November 15, 2006

Low Tidings

I knew there was something fishy when a woman asked me if my Gucci bag was real.

After all, those of you who know me know I'm a man's man, though I do have a couple Hermès bags.

Her e-mail was followed by e-mails from several other women, also interested in Gucci bags.

I know very little about women's handbags. In fact, I know nothing about them. I've never even seen a Gucci – in fact, I thought it was a breed of French poodle. Why then, I wondered, were women from all over the world asking me questions about Gucci?

The answer came when I accessed my eBay account and learned I was selling Gucci bags, 51 of them to be exact, for $51 each plus a $46 shipping fee. I had been charged $204 in listing fees by eBay, and three shoppers had already hit the "Buy It Now" button and purchased bags.

This unnerved me, because it meant someone had broken the code and gotten into my sacred innards. I felt violated, cheap, used. I felt sadness, then pain, finally anger. I wept, openly and fully, crying out for my lost $204 — until the e-mail came from Tallgirl93, who asked, "Where do I send the check?"

For a moment I felt like maybe I had lucked into a good thing, until I realized that should I start taking the money I would in fact be committing Internet fraud, and it wouldn't be long before I was a contestant for Senior Prom Queen at the Elmira Correctional Institution.

I quickly realized my PayPal account, with its complete access to the personal fortune I have amassed (by writing award-winning columns like this) was in danger. I tried to cancel it but I soon felt like I was communicating with Hal, the computer in 2001 A Space Odyssey, via e-mail.

Me: "I'd like to cancel my account immediately," I typed in.

Hal: "Is it something we've done wrong here at PayPal?"

Me: "No."

Hal: "Perhaps you'd feel better if you called us first?"

Me: "No, I wouldn't. Cancel my account now."

Hal: "What is your reason?"

Me: "Fraud! Someone has stolen my identity. Now cancel the goddamn account!"

Hal: "How do we know this is you, Rick? Rick never cursed at us before. Back away from the pod."

I really began to worry. If they got into my eBay account, they could access any number of my Internet hangouts and do irreparable damage to my family and me. What if they broached security and gained access to My Nude Oriental Teases? All hell would break loose.

I decided to call eBay. Guess what? If you want to send eBay money, you can call them, send it via pony express, have them pick it up, leave it under a doormat, slide an envelope under a door, or any other number of ways. But, you want to call eBay to cancel an account? Not happening. No such number. You must e-mail.

Me: "Please cancel my account at once and give back my money!"

eBay: "Thank you for contacting eBay. Please be advised we will respond within 48 to 72 hours."

Me: "That's too long! I'll be broke! I'll lose everything! Women all over earth will be paying for Gucci bags that don't exist!"

eBay: "Please don't reply to this e-mail. Replies cannot be processed."

It's my own fault. Karen refuses to give her credit card or bankcard number online. When she wants something, she asks me if she can use my PayPal. At first it was 10 bucks here or there, until she started ordering shoes over the 'Net. Once I told her she owed me $884. She gasped, as if she had no idea she had to pay me back.

When I was buying Jerry Garcia paraphernalia on eBay I never had a problem, at least not with eBay (though the Federal Narcotics Task Force sent a team in).

The most valuable article I ever "won" on eBay was a porcelain Garcia figurine known by the Dead Head glitterati as a "Wooden Jerry." It comes individually numbered — there are only 250 in the entire world — and with a certificate of authenticity. It was so named supposedly because Jerry is holding an acoustic guitar, hand-carved by a master craftsmen out of rare Brazilian rain forest rosewood.

Wooden Jerry is so valuable I don't even keep it in the house — it is buried somewhere in the woods, and upon my death each relative in my family will receive a clue as to where it is. My nieces and nephews will kill each other off, and the one remaining will put the clues together and own the priceless treasure for eternity.

Of course, Karen had to play killjoy. When I originally got him, I told her how much I paid for Wooden Jerry. She gasped and turned pale, realizing it was worth hundreds of pairs of shoes. I carefully removed him from his custom made box and a look of disgust crossed her face. "The guitar isn't even real wood," she sneered.

"Oh yeah?" I replied indignantly.

Come to think of it, the thing didn't look like porcelain, either. Only the Dead Heads know the true secret, the Legend of Wooden Jerry.

It is rumored that stashed inside the figurine is a piece of legendary Moroccan Thai Sesame Primo Gold, the hashish bound together by the dung of Himalayan camels said to be blessed by the Maharishi himself. Someday, it is said, Jerry himself will return and strum the "Lost Chord" on the wooden guitar and a secret door will open unveiling the hidden treasure.

Now my eBay days are over, just when I was contemplating making a run for the other 249 Wooden Jerrys, much like the Hunt brothers tried to corner the silver market two decades ago.

The bad news is, that dream is dead. The good news is, no more shoes on my PayPal account. They call it the yin and yang of life.

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