There have been a lot of text messages. They arrive from a number I don’t recognise with a message that reads: ‘Hi Dad, it’s your son. I left my phone in a taxi and this is my new number. I have an urgent bill I need to pay. Please contact me.’ Obviously, it’s a message that shakes me to the core of my being. I am overwhelmed with worry at the spectacular misfortune that has befallen my offspring. So deep and profound is my sense of panic that I barely know where to start – should I call the embassy, the Army or roll up their sleeves and get on a plane to sort through the whole catastrophic mess. But then I remembered – I don’t have a son.
It’s a scam, obviously. One that relies on sending out a multitude of messages in the hope that, by chance, it will find a target. Scammers are everywhere these days. Seemingly, they live in your phone and emails. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t get a phone call with an automated message threatening all manner of harm from some Government agency if I don’t pay them a sum of money immediately or a text at three in the morning saying that my package could not be delivered. But even for scammers, the attempt to mine parental concern for profit is not so much scraping the bottom of the barrel as it was digging right through it.
I could, of course, ignore the message. But then there would be more messages. It was best to tackle it head on with a message to my fictional child.
“Son, we need to talk.
Your message announcing that you’d lost your phone did not come as a surprise to your mother and me. Rather, it seems to be just the latest instalment in a seemingly inexhaustible supply of inexcusably stupid behaviour that commenced shortly after you were born and persists to the present day. Put simply, son, you are a bona fide idiot of unimaginable proportions.
You must think your parents are fools. By our count, this is the eighth time in the past three weeks that you have lost your phone. Clearly, you are mistaking it for a Frisbee, as nothing else could explain the rate at which you seem to surrender possession of your mobile. It’s almost as though you’re losing it on purpose. Drastic measures are now required.
Clearly, the most appropriate thing for you at this point is to abandon mobile phones entirely and return to a simpler, easier to use technology. Which is why I’ve taken the step of purchasing you a pager. From now on, if someone needs to communicate with you, they can send a message to your pager and you can make your way to the nearest payphone. Say what you will about a payphone, but no one ever left one in the back of a taxi.
That you also have an urgent bill to pay comes as no surprise. Presumably you have accumulated a significant debt with the taxi company to whom you so recklessly bequeathed your phone. This may sound harsh, but I feel that the best course of action in these circumstances is to withhold any help (financial or emotional) and let the folks at the taxi company do their worst to shake a few dollars loose. Who knows? If they succeed, I might try the same thing the next time I catch you sneaking into the shed to steal my power tools.
Which brings me to my next point. I think the time has come for you to stop coming to the house. I would refer to these ‘visits’ save that I don’t feel the term is appropriate having regard for the financial and emotional devastation these sporadic appearances inflict on not only your mother and I, but the household pets, also. Even the cat is upset for days after you darken our door.
Come to think of it, you’ve never been good with animals. Your childhood resulted in the demise of more goldfish than I can count. It took you a mere fifteen minutes to lose the budgerigar (maybe you mistook it for an iPhone) and there was the day that continues to live in infamy when you glued a guinea pig to each hand as a pair of improvised gloves simply because you said you were ‘cold’. Joanie and Chachi were never the same after that. For the good of the species, I made a point of never having a guinea pig for a pet ever again.
We’ve taken a vote and, sadly, the results are clear. You’re out. From this moment on, you are no longer a member of this family and we will be forgetting your name. In the event that you have any procedural concerns, I can confirm that this outcome was one reached by secret ballot with your mother and I having one vote each. The result was unanimous.
So, my child, farewell and best of luck. In the event that you do, somehow, manage to retrieve your phone, please ensure that you delete my number. It is, we feel, for the best.
The Artist Formerly Known As Dad”
The scammers have not responded. Granted, it’s probably extreme to disown your fictional child, but I feel that his imaginary life is such that a bit of tough love is required.