Thursday, February 01, 2007

I'll Take That In Small Bills, Please

One of the columns I wrote when I was a newspaper editor.

Just when I was about to abandon myself to cynicism, I received an e-mail that assures me there are people who still believe in casting their bread upon the water.

Mr. Ali Hassan recently wrote to me from the United Arab Emirates, which made me perk up. I’ve never received an e-mail from anyone living more than 30 miles away from me, so the idea of communicating with someone who is eating breakfast while I’m still sleeping makes me feel like I’m Matt Lauer. Well, maybe more like Katie.

Anyway, Mr. Hassan began his little note by telling me he had hunted far and wide for a reputable and reliable person to assist him. Well, I know how he feels. I do that every time I go to one of those big stores to shop.

The note took a clandestine turn in the next sentence, and I began to feel like Bogart in Casablanca. Mr. Hassan was on an urgent mission that required the utmost trust and confidentiality. Well, I had to stop right there. See, if we’re going to be honest, I have to tell you now that my shoulders can bear only so much.

Wasn’t it enough that he was requiring me to be reputable and reliable? Now he was throwing in the need to keep juicy information to myself. I could feel the responsibility starting to take the shine off of this exotic e-mail. Just what did this man want from me?

He went on, and I decided to ignore that business about confidentiality. After all, he’s thousands of miles away, and who does he think he is anyway? Tom Ridge?

It seems Mr. Hasan is in a pickle. Yes, sir. The man is the manager of the Bills and Exchange Department of Dubai U.A.E. International. Well, I was impressed right off because I know for a fact that my bank over at the Wal-Mart doesn’t have such a department. They’re thinking of expanding though.

Well, Mr. Hassan said he discovered $24 million in an account that belonged to a foreign customer who died. Yes, sir. He died, and what’s worse is that his wife and three children also died in a plane crash in 1998.

The $24 million has just been sitting there, collecting interest and dust. I think Mr. Hassan has been wringing his hands and wondering what is to be done with such a sum. Bless his heart.

It seems Mr. Hassan’s altruism has no bounds. He wants to share this fortune with me. Yes, with me. Can you imagine? Well it’s because I’m reputable and reliable, he says. It’s a good thing he lives so far away and doesn’t know the truth. Hasn’t the man ever seen “America’s Most Wanted”? Don’t they have post offices with posters in them over there? I guess not, and it’s a good thing for me. We won’t even talk about the confidentiality part. I can hold a poker face for only so long. Geez. I’m not Donald Rumsfeld.

To get my share of the money, Mr. Hassan wants me to send him as quickly as possible all of the details about my bank account, my phone number and whether or not I hear voices. Oh, wait. That was another test. I get confused.

When I send the information, Mr. Hassan will fly immediately to the United States where we will split the spoils like pirates on the beach. Isn’t he a wonderful guy? He’s going to put all of the $24 million in my account and then trust me to wait for him to get here so we can split it. Gosh, he’s a nice man.

But I was thinking. What would I do with half of $24 million? I already have a Veg-O-Matic, and I tell you, if I get one more Star Wars mug from McDonald’s, there won’t be room for the Batman series. A guy can live high on the hog for only so long.

I’ll have to decline Mr. Hassan’s offer, I guess. My bank over at Wal-Mart would probably have to get a vault or at least a lockable suitcase to hold all that money, and they’re just starting out. It’s not fair to ask them to accommodate such a sum so soon after their opening.

Now if anyone wants Mr. Hassan’s e-mail, just let me know. But keep in mind – you must be reputable and reliable. I’ve proven I can’t pass the confidentiality part because here I am blabbing the news to everyone like Joan Rivers on Oscar night.I’m just not worthy, Mr. Hassan, but I hear our presidential candidates might be open to a deal. Call them.

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