People make mistakes. Let’s all nod. Yup.
Embarrassing, innocent mistakes.
I seem to have a knack for taking a mistake and turning it into a thing or the thing becomes an event and then the event turns into “I am the creepy neighbor everyone talks about in the Spring after the snow melts.”
Case in point.
The Post Office took it sweet-ass time in delivering my mail after I returned home from vacation. Twice I wondered, “Where’s my mail?” but the thought was fleeting and Emily Thorne was yelling at someone on ABC’s crappy show, Revenge, so I forgot about the mail until it finally arrived, five days later.
Mostly junk mail, as expected. A wedding invitation. Some mail seeming insurance junk letter to the wrong address and my Comcast bill. And, my credit card bill. I knew it was my credit card from the logo and return address in the upper left corner. Ripped it open.
I noticed the balance which seemed excessive and purchases to places I don’t shop. I saw some part of the bill I’ve never seen before, like wire transfers of cash to maybe it was some phone service line and I thought, “Shit, someone ran up my credit card.”
Which was weird because I had paid my credit card bill earlier that same day and only now did it dawn on me how odd it was to pay your credit card bill and receive the next bill on the same day.
I don’t know why it took me so long to realize I was reading someone else’s credit card statement, but it did. I’m not the brightest bulb. Instead of reaching that logical conclusion, I held the bill pondering what I might have done to incur three mysterious phone service charges instead. Eventually it dawned on me to look for the recipient’s name and yes, the bill was intended for a woman who lives on my block.
Ms. Deanna Brigg.
(Name pulled randomly from a Google search a few minutes ago using these words: “Taco John Minnesota open late.” I don’t know, maybe she owns a Taco John’s somewhere. Hers was the first woman’s name I saw. I will protect my neighbor’s true identity since I’ve already violated her mail.)
I hastily shoved the bill back into the envelope and scotch-taped the envelope together like a six year old might do, hoping mom and dad wouldn’t notice. I acted like the bill’s mere exposure to air made my behavior more criminal. I did a shitty tape job and a big tear was visible from my not taking the time to properly line up the seams. It’s obvious: someone ripped into her credit card statement.
Given my shitty tape job, I couldn’t give it back to the Post Office to deliver. I mean, yes, I could. I should have. But how would you feel when your credit card bill shows up three weeks late and the envelope is ripped open? You’d cancel the card. Right? I mean, someone chose to look at your credit card number and “cleverly” taped it up.
I decided to do the honorable thing and go explain myself.
I got home tonight a little before 9:00 p.m. Based on some internal metric that I can’t explain, I knew I would not knock on a stranger’s house after 9:00 p.m. because that’s just creepy. But I had a good fifteen minutes to get over there and explain how I accidentally ripped her credit card open. She would understand.
The thing that was bugging me was this: it would suck to have to cancel your credit card. Mine is associated with my Amazon account and Pay Pal and a few ongoing bills, sites where I was initially reluctant to share my credit card number years ago but I’ve given up and accepted that this is how the world works now. And while canceling a credit card isn’t the worst thing in the world, it’s a pain in the ass.
I did not know Ms. Deanna Briggs who lives on my block, five or six houses down on the opposite side of the street but I thought if a reasonable explanation were presented for her torn bill, she would be spared that stupid life hassle. She could still cancel it – her call. But at least she’d have the option and would know what had happened.
I rang her bell and it was now 8:55 p.m. Cutting it a little close to my self-imposed 9:00 p.m. rule.
Nobody came to the door. Lights were on. Porch light was on. A dog inside barked. Peeking through the front window, the furniture seemed cozy. Nice. I bet she and I could be friends and in the Spring, complaining about front yard gardening chores together, but our side of the street doesn’t much socialize with their side of the street. So, maybe not.
She wasn’t home.
I dropped the ripped credit card bill in her mail box.
I trudged further up my street to deliver the other piece of mail. (Please recall that two pieces of wrongfully addressed mail were delivered to me.) I wasn’t going to knock and explain myself for that second piece of mail because I didn’t take the time to open and read his mail. (Looked like junk mail anyway.)
While walking to his house, I realized how freakin’ cold it really was. It had been warmer earlier in the day. We achieved 20 whole-fucking degrees. Party! Minnesotans everywhere celebrated by going to a gas station and standing outside the car while the gas pumped.
But the evening had gotten cold, very cold actually, and I had forgotten to check the temperature before I left. Point is, I wanted to get inside quickly. I wasn’t dressed for a half-hour walk. But I had also thought about how I shouldn’t have just left that ripped credit card bill at Ms. Deanna Brigg’s mailbox.
She’d notice the ripped envelope and middle-schooler tape job. Then, she’d open it up, see it had arrived almost three weeks late and she would be forced to cancel her credit card. While I was eager to get home, I decided I needed to take back that bill and attach a note to it. I’d write up a note, scurry back in the cold, and all would be well.
As to why I thought it was a good idea to go to a neighbor’s house after 9:15 p.m. and steal their mail, I can only say I am a fan of the ‘sunk cost fallacy,’ the notion that once you invest yourself in a solution, you stick to it, though it be stupid. In the dark on her front steps, I reached into Ms. Deanna Briggs mailbox and tried to find the credit card statement. She had a surprising amount of mail in there and the task took longer than I would have liked. But I found it, evidenced by the credit card logo and address in the upper left corner and yes, it was addressed to her.
So I took her credit card bill and waddled down the icy front walk.
At the end of her walk, I held the bill in front of me for a split second as I made ready to stuff it in my back pocket and was rather impressed by my tape job. I had done a better job than I suspected because I couldn’t even see the tape in this light. In fact, when turning the bill over (twice) I couldn’t see the tape at all. Or the obvious rip. Suddenly I realized I had just taken her latest, updated credit card bill from her mailbox.
Yes, for the second time, I possessed her credit card bill.
I stood on her frozen sidewalk, really freakin’ cold, and thought, “Well, shit.”
The first time you invade your neighbor’s financial privacy, fine, maybe you can explain that away. “We have the same credit card company! How funny, right?”
The second time you walk away with your neighbor’s credit card statement, taken directly from her mailbox at night, well, that just doesn’t look so good. And it’s a federal crime.
I realized I had to return her statement and get the hell off the street.
As I turned around, another light came on in the living room and I saw someone cross in front of the bay window.
Ms. Deanna Briggs was now home.
And in her front yard, a neighbor. Holding her credit card bill. Late at night.
An honest mistake.
I considered knocking but no explanation seemed sufficient. “Look, you don’t know me, but I’ve taken your credit card bill twice. One by accident.” Or maybe, “Hi. I’m the neighbor with the yard monster in his front yard down the block. I opened your mail.”
I waddled like a penguin up her icy sidewalk and did my best to sneak her latest credit card statement back into her box without being seen.
Was I seen?
Dunno. Didn’t care at that point.
If it were warmer, I would have walked around the block or at least not walked directly to my front door, but it was cold, really cold, and my toes hurt. So like a dumb-ass criminal, I walked straight from her house to mine. Had she been watching out her window, she would have seen me messing with her mailbox and then walking home.
I guess I’ll just go ahead and skip the neighborhood block party this summer.