Sometimes, even the most wonderful date can turn into a case of identity theft. I know, because I’m speaking from experience.
After one particular guy and I met at the university we were attending, we became close. We not only felt that our relationship could possibly lead to marriage, but we also had become good companions.
Like other couples, we liked going out for pizza or bowling, and going to movies together with our friends, but we also enjoyed nature, so often just the two of us went to secluded, natural settings. We picked wild blueberries and skipped stones across the lake. At night we leaned back atop the hood of his car to watch panoramic lightning “shows,” or an occasional meteor shower. We even viewed planets through his telescope.
Early one evening, we went to a park down by Lake Superior, where a Leif Erickson ship is on display. The sun hadn’t quite set when we got there, so like all the nearby couples and families, we strolled around and talked. As darkness fell, we sat on the ground to relax, propping our backs against a tree for support. There wasn’t any hanky-panky involved. We truly just wanted to enjoy the fresh air, gaze at the stars, talk and be together, away from the hustle-bustle of the city. We weren’t completely secluded. Other people were doing the same. I put my purse on the ground alongside me, and we kept on chatting.
In those days I had a curfew. My mother, grandparents and I all lived in the same house, and they expected me home by a specific time. Lulled by the park’s atmosphere, I had forgotten to check my watch. When I did, panic set in-if we didn’t get out of there pronto, I’d be late! (Although my grandmother was elderly, she was my legal guardian and she was in great shape. In cases like this, she tended to get physical!)
Pointing out the time to my date, I grabbed for my purse. It wasn’t there! I groped around but couldn’t feel it. We walked around the tree, around the entire area, then throughout the park, even though we didn’t have a flashlight. My purse was definitely gone. My date was sure it had been stolen, but I was in denial. It couldn’t happen to me! I’d have to go home without it, and come back during the next day.
There was a police car in front of our house when we pulled up. Unbelievably, I thought, my family had gotten angry and called them. Yet I knew they’d be embarrassed if the neighbors saw the car. Really scared now, I thought something had happened to them!
After asking who we were, the officers grimly asked for our IDs. I stumblingly told them my purse had been stolen, and gave them my name. Turning aside, one of them mumbled something into his two-way radio. Then they grilled us some more. I interrupted, saying I had to tell my family I was home. Even more grimly, the officers said my family was at the police station, and my date and I were to go there with them in the squad car.
While we were driving, after refusing to answer my hysterical questions, the officers finally explained the situation. Someone-a male-had called my family, and identifying himself as a policeman, had told them they had found my body and needed them to come down to identify it. Since we didn’t have a car, they had taken a cab there.
I could imagine the dread my family had felt; the hope that the body wasn’t mine. But never before had I come home that late, so the odds that it wasn’t me would have seemed slim. Horrified, I knew such news could have caused my elderly grandparents to have a heart attack, or even my Mom. Who could have done this?
Through a haze, I realized that my purse had been stolen, and whoever had stolen it had gotten my name and phone number from my wallet. He would even have our address. Even though my date and I were clasping hands as we entered the station, I was quaking with fear-for all of us.
My grandparents broke into tears when they saw us. While we were hugging, I desperately explained what had happened and kept asking them if they were okay. While my mother was calling me a tramp and I was trying to proclaim our innocence, one of the policemen interrupted. He stated that if someone had been murdered, they would never just call a family to tell them. And they’d never tell them to come to the station themselves. Instead, they would go to the family’s home. Meanwhile my mother was seething with rage. Storming up to my date and me, she yelled that she never wanted him to see me again!
Being a trusting (albeit sometimes dumb) person, I never believed someone would do such a thing, and especially in that city. In those days, things like that only happened in the “big city.” But the incident didn’t end there. During the following week, I found out just how low some people can go.
The man actually called the house and asked for me. He said he had my purse and I could have it if I met him downtown. Filled with determination, and without telling anyone, I went to the prescribed street corner at the designated time.
He never showed up. (My friends really chewed me out when I told them about it later!) We never heard from the man again. A month later our mailman delivered my purse and the contents that were left, saying everything had been dumped into a mailbox.
As for my dateÃ¢Â?Â¦ Well, we’ve been married for umpteen years now, and have a fabulous daughter who’s much wiser than I was in those days. But I learned a valuable lesson and will never make that mistake again. As for our wedding, everyone in both of our families attended-even my Mom.