his first call of the day. Taking on the voice of an anguished young man,
he spoke to someone in Spokane, Washington.
Hello, Grandpa. Its your grandson. He choked back a
sob. Can you hear me? Yes, yes, its your grandson. Im
in Phoenix...and Im in a bit of trouble. You do know that Ive
been traveling, dont you?
He listened for a bit. Then:
Im surprised to hear you say that because I sent you a postcard,
telling you I was on the road for work.
Graham took a sip of coffee and continued, staying in character. Heres
what happened. I was in a bar, just having a drink and a bite to eat,
when someone picked my pocket and stole my wallet.
The coffee was hot and bracing. Brazilian, he concluded.
Of course I reported it to American Express and cancelled the card,
Graham said, adding, Luckily my cash was in another pocket, but
it only amounts to about a hundred bucks.
So here I am, stuck in Phoenix, with no way of paying my hotel and
food bill. The hotel called the police on me. Can you imagine that?
all his acting skills to conjure up a young man on the verge of hysteria
I tried calling my boss, but hes ill with Covid-19 and cant
be reached. Same with my best friend, Irv. So youre my only hope,
He finished his coffee, wiped his lips, and went for the kill.
The police wont release me until Ive paid my bill. I
need you to do me a favor and wire two thousand dollars to cover my expenses.
Ill pay you back as soon as I get home.
As Graham listened, a smile spread across his face.
Oh thank you, Grandpa! Thats wonderful to hear. Im so
grateful to you! Now do you have paper and pencil handy? Good! Write down
these instructions so that your bank can wire the money safely and swiftly.
* * *
An hour later found Graham still working the phone. A fresh stack of file
cards sat at hand as he started another pitch.
Moments later, he broke off, frowning with displeasure at the profane
reception he received. Then stubbornly, doggedly, he picked up the phone
and made another call. A womans voice was heard.
Hello Grandma, its your grandson.
There was a silence. Then the woman, obviously frail and elderly, replied
in a thin, wavery voice, This is such a nice surprise, darling.
But you sound different.
He was ready
with his reply. Im in Phoenix-on a pay phone, a lousy
Phoenix? Why Phoenix? I thought you were living in Denver.
The company sent me here to help launch a new product.
Oh? Just what is it?
I cant go into detail right now. Its all very hush-hush.
I see. But how come they picked you for the job? Arent you
in charge of your companys janitorial department?
Graham felt a stab of anger. Why was the old biddy being so ornery?
Well, yes...thats true. But last month I was transferred to
another department. It was a promotion, he added, smugly.
Im surprised to hear that, the old woman said. Last
time we talked you said you hated the company and were thinking of leaving
Start tapping, he told himself. Start tap-dancing like your life depended
Thats true, Grandma. But then new management came in and made
all kinds of changes. Things have greatly improved.
Im delighted to hear that. Now tell me why you called.
He went into his pitch about losing his credit card, being arrested and
needing two thousand bucks to avoid jail time.
You poor boy, she sighed. Youve had some dreadful
luck, havent you?
He stifled a sob, admiring at the same time his own potent acting skills.
going to put me in a cell filled with criminals and drug-addicts,
he wailed. Those convicts will beat the hell out of me!
We musnt let that happen! she cried. Just tell
me how I can help.
He told her how to wire him the two thousand dollars. She replied, Ill
be happy to take care of that. But theres a little problem.
Ive been feuding with my bank lately. They froze my account,
said I was overdrawn. Its a mistake on their part, caused by a computer
malfunction-I hate those machines, as you know.
Right. Yeah. Im aware of that.
I spent an hour on the phone this morning, trying to clear this
Were you successful?
Only partially. They still insist I owe them money and wont
let me access my account until I pay a late fee.
How much is that?
A hundred dollars.
Thats an outrage. How dare they give you a hard time over
such a measly sum?
Youre so right. But trying to win argument with a bank is
like begging a dead horse to get up and run!
Calm down, Grandma. Dont make yourself sick over this.
What really troubles me is being unable to help you, my darling.
But wait a minute-didnt you say you still have a bit of cash
Yes, thats right.
the solution to our problem. Why dont you wire me a hundred dollars?
Once it arrives, Ill go down to the bank and free up my account.
That will enable me to send you the two thousand dollars you so desperately
Graham took a sip of coffee and said, Wait a minute. You want me
to send YOU money?
Is that such a shocking idea?
Graham sat back and mulled things over. Then, a few moments later, he
gave a whoop of laughter and addressed the woman in his own, natural voice.
You are good, he said. My hat goes off to you. You are
one skillful worker. You almost took me for a hundred bucks!
There was a silence on the other end. Then the woman giggled and replied
in her own distinctive voice.
Youre pretty damn good yourself. I was on the verge of wiring
you the two thou-even though I dont have any grandchildren.
He had to laugh at that. So you knew all along that I was doing
a number on you.
Indeed. But you still almost managed to fool me. Excellent acting
job. Superb timing and delivery. Very believable.
Youre a real credit to the profession.
So are you. How long have you been in the game?
About five years. You?
Ten years now, he said. What did you do before?
I was a high-school teacher, theatre arts. You?
been in telephone sales all my life, he said proudly. Diamonds,
time-shares, Swedish porn. You name it, Ive pitched it.
That explains your expertise. How is business these days?
Cant complain. You?
Things are a bit on the slow side, she admitted.
Hang in there, he said. Things will pick up. You just
need to hit one mooch to make your day.
Youre right about that. Luckily, the world is full of mooches.
Well, Ill say goodbye now. Good luck to you, my darling grandson.
You too, Granny. You too!