Her name is Pamela Williams.
Her story begins on a cold winter day in the beginning of January – the kind of day you wish you could stay at home, sipping cups of hot chocolate and just lounging around. That cold January day it was certainly not to be, though. It was the day of Pamela and Jason’s five-year old son’s doctor’s appointment.
The pediatric allergy specialist the Williams family had been instructed to see was located close to Manhattan. The consultation went well. They left the office, satisfied, but with certain reservations about whether or not to go fully along with the regiment of medicines prescribed for Johnny’s skin rashes.
Being so close to Jason’s business associates gave them good reason to further their adventure into Manhattan’s commercial district. They parked in a city lot, and took the long, cold trek to the man’s office. Pamela and Johnny marveled at the diversified characters making up the hordes of crowds on the walkways. As thrilling as it was, it left them with an unusual sense of chaos and disorder.
Jason, acting as the guide seemed in control. He steered Pamela and Johnny through the maze of humanity skillfully. Finally they reached the building of their destination. Up the elevator, down the corridor, through the security doors. They had finally made it.
While Jason conferred with the gentleman of the office, Pamela busied herself in the anteroom conversing with Johnny. All seemed to go pleasant enough.
The hour turned late as the threesome left the grey office building. As impossible as it seemed, the stark reality was that the throngs on Manhattan’s streets and sidewalks had increased at least double- fold. Stay together, stay together, Pamela thought as the panic started to rise.
Pamela and Johnny half-ran, half-walked to keep up with Jason’s quick pace. Pamela held onto Johnny’s hand tightly. The crowds made it impossible to walk in one row all the time, but they vigilantly kept sight of each other. At last, they reached the busy post office. Together they entered. Together they went down the steps towards the post boxes. Jason took his key, opened the box and retrieved the mail. They braced themselves for another encounter with the mad rush of human mass.
As they exited the building, Pamela recognized a certain uncomfortable lightness. Something was not right. Pamela instinctively reached for her pocketbook. It wasn’t there!
“Where’s my pocketbook?” Pamela’s voice took on an artificial high tone. Quickly she rummaged through the bag of miscellaneous that she had brought lunch in. No pocketbook!
As the masses swarmed by, Pamela felt the sweat pour and the panic escalate. Jason’s face mirrored the emotions.
They retraced their steps. No, the post office security had no idea of a missing pocketbook. No sign of it on the floor, or on the ledge. No pocketbook anywhere. The crowds surged by in an unending torrent.
Suddenly, it registered in Pamela’s mind! She had left the pocketbook – IN HER HUSBAND’S ASSOCIATE’S OFFICE! Pamela’s body heat turned a degree lower. Yes, she was almost sure of it… She had placed the pocketbook on the floor next to her chair while doling out lunch to Johnny… UNLESS… Pamela knew she had escorted Johnny a few times to… THE BATHROOM!
Hurriedly, they made their way back to the office building. The entrance was locked. No sign of any security guard. Pamela was certain, though. Her pocketbook was in there, hopefully, innocently positioned on the floor in the anteroom of the office on the 5th floor. The one thing gnawing at her brain was the thought that maybe – just maybe – she had left it in the ladies’ rest room, accessible to anyone…
Pamela pushed the unpleasant thought aside. They surged on through the crowds, stopping for a few moments to put one particular credit card on hold. The rest would have to wait. Pamela wasn’t sure of which credit cards she had in her wallet and – besides – she had a feeling, albeit a slightly quivering one, that all would prove well in the morning.
They traveled towards home, making light conversation and avoiding the dread that was warily creeping up.
That night honestly did pass uneventfully.
The next morning Pamela anxiously anticipated the joyous news of a lonely pocketbook being found on the floor of her husband’s associate’s office. Unfortunately, the joy never came. In its place an awful sensation of intense dread took hold of her heart.
“He didn’t find it? Are you sure? Did he look all over?”
Yes, he apparently had. Persuading him to enter and search the ladies room had not met with too much success but Jason had got him to at least recruit a female to scout it out. The results: NIL! NOTHING!
Pamela felt like passing out that moment. There in the recesses of her pocketbook were credit cards, her passport, her green card, her birth certificate (ever since she’d needed it for travel overseas she hadn’t had the chance to put them away- how irresponsible, she told herself now) her checkbook, her health insurance card, her social security card, her kids’ social security cards… Pamela’s head took on a very serious form of an ache.
The phone calls began.
“Yes, I am canceling, ” Pamela heard herself tell the customer service of each of the umpteen credit cards she thought were lost. The odd thing about her inquiries regarding whether any recent purchases had been recorded was that again and again she was told – no. Why, she thought, why would a thief not use an irresistible credit card? She knew that a lost credit card in the hands of an unscrupulous character was like candy in the hands of a child. The same thing held true of her checking account. No recent transactions. Strange…
Then it dawned on Pamela.
Her entire ‘self’ was in that pocketbook. Pamela envisioned her Canadian passport, her social security card, the all-too numerous forms of ID dancing mockingly before her eyes. How foolish she had been to walk around with it all when others lock documents such as these under lock and key!
As Pamela placed the calls to the different agencies involved with identity theft her mind played real-life videos of a vile terrorist walking the streets under the guise of a woman with a very Anglo-Saxon sounding name.
Pamela anxiously attempted to make a police report about her lost (or – gulp – stolen) pocketbook. It became obvious that a police report would require a visit in person to the precinct most close-by to the loss. Getting herself to Manhattan again was not going to be an easy matter.
And as the seriousness of the situation took hold of Pamela, she came to understand that getting a replacement for a social security card involved presenting the authorities with a form of ID, like a license, a birth certificate, a green card, a passport… and that getting a replacement for the myriad of other documents she had lost ( or- gulp- been stolen) involved presenting… the same various forms of ID. Pamela was lost in a sea, grappling for lifebuoys that were not there!
Suddenly it hit Pamela like a ton of bricks. She was a non-entity! A nobody! Without the documents attesting to her existence, Pamela Williams officially did not exist. It was a thought that almost swept me her off her feet. Suddenly she was not supposed to drive, not permitted to leave the country,… What if she was needed by her parents in Montreal? What if there was some emergency? What if?…
Pamela’s mind refused to wander any further. She frantically went to work on getting a birth certificate. That, she figured would be a start to a passport, onto a U. S. green card, a social security card, a license… Would the list finally end?
It seemed that all the applications also required a fee. A substantial one at that.
As the list of fees came to Jason’s attention, he came to the conclusion that they should wait – just a little longer. Perhaps the pocketbook would still show up in the office. Perhaps someone had found it and would still report it in. No one had used the credit cards, no one had attempted to withdraw money from the bank…
It was a glimmer of hope, but a weak one in light of the fact that now Pamela had nightmares of a dark clandestine figure with her identity making her (or – could it be a him?) sinister rounds in the dingy nightclub spots where other terrorists meet to plot.
Pamela put off applying for the green card for the narrow time-being. Her task in retrieving her Canadian birth-rights though went on. Enlisting her former teacher’s help who now was principal of the school that she had attended, she succeeded in getting a letter stating that she was Pamela Williams, known as such for x amount of years. The precious letter waited on Pamela’s dining room table along with the all-too-many various other applications she had acquired. It waited. For the time being.
Life took on a different form. It evolved around Pamela’s predicament. She got up in the morning to the dread of being in trouble with her identity. She sent the kids off to school with that same dread. While doing the laundry, Pamela dreamed of being rescued by a hero who had located her pocketbook. And while shopping, she resolved herself to living in the shadow of an alien that had her precious documents. Although life was joyously dancing around her in the form of health and family life, she was missing the full beat. Not only, it seemed, had Pamela’s identity papers been taken away, but with it, her inner happiness had been snatched.
Life went on. One morning as Pamela was ready to send off the application that would be the catalyst for others once it was processed – her birth certificate – she picked up the ringing phone.
“Pamela?” Jason sounded more cheerful than usual.
“Yeah, How are you?” Pamela answered in the monotone that had recently taken over her voice.
“I have good news,. ” he said.
“Good news? What is it?” she asked.
“Guess, ” he said.
“Guess? I can’t guess now, ” she said. ” I’m so busy – what is it?”
“Just guess, ” he pressed. What would be good news now?”
“Who won the playoffs? I really don’t have time for games now. What is it?”
“It’s not an about games, ” Jason said. “It’s about something you lost. “
There was a long silence as Pamela paused to digest his prodding.
In a very small voice, almost in a whisper, she said, “My pocketbook? Someone found my pocketbook?”
“They found it in the office. Just sitting there, Pamela. “
“Wow. ” she said quietly. “They really found it. Thank goodness! But – I don’t understand. Why did it take three full weeks to discover my pocketbook sitting plainly in the corner on the floor?”
There was quiet from the other end.
“Wow!” she kept on repeating. “I feel as if a heavy weight has been lifted off my heart. Thank you. “
Pamela put the receiver on its cradle and sat down. Three long weeks had passed since her pocketbook had been missing. Three weeks filled with apprehension and dread. Pamela wanted to dance, to celebrate – to sing. Instead, she sat pensively and just relished her new-found relief.
Life has indeed taken on a new refreshing wave. Since that heavy time of Pamela’s life, she’s learned to be much more careful with her personal data. Her passport and documentation are safely locked away. Credit cards and Internet are treated with reverence. And she’s even added identity theft coverage to her NJ homeowners insurance policy.
Incidents in relation to life’s panorama are nothing less than awesome. It takes small but important changes to acquire the priceless gift of peace of mind.