cratered this season, losing their star quarterback due to injury.

Fans have come up with several creative chants to rally their new team: “Release the Kraken” and “The Kraken are Attackin’” and “The Kraken suck.” That last one was from a jaded fan who’s ticked that they’ve been losing most of their games so far.

As a marketing expert, I came up with an idea sure to pack them in the seats: Free Krak to the first 5,000 fans. Okay, that one may need a little more work, not to mention spell-checking.

For the newcomer to the sport of hockey, the object, as best as I can tell from watching a few games, is to beat the crap out of the other team and pummel them into submission. If that doesn’t work, they may try a back -up strategy of attempting to get a small cylindrical object into a net.

For the newcomer to the sport of hockey, the object, as best as I can tell from watching a few games, is to beat the crap out of the other team and pummel them into submission. If that doesn’t work, they may try a back
-up strategy of attempting to get a small cylindrical object into a net.

In ice hockey, all the players are required to grow beards. It’s an unwritten rule – sort of like the policy that all the best players must come from Russia or Manitoba. Or that you can only have one black player per team. Don’t ask me why. I don’t make the rules.

There are six positions: three offensive players (center, left wing, right wing), two defensemen, and a goaltender (or goalie). By far, the most challenging, high-pressure job in hockey is that of goalie. The selection of who gets to be the goalie is determined by a vote of the players coming to a consensus as to which teammate everyone feels warrants the most thankless job.

You can easily spot the goalie. He’s the one covered in more protective padding than a Michelangelo sculpture being shipped to the Louvre. The goalie’s job is to protect the net. The opposing team’s job is to make the goalie wish his team would do a recount on the vote that assigned him to be goalie.

If a player commits a penalty, he gets sent to the penalty box. Think of it like a timeout in your room but for men with beards and bad hair. Minor penalties are two minutes in length. Major penalties (for things like fighting) are five minutes. Body checking the referee into the boards would be considered a major penalty and is generally frowned upon – except in Boston. Boston Bruins fans love it when their Bruins play dirty.

The main reason people go to hockey matches, of course, is not for the actual game itself, but to egg on their players to take off their gloves and start a fight. Winning the game is a nice bonus, but what really matters is getting the chance to watch in person while a chaotic melee erupts, and your team pummels the other team’s players into bloody submission.

But if you’re one of the few who cares about how the game is actually played, then here are a few things as a hockey newbie you should learn. First, this game has a lot of jargon. The hockey rink is called the “barn.” Another name for the puck is “biscuit.” A “hat trick” refers to three goals scored by the same player in a game. Meanwhile, a “Gordie Howe hat trick” is when a player picks up a goal, an assist and a fight in a single game. (Hall-of-Famer Gordie was a notoriously hot-headed player who was always getting into brawls.)

Let’s go over a few Do’s and Don’ts for the uninitiated hockey fan.

Do dress warmly. Hockey arenas are cold. Remember to bring a winter cap and gloves. Just because your team might be the Tampa Bay Lightning doesn’t mean they play in a swimming pool surrounded by palm trees. Ice is cold. Dress appropriately.

Don’t ask me to explain the icing rule – or for that matter, offsides in soccer. I’ve never been able to figure out either of these rules.

Do throw your hat on the ice if your team’s player scores a hat trick.

Seattle is the home of the newest NHL hockey franchise – the Kraken. What is a “Kraken”, you ask? Hell if I know. Nobody here really knows. But you gotta love the team’s motto: “They’ll kick the Krack out of you!”

Seattle is the home of the newest NHL hockey franchise – the Kraken. What is a “Kraken”, you ask? Hell if I know. Nobody here really knows. But you gotta love the team’s motto: “They’ll kick the Krack out of you!”

Don’t try to retrieve it while the game is still going.

Do plan to see lots of brawls break out between the players. Hockey is a violent sport.

Don’t jump over the boards and join the fracas – unless your team really looks like it’s losing the fight and could use your help.

Do feel free to express your anger at the referees after a bad call. Everybody does it.

Don’t direct your tirade about the horrible officiating to the fan sitting next to you – unless he’s rooting for the other team and you’re confident you can take him.

Hockey is a great, albeit brutal, sport. Sort of the modern-day equivalent of gladiators but with blades on their feet. I have no idea what kind of year our Seattle Kraken are going to have. As a first year expansion team, I’m not optimistic. But I hear their starting left defenseman is missing three teeth and has a well-earned reputation for body checking opponents over the boards. Sounds like my kind of fun. Let’s Get Krackin!

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021

How to Handle a Phone Scammer – Part 2 of 2

How to Handle a Phone Scammer – Part 2 of 2

[This is Part 2 of a 2-part post. In case you missed Part 1, by all means start with Part 1, which you can read here.] 

I’m often a victim of threatening phone calls telling me the IRS is investigating me for tax fraud, or my social security number has somehow been compromised, or I supposedly owe $10.75 in late fees to my local library because I still haven’t returned Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock. (What can I say, I’m a slow reader.) Next time, don’t hang up. Have some fun with the caller instead.

I’m often a victim of threatening phone calls telling me the IRS is investigating me for tax fraud, or my social security number has somehow been compromised, or I supposedly owe $10.75 in late fees to my local library because I still haven’t returned Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock. (What can I say, I’m a slow reader.) Next time, don’t hang up. Have some fun with the caller instead.

Like I was saying in Part 1, in recent months I’ve received an increasing number of phone calls from fraudsters offering to part me from my money and my identity. They do this via robocalls with alarming or threatening messages informing me my social security number has been hacked or I’m wanted by the FBI for securities fraud.

Most mature people would hang up the moment they realized they were being defrauded. But I never claimed to be mature. No, I prefer to have fun with these sleaze balls and egg them on for as long as I can keep them on the line.

These calls typically start with a robo-message, urging me to press 1 to talk to a live agent. And they always end the same way – with the conman hanging up on me.

Here are more examples of actual phone exchanges I’ve had with phone scammers – some of whom actually had a rudimentary command of the English language. These all really happened.

[To read more examples, go back and read Part 1.]

The Jury Duty Scam

Robo message: “This is the King County Superior Court calling to inform you that you failed to report for jury duty within the past month. As a result, the Sheriff’s department will be coming to your home with a warrant for your arrest – unless you explain your absence immediately. Press “1” to speak to a member of the court system.” 

So I press 1.

Mary Nash: This is Superior Court Assistant Clerk Mary Nash (spoken with a thick Filipino accent). Who am I speaking with?

ME: Hi, Mary. My name is Rodger Staubach. Can you help me? I swear I have no recollection of missing jury duty. I take that as a sacred commitment to my community, my country and my God. I feel terrible. How long will my sentence be?

Nash: What do you mean? 

ME: I mean, will the court take into consideration that I have not had a moving violation in over two years? Would they go more lenient if I mentioned I am a veteran? [Note to the reader: I am not a veteran.] 

Nash: Slow down. What is your social security number and your date of birth?

ME: 045-56-7642. And my date of birth is December 25, 1968. I was born on the same day as Baby Jesus. Do you believe in the Baby Jesus, Mary?

Nash: Pardon me?

ME: Do you take Baby Jesus as your lord and savior? He will cleanse you of all your sins, if you just accept him as your lord. Are you willing to commit yourself to Jesus today, with me as your spirit guide, Mary?

Nash: Are you okay, sir?

ME: Pray with me, won’t you, Mary? Hey, did you know that Mary was the name of Baby Jesus’s mother. Did you know that, Mary? Would you like to confess your sins before Baby Jes – … 

“CLICK” 

The Computer Repair Scam

Robo message: “This is Microsoft with an important announcement about your computer operating system. We have identified that your computer’s operating system may have become infected by the “Hercules” virus. If you would like us to remove this virus at no cost to you, we can do it remotely by phone. Please press “1” for a tech support agent to assist you.”

So I press 1.

Agent Collins: This is Agent Collins (spoken with what appears to be a thick Indian accent). Can you please tell me your name and which Windows Operating System you have and your credit card number?

ME: Sure. It’s Manning. Archibald Manning. Hey, you’re not going to charge my credit card are you, Agent Carlin?

Collins: No, sir. And it’s Collins. I just need your credit card number so we can confirm whether your Windows license is still current. Mr. Manning, please verify your card number for our records.

ME: Thank you, Agent Cowhand. It’s 1843-4365-6327-0928. And I know you didn’t ask for it, but my Bank of America checking account number is 8849329149. And if it might help identify me in your system, my Passport number is C34097749. Would it be helpful if I provided you my Hyundai’s VIN number as well? Whatever info you need, just tell me.

Collins: Um, that’s okay. Give me your email address so I can initiate the remote repair.

ME: Happy to help, Agent Cowlick. It’s A_Manning@SeattlePolice.gov– ……

“CLICK”

Meet Rahul. Oh, he’ll tell you his name is Zack or Brad, but he’s a scammer. He’s calling “from Microsoft” to tell you that your computer has been infected with a dangerous virus – which he can repair for a one-time credit card charge of just $100. Don’t hang up. Be polite. And be sure to give him your ex-spouse’s credit card number. Then hang up. Rahul is bad news, buddy.

Meet Rahul. Oh, he’ll tell you his name is Zack or Brad, but he’s a scammer. He’s calling “from Microsoft” to tell you that your computer has been infected with a dangerous virus – which he can repair for a one-time credit card charge of just $100. Don’t hang up. Be polite. And be sure to give him your ex-spouse’s credit card number. Then hang up. Rahul is bad news, buddy.

The COVID Vaccination Scam

Robo message: “This is an important message from the CDC. If you have had the COVID-19 vaccine within the past five months, there is a possibility that you may have received an infected vaccination that could have long-term harmful effects to your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. To find out whether your vaccination might be among the corrupted batches, press 1 to speak to a medical assistant.”

So I press 1. 

Nurse Claire: This is Nurse Claire. What is your name and which vaccine did you receive? Please provide the dates of those vaccinations.

ME: Hi, Nurse Claire. Oh my. This is very scary. Um, my name? Jonathan… Elway. Anyhoo, I got the Pfizer vaccine. Or was it the Moderna? No wait, I think it might have been the AstraZeneca. Or was it that Russian one whose name I can never remember? All I know is, after the second one, I got really sleepy, a little achy, and had a craving for pistachios. Does that help? No? Let me ask my wife. She’ll know. [Then I put “Nurse Claire” on hold for a minute while I play Solitaire on my computer.]

I’m back. It was definitely Moderna. And I got them on March 12th and March 15th.

Nurse Claire: Are you sure about the dates? Because you’re supposed to wait at least four weeks between the shots. Can you tell me your social security number so I can confirm those dates?

ME: I was able to get in fast for the second shot because I gave the check-in person a $25 Target gift card. Oh, sh*t! Is that considered bribery? Am I in trouble with the Feds now?

Nurse Claire: I would not know. What I need is your social–  …

ME: Hey, can I ask you a question, Nurse Claire? When they implanted the microchip in me, would it cause me to start acting weird? Because ever since my second shot, I keep thinking I can fly like an eagle. And lately I have an inexplicable desire to go bowling – and I used to hate bowling. Do you think that’s because of the chip? Also, do you know what language they speak in Uzbekistan?

“CLICK”

It’s so much fun. Trust me. Next time don’t hang up on the scammer. Engage them and see how long you can keep them on the line before they hang up in despair. I promise, it’ll be hilarious, or my name isn’t Joe Namath.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

Read Part 1 of this 2-part series here.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021

How to Handle a Phone Scammer – Part 2 of 2

How to Handle a Phone Scammer – Part 1 of 2

I’m often a victim of threatening phone calls telling me the IRS is investigating me for tax fraud, or my social security number has somehow been compromised, or I supposedly owe $10.75 in late fees to my local library because I still haven’t returned Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock. (What can I say, I’m a slow reader.) Next time, don’t hang up. Have some fun with the caller instead.

I’m often a victim of threatening phone calls telling me the IRS is investigating me for tax fraud, or my social security number has somehow been compromised, or I supposedly owe $10.75 in late fees to my local library because I still haven’t returned Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock. (What can I say, I’m a slow reader.) Next time, don’t hang up. Have some fun with the caller instead.

Maybe it’s because I’m nearing the target demographic for scammers as I approach retirement, but lately I have been on the receiving end of a spate of calls from fraudsters wanting to alert me to everything from problems with my social security number to the fact that I’m suddenly wanted in multiple states for bank fraud.

My wife always tells me that when I get one of these annoying phone scam calls, the mature, adult thing is simply to hang up – which is why I never do that. I prefer to have a little fun with the caller instead.

The following are actual phone con artist solicitations I’ve received within the past few months. I’m not suggesting you should try messing with these phone flimflammers yourself the way I’ve done – unless you want to have fun. These calls typically start with a robo-message, urging me to press 1 to talk to a live agent. And they always end the same way – with the perpetrator getting totally fed up with my antics and hanging up on me. I find it endlessly entertaining. But then, I feel the same way about slinky toys.

Of course, I never give out my real name, account numbers, actual address, or date of birth. And when they ask for my name – as they always do – I usually provide the name of a random former NFL quarterback. The key is that whatever horrible or alarming news they reveal, I always act like I believe them unquestioningly and offer to do whatever they ask me to, in order to extricate myself from the supposed mess I’m in.

The Social Security Scam

Robo message: “This is the Social Security Administration with an important message about your social security account. Your account number has been compromised. Please press “1” to talk to an agent to discuss how you can get assigned a new social security number.”

So I press 1.

Officer Wilson: This is Officer Wilson. How can I help you? (She speaks with a noticeably thick Caribbean accent.) 

ME: Thank you, ma’am, I just learned that my social security number may have been compromised. Can you help me?

Officer Wilson: What is your name please, and your social security number?

ME: It’s Bart. Bart Starr. And my social is 014-56-3954. Would it help if I provided my date of birth and the name of my kids to prove to you I am who I say I am? They are great kids, except for my middle child, Conrad. He’s going through a phase. Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with a 9th grader who still wets the bed?

Officer Wilson: I don’t know anything about that. Here is what I need from you – …

ME: I’m sorry. Why would I think someone from the Social Security Administration could help me with my son’s bedwetting problem. Please forgive me. But now that I have you, do you know any good fajita recipes? We’re having guests over this evening, and I promised my wife I’d help out with an entrée. But between you and me, I don’t know the first thing about Mexican food. You’re not Mexican, by any chance, are you?

Officer Wilson: What are you asking me?

ME: Oh, never mind. Hey, you sound like a nice lady. Can I borrow $500 if I promise to pay you back with interest in six months?

“CLICK” (That’s when “Officer Wilson” hung up on me.)

The Bank Fraud Scam

Robo message: “This is the FBI. This is not a hoax. According to our files, you are currently wanted in four states for multiple instances of bank fraud and securities fraud. Please report to the nearest FBI office within 24 hours or else an agent will come to your residence and put a lien on your property. To learn details about the charges pending against you, please press “1” now.”

So I press 1.

If ever you get a robocall telling you that you failed to show up for jury duty and that the sheriff is coming to arrest you, it’s probably just a phone scam – unless you’re my flaky, absent-minded friend, Bert Zingwold, in which case, yeah, it’s probably for real. He’s always forgetting about important appointments.

If ever you get a robocall telling you that you failed to show up for jury duty and that the sheriff is coming to arrest you, it’s probably just a phone scam – unless you’re my flaky, absent-minded friend, Bert Zingwold, in which case, yeah, it’s probably for real. He’s always forgetting about important appointments.

Agent Johnson: This is Agent Johnson. Please provide your name and the last credit card you used.

ME: Oh my. Yes, Agent Johnson. My name is John Unitas. But my friends call me Johnny – with two “n’s.” And I don’t know what to say. I knew it was only a matter of time before my past would finally catch up with me. Here’s my VISA card number: 4576-4032-4119-4002.

Agent Johnson: We are willing to give you a one-time pardon for your past criminal activities if you agree to pay a fine of $2,500. Would you like to pay this fine with this credit card?

ME: That seems more than fair. But the more I think about it, I actually think I would rather turn myself in. After all, I did commit that bank fraud your generic automated message mentioned. It’s time I pay for my crimes by doing the time, right?

Agent Johnson: Excuse me?

ME: Quick question: Will I be sent to one of those rough prisons like in the movie The Shawshank Redemption? God, I loved that film. Or would it be more like one of those country club prisons like Martha Stewart was sent to? Can I put in a request for whatever prison Martha got?

Agent Johnson: What are you talking about? 

ME: All I ask is one small thing. Can I take my little girls out for ice cream one last time, and so I can tell them their daddy has to go away for a while, but he still loves them? Then you can haul me off to the to the Greybar Hotel, okay?

Agent Johnson: What’s wrong with you?

ME: Oh, one more thing. Regarding that credit card number I just gave you… Please don’t tell my wife about my latest charge – the one for $795 for a life-size sex doll from China that does sexy talk in your choice of five different foreign accents… I was just having a bad day. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was going to return it. Please don’t tell my wife, oka– …

“CLICK”

[You can read Part 2 of this article, with even more conversations I had with actual phone scammers, simply by clicking here..] 

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021