Terry Marotta: To be trusting or protective ... that's the question
People just want to tell you their story; it’s the sweetest thing I know about the human race.
At a small lakeside beach, my daughter-in-law and I got talking with a young mother, her father and her husband. We were there with our own little ones and had such an enjoyable hour chatting away as our tykes played that we ended up exchanging names. I even found myself saying, “Hey, give me your address and I’ll send you my funniest book. I have like a million copies of it right in the basement!”
“Wow, that would be great!” said the young mom. “Do you have a pen?“
“I don’t need a pen, just tell me it,” I smiled.
And when she did I executed the usual trick people use to memorize: waved the names and numbers before the magic mirror of my mind until they associated themselves with names and dates already familiar to me from years of living. It took about 20 seconds.
“Got it,” I said and repeated her contact info back to her.
“How can you memorize so easily?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m just from a time when kids were expected to memorize. I can’t tell you the ending of the movie I saw last night, but I can rattle off my credit card number, expiration date and the secret number on the back, easy as pie.”
“We can do that with our Social Security number, listen to this!” she said and recited hers. “And what’s yours again?” she asked her husband.” Wait, I know it!” and then she recited it, too.
“You kind of have to memorize your Social Security number now that the DMV suggests you not put it on your license,” I said.
Then we all turned to watch the children scooping dollops of wet sand onto a log -- until the young woman’s 50-year-old dad began talking about the elderly lady living next door to them who had $10,000 stuffed in a trash can on her screened-in porch.
“Yeah, she told me all about it. I asked her if she thought it was wise, keeping money there, but she was sure that was just the place for it, and well … you know how older people are!”
Well here’s what I do know: I know that we older people catch quite a lot, maybe because our ears aren’t generally stopped up with music and cell phones. Also, we’ve already endured much of life’s drama and are perhaps more serene than the young, leaving us with easier access to the old Mental Filing Cabinet.
I also know that, though acting out of their sweet and open natures only, this little family had within the spaces of 60 minutes revealed to us their names, their addresses, two Social Security numbers and the stunning fact that the person next door to them has a wad of money in a place accessible to all.
Later, as my daughter-in-law and I were pushing the stroller home she said with a worried expression, ”I almost feel like we should go look for them again tomorrow and tell them they have to be more careful!”
“I know!” I said. “And I feel badly because I sort of started it all with my darn friendliness!“
I wonder what others think, though? Should we all just dummy up generally, to protect ourselves against identity theft and worse? What have you gained when you’ve done this and what have you lost? I’d love to hear what you think if you cared to drop me a line at email@example.com, or at my blog www.terrymarotta.wordpress.com, or in a note sent to my attention at Ravenscroft Press, P.O. Box 270 Winchester, MA 01890.