Thursday, August 21, 2008
Gamel Mohammed, you’re on your own.
For the last week or so, I’ve been getting robot phone messages at home from a collection agency looking for a certain individual named, yes, that’s right, Gamel Mohammed.
Every night I’d come home, pick up the phone and hear that rapid beep-beep-beep alert announcing that there was a message for me. Only it wasn’t for me, it was for Gamel Mohammed.
The caller—if you want to call her that—was actually a machine, a female android monotone announcing that “this is a call for…Gamel Mohammed…about an outstanding bill.”
Even though she stopped to insert the person’s—victim’s—name in that clunky style, the android lady sounded so official, so sure of herself, that I was often tempted to check my driver’s license to make sure that I wasn’t…Gamel Mohammed.
“If you are not…Gamel Mohammed…please hang up the phone.”
I always took umbrage at that line, partially because I like the word “umbrage,” but mostly because I don’t like some soulless cyborg telling me what to do with my own goddamn phone in my own goddamn house.
“By remaining on the line, you are acknowledging that you are…Gamel Mohammed.”
Says who? How legally binding is this declaration anyway? It sounds more like a confession than an acknowledgment.
Am I now Gamel Mohammed forever and ever amen, until the swallows return to Capistrano and hell freezes over simply because I held on to the phone for an extra couple of seconds?
So I have to assume the guy’s debt, put up with his obnoxious in-laws, and deal with his crazy ex-wife, assuming he’s like most people I know and actually has a crazy ex-wife?
And how did these bastards get my number in the first place?
I remember the good old days when bill collectors used to call in person, none of this computerized crap. There was always a living, breathing individual on the other end of the line…more or less.
They called our house more than a few times when I was growing up and one time my mom, a very patient, kind woman on most days of the week, surprised me when she slammed the phone down on one caller after the woman said that my mother had “lied” on an application.
“There’s a law against what you people are doing,” she shouted at another one. “I don’t have to put up with this.”
My father never held back his anger at bill collectors or anybody else for that matter. The old man always thought anger was something to be shared, just so long as he was the one doing the sharing.
“Hey, pal, you can kiss my ass in Macy’s window!” he thundered at one hapless caller. “Why don’t you get a job as a pimp?”
I don’t know how my dad would have handled these modern mechanical shylocks, which would not be intimated by his shouted or offended by his words.
I’m assuming this Gamel Mohammed is a real person, but who knows? Maybe some con artist came up with that name, pulled some kind of scam and then hit the bricks, leaving the bogus handle and my phone number behind.
Gamel’s not bad, but I always get a kick out of the sender names on some of these spam e-mails, usually the ones telling me I’ve won the Zambian National Lottery, which is quite a feat given the fact that I never entered the Zambian National Lottery—of Zambia--in the first place.
Fun and Gamel
I heard from a Mr. Praise Angelo recently who told me he had come across a dormant account “With A Huge Amount Of Money Belonging To A Deceased Customer” in the Republic of Benin and if I helped in some way, I—Praise Angelo!—was entitled to a pile of Beninian bucks.
I could use the money to pay off Gamel Mohammed’s bills and get the robot lady to stop calling my house.
“All I require from you,” Praise prays in his e-mail, “is your honest cooperation that you will not betray me at the end.”
You got it, Praise, or my name ain’t Gamel Mohammed.
Then I got a message from Yechezkel Barham, which sounds like something you say when toasting someone with a glass of wine, encouraging me to “enjoy Mind-blowing sex with your partner.”
I wonder if that involves someone kissing my ass in Macy's window. And if so, would it be around the holidays? That would be a real miracle on 34th Street.
My favorite fake name, however, is simple and direct: Archie Dexter. Don’t you like that? It sounds so cool, like a private eye, some film noir shamus sitting in his office late at night with a bottle of bourbon in his file cabinet and a .45 in his desk drawer.
I don’t recall what Archie was selling, but it doesn’t matter. I’m going to make him my alter ego.
I could drop his name whenever I have to pick up illicit funds from Western African banks or when the sex with my partner is less than mind-blowing.
“Wait, sweetheart, I’m not Rob. My name is Dexter, Archie Dexter, and I have to go now…”
My buddy Hank says Archie Dexter sounds like a pimp’s name, but then given my father’s opinion of pimps, it could also be a good name for a bill collector.
No matter. Archie Dexter, the pimp-private eye-bill collector is on the case. He’s going to track down this Gamel Mohammed joker, shake him down for the dough and, unless someone betrays him at the end, he’s going to mind-blowing sex with his partner in Benin.
After several days of the android messages, I decided to take the phone by the horns and put an end to this nonsense.
It seems Gamel was on the hook with an outfit called Oxford Consultants, which I don’t think is connected with that university in England.
But then you have never know, what with the cutbacks in education and the lack of billionaires from Benin making endowments.
I was packing a major attitude as I punched out the number. Who do these bastards think they are, harassing an honest, hard-working citizen in his own home?
I’m not Gamel, I never was Gamel, and I don’t want to be Gamel. How hard is that to understand? I want this gamel to end.
A young man answered the phone and I shifted into my super snippy tone, describing their incompetence and demanding they cease and desist forthwith. I was taking umbrage like it was going out of style.
“Oh,” the fellow said. “I see. Okay, I’ll take your name out of our system.”
That’s it? Press a few buttons and the case is closed? Archie Dexter doesn’t have to come down there and bust a few heads, smack around some yegs, or rough up a couple of chiselers?
That’s hardly a mind-blowing climax, you should forgive the sophomoric play on words.
So it looks like the Case of The Runaway Gamel has been solved. Gamel Mohammed is out of my life. Archie Dexter is officially retired and Praise Angelo is presumably trolling the internet in search of some other patsy so he begin the Benin scam all over again.
Yeah, it looks like everything is all wrapped up in one neat little package.
But what about…Yechezkel Barham?