Dearest Rachel –
You already know the bulk of this story, but Jan and I have just written what basically amounts to the final chapter of this story, and I figure I might as well fill you in on it while I tell the full story to anyone else who might be interested.
The too long / didn’t read version was that we were the victims of internet fraud via Amazon, but when we contacted our credit card and Amazon, all the charges were reversed and we wound up with the stuff this mysterious “Bryan Hamilton” ordered shipped to our house.
It started in late October of last year. Every other day, there would be an envelope from Amazon addressed to this Bryan Hamilton character, but to our house address. Now, we both knew the ownership history of this house, and there had never been anyone by that name living here – before the McCarthys, there had been the Parvins, and that was pretty much it. No Hamiltons.
And while there was an address similar to our on the north side of town, the fact that the address was narrowed down to the full nine-digit Zip+4 number suggested that whatever this – and eventually these – were, they were deliberately addressed to our house.
I wondered if someone had tried to send things to our house, only to run the ‘porch pirate’ trick on us, but at the time, I wasn’t seeing any weird activity on my credit cards – and if this Bryan Hamilton was a porch pirate, he was a pretty lousy one, as we kept bringing the packages into the house before he had a chance to get to them.
Still, you attempted to contact Amazon after the fourth or fifth delivery, and they told you they would look into it. And that was it for a week or so, as we headed off to visit our friend Kevin down in the Nashville area (yes, it may have been a risky move in the time of Covid, but we figured we were clean, and Tennessee was more open than Illinois, so what trouble could we get into? But that’s another story entirely).
When we got back, there were a couple more packages for this mysterious Bryan Hamilton, and we stepped up our search for him. I believe you called Amazon again, and nothing came of it. I looked up the name, finding the nearest individual by that name (and specifically, that spelling) in either Lombard or Morton Grove, quite some drive away; we decided not to bother with that. You even headed south down our street to a local apartment complex, thinking that maybe it was supposed to have gone to an apartment with our house number rather than to us; after all, it had happened to Kevin back in the days he lived up in this area, so why not? You left notes in several apartment buildings for “Bryan” to get back to us.
Then, things got big. You got a text message to your phone about how our cooler was being delivered shortly, and we should anticipate it on thus and such a date. Bryan was buying bigger and bigger stuff, and he kept sending it to us. What was going on?
Well, what it was, was that apparently he’d gotten your credit card number, and was ordering all this stuff. I didn’t realize it until a month into his spending spree, and I was seeing a whole bunch of charges from Amazon on this card that wasn’t set up with our account, so it shouldn’t have any such charges. While I contacted the credit card company and explained the situation – that we were apparently victims of fraud after all – you called Amazon up yet again, told them to stop any further orders from “Bryan Hamilton” on that card with our address. Once again, they said they would, but the ‘cooler’ (whatever that meant – I was having trouble wrapping my head around the idea that a garden variety picnic cooler would run around five hundred dollars) was on the way already, and we couldn’t stop it. We offered to take it to the nearest Amazon return center at a nearby Whole Foods, but the way I heard it from you, they said they would come by to pick it up after it got here.
Well, it wasn’t long after that when a truck brought this ‘cooler’ over. Turned out, this was a wine cooler. Not the old Bartles & Jaymes or California Cooler beverages that used to be popular when we were in college. No, this was some fancy-pants refrigerator specifically for chilling bottles of wine.
Well, you dutifully informed Amazon when it arrived, and again, they assured us not to bother doing anything more, and that they would send UPS to pick it up. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. After a couple of weeks, it became clear that they had apparently forgotten about us. All these things “Bryan” had ordered, we now simply… owned. Nine-tenths of the law and all that. And we’d gotten all the charges wiped off of the credit card (although we had to replace it, which bothered you – you liked the fact your old number had several series of repeating numbers on it, an 00 here, a 11 there, all very nice and easy to remember – but oh, well), so we hadn’t paid a red cent for it all.
So, we saved everything up, and two weeks before Christmas, we had a little party of opening all the packages “Bryan” had ordered for us. The ultimate ‘secret Santa’ party, it was, even if there was literally nothing in this mess that we had asked for. It was a weird mix. Daniel kept a rope of LED Christmas lights, a helicopter toy that hovered over one’s hand, and a real-life light-up Minecraft torch. Most of the rest was fairly rubbish – some small jewelry items, hair extensions (!), and a few children’s toys – that we turned over to Kerstin. There were a couple of binoculars, too – a child’s toy and an authentic adult model – which we took downstate to Twofeathers and her family. I recall there were a number of other items, but can’t recall what they were. Frankly, it’s not really that important.
Finally, we dragged the cooler downstairs, and squeezed it into the downstairs bathroom, since none of us used – or could use – anything in the basement, anyway, what with all the stuff crammed down there. True, we might not have much in the way of wine – although it turns out, we brought home a few bottles over the last decade from South Bass Island than we might have remembered doing – but we certainly had plenty of their Concord and Catawba grape juice (nobody does the stuff like Heineman’s winery!) that we could store in there. We’d be able to put it to decent use at some point.
Eventually… when we cleared everything out… someday…
And that’s where things stand at this point, honey, because ‘someday’ has arrived. I finally tore open the box earlier this week and set it up, and Jan and I just got it plugged in… and this is what it looks like:
As always, Jan tends to be exultant about thins kind of progress, while I keep wishing you were here to see it, and enjoy the literal fruits of our work. I know that this sort of thing probably would never be able to be done were you still here, clinging to all your stuff, but it still makes me long for you to have been able to enjoy these little triumphs.
But I guess we owe a round of thanks to “Bryan Hamilton,” and I expect the first glass of whatever I pull out of there someday soon, I ought to raise to him – and, for that matter, to Jeff Bezos and his lackadaisical approach to returns. After all, what’s nine hundred bucks when you’re worth a hundred billion, right?