Saturday, March 19, 2022

Bad Grandma

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 21, 2022] ©2022

The voice on the other end of the phone couldn’t have been more enthusiastic.  “Hi grandma!” said a late teen-early 20-ish voice.

It definitely wasn’t one of my grandsons who are all a lot younger.

“I’m sorry,” I said politely. “But I think you have the wrong number.” I was about to hang up when he said, “I knew you wouldn’t recognize my voice.  I’m sick. In fact that’s why I’m calling.”  He coughs for effect.

And in a flash I knew: grandma scam! While it would have been tempting to just hang up, this suddenly seemed a lot more interesting than paying the property tax bill on-line which I’d been doing at the time. 

“So which grandson are you?” I say, deciding to play along. 

“Geesh, grandma, you don’t know?”

“Timmy?” I say.

“Yes, Timmy,” he replies. “Here’s the problem. I went to Mexico for the weekend with some friends and got really sick. And now they won’t let me out of the hospital if I don’t pay the bill in cash. Mom and Dad didn’t know I was going and they would just kill me.  (Pause.) You’ve always been my favorite grandma.”

Woo-hoo! This script was right out of the AARP Scams-on-Seniors Playbook. Now I was intrigued.

“So how much do you need?” I said.

“$2,000,” says my fake grandson Timmy. “I know it’s a lot of money but I promise I’ll pay you back.”  Another pause, and a voice of contrition. “I’ve learned my lesson.” 

“Are you sure they won’t take your medical insurance?” I inquire.

Timmy starts to sound a tad annoyed. “I already asked. Cash or nothing.”  He decides to up the ante. “My friends are leaving this afternoon to drive back so if I can’t get out, they’ll leave me behind.”  Upping the ante some more: “I’ve heard they put people in jail who can’t pay their bills down here.”  Escalating to Defcon1: “I’m really scared.”

“Don’t worry, sweetie,” I say in best faux-caring grandma voice. “Just tell me how I get the money to you”

If one could hear a happy dance across optical fiber, this would have been it. “Can you wire it to me via Western Union?” he gushes, that rasp in his voice suddenly gone.  “Just go to It’s really easy. Have you got something to write with?” (Pause.)  “You really are the best grandma ever.”

Oops! The property tax line is about to time me out. Don’t want to have to start all over again.  As much fun as this has been, it’s time to wrap up TimmyGate.

“You know, Timmy,” I say, “You’ve never been my favorite grandson. In fact, I’ve never really liked you at all.”  And I hung up.

Burning questions consumed me for the rest of the day after this phone call.  The first being: how does anyone actually fall for this scam?  There were dozens of specific questions I could have asked him that would have exposed him as a fake. I’ve read that the truly artful grandma scammers have done a little research, sometimes found out the names of the actual grandchildren, maybe even their birthdays, or their parents’ names. Maybe the family pet.

But this little dweeb hadn’t even bothered and was hoping to deflect questions with aspersions on grandma’s love for him. Get ME to come up with the right grandchild name. I have to say that as a grandma scammer, he wasn’t very good. My one shot at grandma scamdom and I get an amateur.

On-line research on the subject later in the day suggested that the reason the grandma scam works is that grandparents are desperate to hear from their deadbeat grandkids, regardless of the excuse.  Saying “I love you” is the closer.

That people still fall for the much-publicized Nigerian scam is even more baffling. Have they been living under a rock? (Or have the brains of one?) A wealthy Nigerian prince/businessman sends total strangers an email (I’ve received dozens) and wants to give them ten million all for the minor inconvenience of letting the prince/businessman use your U.S. bank account to transfer some of his funds out of his war-torn country.

But my other burning question about “Timmy” was: how did he get my number?  Is AARP selling us out?  Is there a list of grandmas you can buy on the internet at Or do they just cold call until they get a woman who sounds old?  (I DO NOT SOUND OLD.) 

I would have loved to have asked him before I hung up, “So Timmy, I’ll actually wire you $50 if you tell me how you got my number.”  But he would never have told me. And I would never have sent the $50 anyway.


Saturday, March 12, 2022

Unwisely Tempting Fate

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 14, 2022] ©2022

One should never tempt the fates, which is why I have no idea what possesses me to do it now. But here goes:

Somehow, both Olof and I have managed to keep from contracting Covid-19. 

Of course, we were vaccinated and boostered as soon as these opportunities became available to us.  We tried not to put ourselves at unnecessary risk but I did continue, fully masked, to grocery shop and patronize my pharmacy. The latter were survival mechanisms. When you know that a trip to CVS is what’s keeping you alive, things are grim. 

However, so many of our friends, equally vaccinated and boostered, did contract Covid.  Why not us?

Of course, I have my theories, some even kinda sorta backed up by science.

Our Christmas was cancelled at the eleventh hour when my youngest grandson and daughter-in-law, at whose home we were headed, both tested positive for Covid. 

Fortunately, some dear friends who live walking distance from us invited us to join their Christmas celebration instead.  Shortly thereafter, five of the 12 of us who had spent four hours at the same indoor table unmasked (because we were eating) had tested positive for Covid.

But not us. 

As I said to my younger son later, if we had known we would be spending the evening with people who had Covid, we could have just gone to his house. 

After pondering for considerable time what the difference was between those who contracted Covid and those who didn’t, there was only one conclusion.  The Covid folks weren’t drinking enough.  Or actually anything since they were driving. We who were walking home, however, made up for them.

I joked about this to people but some weeks later, I was surprised to see an on-line article from The Wine Spectator citing a health study of 500,000 UK residents which found that people who drank one or two glasses of red wine per day had a 10 to 17 percent lower risk of contracting Covid than non-drinkers.  White wine drinkers had 7 to 8 percent lower risk. 

What if you drank your weekly allotment all at once? Would those little Covid buggers stand a chance?

Sadly for beer or cider drinkers, they had a 28 percent higher risk of contracting the disease.  Hard alcohol drinkers were screwed as well.

The authors of the project called for “further study.”  Yeah, I’ll bet they did. Knocking back a few more cases of Chateau Mouton Rothschild would be strictly for scientific purposes.

Meanwhile, my cousin Wally has a totally different theory. Our family had a summer home on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, where I spent my summers growing up. Between the island and the Jersey shore is Barnegat Bay which is about four feet deep except in the International Water Way.  My friends and I were able to earn easy money clamming in the bay and then selling our bounty door to door. One squished one’s bare feet around in the mud (no wussy clam booties for us!) until you felt a clam, then reached down and put it your floating basket.  My own family downed at least a dozen clams on the half shell a night.  A regular sunset ritual.

Now there are those who think that consuming raw clams might be risky, and potentially riskier yet when those clams are from the questionable waters of Barnegat Bay.  But no one ever got sick. (Believe me, you’d know.)  Cousin Wally, who was a regular visitor and clam consumer, commented recently that both of his adult children had acquired Covid but not he.  “I’m thinking,” he observed wryly in a recent email to me, “that our shared history of clams on the half shell at the Jersey shore may have something to do with our immunity.”

Well, it’s probably as good a theory as any. 

I’ve also read a theory that some people have genetic immunity. 

My mother was born November 1, 1918 during the week of the greatest number of deaths from the Spanish Flu pandemic (an estimated 55,000 people worldwide in one week).  Her mother had contracted the flu in the final weeks of the pregnancy and came very close to dying.  In fact, relatives had to care for my mother for the first six months of her life while my grandmother slowly regained her health in an era with far fewer (none?) pharmaceutical interventions. 

OK, not the same virus.  But in some sly genetic way, did some immunity to nasty viruses manage to make its way down to me?  OK, probably makes as much sense as excessive holiday imbibing and suspect bivalves.  And as noted above, it is never a good idea to tempt the fates. Hopefully this is not being read as a cautionary tale after my Covid-related demise.

But in the meantime, I’m going to have an extra glass of chardonnay at night.  Strictly medicinal purposes. 

Olof shucking the nightly platter of clams on the half shell at the Jersey Shore, 1988.  Has this saved us from Covid?


Sunday, March 6, 2022

The House Of Decrepitude

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 7, 2022] ©2022

2022 started out really inauspiciously for us when, 11 hours into the new year, our dog Lily went charging out to our front gate to ward off a Big Black Dog (her nemesis) and ruptured her right ACL (knee).

When she ruptured her left ACL in May of 2020, we were warned that she would have a 60% chance of doing the other one.  We were desperately hoping to be in the lucky 40% but that does not seem to be God’s plan for us. God’s plan for us to be make vets’ Mercedes payments.

On February 3, Lily got her new knee.  The surgeon's instructions read "For the first six weeks, do not allow the dog to run, or to jump on (or off) furniture."  Does he realize we are talking about a DOG? Who lives to chase balls and jump on (and off) furniture?

When we dropped Lily off the morning of surgery, among the tech’s questions was what our “financial cap is for today.”  Huh?  The tech guy continued, “sometimes we run into unexpected problems that we didn’t foresee and need to know if the client has a cap on services should that occur.” Our dog is, after all, twelve-and-a-half and has a heart murmur. 

What, they’re asking for a cap on the life of our fur child?  The one who gives us endless unconditional love, unlike our two human children who most definitely don’t?  I mean, we know our adult children love us but the days of them gazing adoringly at us with their little pink tongues hanging out is long past. (I concede this is probably a good thing.)

And we know from friends’ pets that surgical outcomes for elderly pets can most definitely go awry.  Friends of ours with no human children had a much-adored 13-year-old dog who developed a brain tumor. Once upon a time, there would have been no choice but to put the animal down. But now there is literally nothing you can do medically for a human that you can’t also do for an animal.  Kitty dialysis, for example, is now a major industry. 

Anyway, the friends went for the $8,000 surgery which required a canine neurosurgeon and not one but two canine anesthesiologists.  While the surgery seemed to go well, the dog never seemed to recognize them again. After 40 days in the veterinary ICU with of no improvement and increasing deterioration, the dog was removed from life support.  Total cost: $15,000.

So this cap question isn’t unreasonable.  Still, a stop-loss order on the dog seemed a tad, well, cold.  My perverse mind went into overdrive.  So let’s say I said $6,000.  I had already approved a multi-thousand dollar surgical estimate. But is there a meter running in the operating room?  Maybe that heart murmur turns out to be more serious than expected.  Do they say, “OK, team, we’re at $6,000.  Stop the compressions!”  Would they lament afterwards, “We were so close to restarting Lily’s heart. If you’d only given us another $50, we could have saved her!” 

Let me just apologize right now to our vet whom we totally adore, and saw us through endless medical woes of our much-missed English bulldog Winston.  Our vet had told us that in veterinary school they had a bumper sticker saying, “Buy a bulldog.  Support a vet.”  She was so right.

We were so devastated at losing the pricey but beloved Winston that we swore we’d never get another dog.  Then a rescue agency asked us to do an emergency foster – one week maximum – of an 8-year-old bichon-poodle mix named Lily.  Four years later, she’s still with us, and now on her second ACL surgery.  (Did I mention the $1,500 for her rotten teeth?)

Of course, Lily is not the only disabled individual in the house.  Last June, my left shoulder kept getting more and more painful and I was ultimately diagnosed via MRI last November with a torn rotator cuff (more specifically supraspinatus).  The puzzling part is that I didn’t actually do anything to my shoulder. Spontaneous decrepitude has to be the most annoying part of getting older.

But I really don’t want surgery. Remember where I mentioned that whatever you can do for a person you can now do for an animal?  It turns out that my wonderful physical therapist is also certified for dogs.  Yes, really.  While we were waiting the five weeks for the canine ACL surgeon, my PT person came to the house to help Lily keep some mobility in her stiffened right hip joint.  It’s not easy to hop around on three legs. 

I confess I love using the line “my dog’s and my physical therapist....”  As a writer, I can’t let such a wonderful conversation starter go to waste. And I’m secretly hoping that when my Medicare PT benefits run out, I can work out a two-fer. 

                                                        Sad dog with new knee