In April of 2006 my husband took me downtown to replace my cell phone before I left for a road trip to Sacramento.
The 20-something ringing up my new Back in Black Razr looked anxious. I thought he had to pee.
He said to my husband, “You’re a teacher, you said? I need some advice.”
No one ever said this to me. Instead people say, “You’re an editor? I don’t ever want to talk around you or let you see something I wrote.”
But I’m not bitter. Try to stop me from giving advice.
The kid proceeded to tell us that a friend of a friend had cornered him in a bar the night before asking to buy 999 of the $10 pre-paid cell phones, cash. He asked for anonymity. The would-be customer was Middle Eastern.
I asked the kid if large transactions raised red flags, triggered investigations.
Yup, any sale $10,000 or more attracts attention.
The kid started sweating and shaking.
“What should I do? I think I need to call the FBI, but if he gets caught, he’ll know it was me.”
He was making me nervous.
“Have you talked about this with your mother?”
Yes, she told him he should do whatever he thought was right for him.
Thanks, cell-phone mommy who made it my problem. Next time remember I never want to be a knower of this kind of business.
I told him I thought it was his duty to report anything he thought was suspicious. I implored the child to imagine how responsible he would feel if something went down because he kept mum.
My husband said, “Yeah.”
At the post office, our next stop, I was playing with my new phone, which wasn’t working.
We went back.
The kid was pacing behind the counter, and his hair was pasted straight up with sweat.
“I did it. I called the police,” he said.
My eyes went wide. Good for him, but now I wanted to get lots of distance between us.
“I used a pay phone and didn’t give my name, but he’ll know.”
The guy looked positively rabid. I said something about not wanting to stand in front of the windows and earned an elbow jab in my side.
My husband was calm. He said, “The Razr won’t make calls.”
I gotta hand it to this kid. He was the AT&T Employee and Mr. Hyde.
“Let me see it.” He gave it his full attention — even chuckled when he realized he hadn’t put a SIM card in it.
I told him he was the bomb. No one thought I was funny.
I don’t know what became of the boy or the call, but when I got back from Sacramento, the business was gone.