Detective Google

Yesterday evening, after returning home from a long trip, I logged onto my bank’s website to check my balance. I was shocked to see a pending charge for $565 that had an unfamiliar business name attached. I decided it might have something to do with hotel reservations, and hoped it would go away once the correct amount was charged. No such luck.

When I checked my account again this afternoon, the $565 charge had completed and the funds had been deducted from my account. I immediately called my local branch to see what was up. They gave me the business name for an event planner and a phone number.

I called and heard several rings before some silence. Then some more rings. It was obvious the number was being forwarded to a cell phone. I heard the line pick up, but no one said anything. I said hello a couple of times, before hearing a man answer. I asked for the name of the business I was calling. He gave it to me. I said, “You have charged me $565 for some reason.” He asked if I had any upcoming events I had paid for. I said no. He said he was sorry and he would have accounting return my money. He then asked for my name, and again said he would send an email to accounting instructing them to refund the money.

After hanging up and thinking over the conversation, I decided something was fishy. He was simply too nervous and unprofessional on the phone. I called my bank back and filed fraud charges. They canceled my card and are mailing me a new one.

I kept thinking over everything this afternoon. I had gotten the date and time of the transaction from the bank, so I knew it happened in a town I was in over this past weekend. I couldn’t figure out who had been able to access my number, since I remembered every place I used it. The hotel, a couple of restaurants, Target, and a gas station. It was driving me crazy.

Finally, I decided to do some sleuth work online. I started by googling for the business name. I found their website, then did a WhoIs search on the domain name. I quickly discovered the guy’s name, address, and a phone number that matched what the bank had given me.

Next, I did a search for his name and city. I found a profile on LinkedIn with a matching name (he had typed everything in lower case on his domain registration and his LinkedIn profile, which is one of my pet peeves). It said he worked for a hotel chain.

Once getting home, I talked it over with Honey. He decided to call the hotel and ask if they had an employee with the name I had found. Not only does he work there, he is the night auditor. A couple of hours later, a police report has been filed and the investigation should start either tonight or in the morning.

Needless to say, I am pretty proud of my detective skills. I am hoping the real detectives get to the bottom of this and get him out of his job and into a jail cell.

Gay or straight: Thank you for being a friend

Honey and I have very few gay friends. This weekend, if all goes as planned, we will travel to watch two of them get married. We were at their commitment ceremony a few years ago, but since they have moved to a state that recently recognized gay marriage, they will make it official this Saturday.

I am not sure why we don’t have more gay friends. We don’t typically visit places where gay men congregate, and the few gay people we have met at church usually offer nothing more than a courteous hello.

Although it is unfair to paint everyone with the same brush, most of us gay men are downright nasty to each other when we first cross paths. It isn’t unusual to get a judgmental sneer or some side-eye. Whatever the reasons, I suspect it has to do with male aggression and competitiveness. Much like a lion defending his pride because of reproductive rights, we don’t want any interested parties sniffing around. Relationships are hard, but because gay relationships have even more challenges to face, it stands to reason that we don’t want to invite trouble.

Although it would be nice to have a few more gay friends who personally understand all the issues that gay people face on a day-to-day basis, genuine friendship from anyone is the ultimate goal. And, frankly, I have wonderful straight friends who are supportive, accepting, and understanding without being judgmental.

True friends are priceless, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Remember it

Some people say homosexuality is a sin. It’s not. God is perfectly cool with it, God feels the exact same way about homosexuality that God feels about heterosexuality. Now you might say, “Whoa, slow down. You move too fast. How could you have the audacity, the temerity, to speak on behalf of God?” Exactly, that’s an excellent point and I pray that you remember it.

Ted Alexandro

What do you know for sure?

Gene Siskel once stumped Oprah Winfrey when he asked, “What is the one thing you know for sure?” The older I get, the more I think about that question and the implications that really knowing something for sure can have on life and happiness.

We have all been told that age begets wisdom, and I suppose that is true in a sense. We definitely have more life lessons to look back on and learn from, but I realize getting older doesn’t somehow mean that all of life’s answers will suddenly become accessible to us. I worry about that, and I hope I can get at least a few of the big questions taken care of before my time is up.

While I may never get answers to the universal questions that we all have (about life, God, our place in the cosmos), I do know a few things for sure right now.

I know that love is worth the pain.

Opening yourself up to another person is never easy, and anyone who does realizes that doing so will eventually hurt. You hurt each other sometimes, even when you don’t mean to. Under normal circumstances, one of you will die before the other. That is going to be incredibly painful. I still know it is worth it to have another human being who cares enough about you to accompany you on the journey.

Most of us don’t have a clue how blessed we are.

Everything is relative, as they say, and complaining comes naturally for most of us, but if we take the time to look around at those who are less fortunate or those who live in countries torn by war and famine, we will realize we have absolutely nothing to complain about.

All humans are created equal.

You may not look like me, you may not act like me, you may not believe like me, but you are every bit as worthy of life and liberty as I am. And I am just as worthy as you.

We can’t do everything, but we can do something.

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” That is so true. We may not be able to change the whole world, but we are certainly able to make our immediate surroundings better. Whether through charity, hard work, or old-fashioned activism, there is something for each of us to do to make this world a better place.

Those are just a few of the things that I know for sure. Life, I hope, will teach me more.

HBO’s ‘The Leftovers’ and childhood trauma

HBO’s new series, The Leftovers, looks very intriguing. And a little scary. After roughly 2% of the world’s population disappears in a rapture-like event, the show follows what happens to those who remain behind. This reminds me a bit too much of the movies I was forced to watch as a child while attending a Southern Baptist school.

I grew up without television, so when our teachers decided to show us a movie it was usually a treat. Not only did we get to feast our hungry eyes upon delicious cartoons like Bambi, we got to skip the monotony of classroom activities. Unfortunately, the movie selection wasn’t always so innocuous.

While still in elementary school, we were shown A Thief In The Night and A Distant Thunder – films that detailed the Rapture and the horrifying events that followed. These movies not only showed people being forced to receive the Mark of the Beast, but what would happen to those who refused. The first movie in the series had a particularly haunting song that is stuck in my head to this very day.

There’s no time to change your mind; the Son has come and you’ve been left behind. I wish we’d all been ready.
Children died, the days grew cold. A piece of bread would buy a bag of gold. I wish we’d all been ready.

Because the Holiness church had taught me nothing about the Rapture but everything about what would happen in the End Times, I knew I would be one of those who was left behind to either take the Mark or be put to death. I wept hysterically throughout both films, so much so that my teacher mistook my tears for a desire to be born again. She led me in prayer a couple of times, but soon realized she was getting nowhere and told me to talk it over with my parents when I got home.

Needless to say, it was a traumatizing experience. Almost as bad as the time my aunt and uncle (also Baptists) showed my family a video of people dying in car accidents and going to hell. Good times.

So, it is with trepidation that I am actually looking forward to watching The Leftovers. Hopefully I have watched enough horror movies and reality television over the past 20 years to desensitize myself.