George Graham

A Phone Call That Had Me Worried. Why Am I So Dumb?

sandraWhen the phone rang I was fiddling with a painting that was giving me fits. I used to be able to paint landscapes – watercolor landscapes – but I have never taken a class in figure drawing or portraits – or in using oils.

Yet, here I was, trying to copy a snapshot of Sandra with her dogs (at right). And I was using oils. It was not going well.

I let the phone ring. Probably some telemarketer offering to help me with my “final arrangements,” I figured.  I’ve been getting a lot of that lately. But then again, it could be another family emergency. We’ve been having a rash of those. So I picked up the receiver and said hello.


Jonathan? I never hear from Jonathan.  I braced myself for terrible news.

He was in Toronto and he was in trouble… Toronto? The kid was supposed to be studying for his master’s in Accounting at Florida State, and that’s in Tallahassee, Florida.

Well, it turns out that his pal, David, had these two tickets to a hockey game and they flew up to go see it, and they rented this car, and it skidded on the ice, and crashed into a utility pole…

What?! Was he all right?

No, actually, when the airbag opened it broke his nose and David’s ribs, and they both had concussion, and…

Did they go to a hospital? Did the doctor set his nose? Was he in pain?

Well, yes, they did go to a hospital and they set his nose, but he had to wear this mask now, and he was all stressed out. That’s why he didn’t call his mom. He couldn’t deal with the stress right now. And I was the only one he could think of to help him get out of the jam he was in. And I was to promise not to tell his mom…

What jam? What help did he need?

Well, he needed $2,100, actually. Just till Tuesday. You see, they didn’t take out insurance on the rented car, and David’s insurance wouldn’t come though till Tuesday, and they wouldn’t let the kids leave Canada till they paid for the accident damage…

Where was he? How could I reach him? What was his phone number?

Well, actually, he was on the street, using a pay phone. He would have to call me back…

My grandson was out on the street in Toronto? In January? With no money? And a broken nose? And concussion? Stressed out? Unable to come home until he paid for the damage to the rental car?

I had to launch a rescue mission. And fast!

I told the kid I would find help, to call me back in 15 minutes.

bettyMy sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Wendell, (photo at right) live in Toronto. They were at their winter home in Florida, but I was sure they could get someone in Toronto to go find this kid and look after him. I dialed their number.

Elizabeth said she would get one of her boys, John or David, to handle the crisis. She would call me back with the arrangements.

But when the phone rang it was Grace – Jonathan’s mother (with sons Jonathan, right, and Adam in photo below).

“Jonathan is all right,” she said. “I just woke him up.”

All right? Where was he?

He was in Tallahassee. In bed. Not injured. Not in trouble.

Why did he tell me he was in Toronto, injured and in trouble?

grace“It’s a scam, Daddy,” Grace explained. She gave me Jonathan’s cell phone number so I could check for myself. When I told Jonathan about the phone call, he had a good laugh.

However, as you can imagine, I was not laughing.

Apparently, it’s quite a common scam. Someone tried to pull the same kind of stunt on Elizabeth recently. She was all set to send money to a “friend” who said she had been mugged in London when Wendell suggested she ask a few tough questions – like the “friend’s” husband’s name.

But I decided to give the caller the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he did have a grandpa named George and had called the wrong number. So when he called back I asked where his grandpa lives.

Lakeland, the kid said. Lakeland, Florida. And his name is George.

I explained I had just talked to Jonathan and he was fine. So this kid was not my Jonathan. And obviously his grandfather’s last name wasn’t Graham, so I told him that if he gave me the grandfather’s name I could look up the number for him.

“Parker,” the kid mumbled.

Hold on, I said, I’ll get the number for you. And I reached for the phone book.

There was a click, then after a while, dial tone.

So now you know how dumb I am. From now on, just call me Gullible George.

I suppose the scam artist found my name and phone number in Facebook, and saw that I have a grandson named Jonathan.

I’m passing this story on as a heads up – just in case you get a phone call like this some day.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for