Identity Theft and YOU! (Well, me, actually…)

Every month and a half or so, I assume the identity of someone I’m not and sign a signature that isn’t mine. Which, here in Canada, makes me guilty of the criminal offences of “fraudulently personating another person” and forgery.

Phew! I’m glad I got that off my chest.

In my defence, it’s all because of a silly mixup. And if ever I were taken to task for it, I would hope that any judge would be completely understanding of my plight and the motivation behind it (but just in case, please don’t turn me in!)

Here’s how it came about…

Every six weeks, my daughter requires a delivery of medical supplies. When hubby first set up our account with the medical supply company, he listed my daughter’s name (since they’re her supplies) and his name (since she’s a minor and an adult’s authorization was required and he was the one typing in the info).

So far so good.

Now comes the tricky part.

When the supplies are delivered to our door within 1 to 3 business days by our friendly neighbourhood Canada Post mail carrier, a signature is required. My daughter, who is always at school when the supplies arrive, and is, as previously noted, a minor, is therefore neither present nor eligible to sign for their safe receipt. And while hubby is over the age of majority by several decades (sorry, hon) and therefore eligible to sign, he’s always at work during the day when the supplies arrive, rendering him unavailable.

That’s where I come in (yes, she of works-from-home-and-is-always-here-but-is-not-one-of-the-names-on-the-account renoun).

The first time the supplies arrived and the carrier said, “Delivery for Luc or Vivianne M.)” I didn’t even hesitate. I signed my daughter’s name. Whether this indicates quick thinking or criminal tendencies is up for debate. But because I didn’t change my name when hubby and I got married (again: sorry, hon), I didn’t want to complicate things by using my own name and risk not being allowed to take the supplies.

This went on for several months with no issues. And since it was always the same carrier, we kind of got to know each other. We’d talk about the weather, he’d tell me about his weekend plans, I’d forge my daughter’s signature and he’d hand over the goods with a chipper, “Thanks, Vivianne! Have a great day!”

But then it happened: I screwed up. I must have been distracted, pulled away from some critical task like avoiding writing my novel or descaling my coffee maker. In any case, there it was in black and white (well, grey-tone, actually; it’s a digital signature on a tiny handheld device): my actual name, “Jen Y.”

The carrier looked at it, looked at me, looked back at the screen.

Thinking I was finally caught out, I was quick to explain why I was signing for a package that wasn’t addressed to me, stammering, “Vivanne is my daughter…”

He studied my face again. Then his eyes widened and he smiled.

“Wow!” he replied in disbelief. “Do you two ever look alike!”

I could have corrected him then and there, and in retrospect I should have. But sometimes situations get to the point where they’re just too embarrassing to even address. It’s simply easier to play along.

So to our friendly neighbourhood Canada Post mail carrier, I’m still Vivianne most days (apparently she’s home more often than Jen). To the point where he even asks me to “sign for your mom” when he delivers her (I mean “my”) Nespresso capsules for my (I mean “her”) pristine coffee maker.

I never meant to live a life of crime. But I’m in so deep I can’t get out now. And I’m pretty sure that “Well, Your Honour, I was too embarrassed to stop” is not a valid legal defence for my actions.

So if ever the authorities catch, convict and lock me away, just be sure to tell my husband and my mom (I mean “my daughter”) that I did it all for them.

Just to clarify…

A friend recently posted a lengthy yes or no Q&A on Facebook called Bucket List–Canadian Version. Since I’m a list lover and questionnaire taker extraordinaire, I couldn’t resist filling it out. But the black and white yes/no format was a little too constricting, and I feel like some clarification on a few of the items may be in order…

  • Yes, I have technically been on a cruise. Several in fact. A dinner cruise on the St. Laurence Seaway in Quebec City. An evening family cruise on the Bahia Belle sternwheeler on Mission Bay, San Diego. Sightseeing cruises on the Rideau Canal here in Ottawa. But have I been on a CRUISE cruise? Like a Disney cruise? A Caribbean cruise? A Mediterranean cruise? A Viking river cruise? No, I have not. Do I casually leave huge glossy brochures about said cruises in strategic places around the house in the hopes that Luc will book one for my 50th birthday? Yes. Yes I do.
  • Yes, I can drive a stick shift. No, I do not enjoy it. Tying up my right hand on the gear shift when it could be put to better use bringing my latte to my mouth seems silly. And having three pedals instead of two–and using two feet instead of one–seems like a waste of parts and energy, and is way more complicated than it needs to be since the invention of something called AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION. I would rather stay home than drive Luc’s standard. But I will concede that having this skill under my belt has come in handy on more than one occasion over the years, so when the time comes, both of the kids will learn to drive on Luc’s car.
  • No, I have never played in a band, unless pots and pans and wooden spoons count. Those, combined with my piano and some pretty awesome air guitar were the basis for a band that my brother, some of our childhood friends and I pulled together from time to time. We also did some stellar lip syncing to the likes of Blondie, Journey and the Grease soundtrack. Who knows? If “Canada’s Got Talent” had been around in the 80s, our lives may have taken a completely different path…
  • Along the same lines (but not really), yes, I have sung karaoke. Twice. The first time I have absolutely no recollection of. I’m told it was with a group. I’ve been reassured that it wasn’t absolutely horrible. Considering the amount of alcohol it took to get me on stage, I have my doubts. The second time was captured on video at my step-sister’s 40th birthday party. Surprisingly (but not really), it was with those self-same childhood friends mentioned above. Less surprisingly, we performed a song from the Grease soundtrack, background singers, dance moves and all. No, I will not share it with you.
  • No, I have never been downhill skiing. Plummeting down a mountain with only two slim boards, a couple of sticks and my limited athletic abilities does not sound like fun or a good idea.
  • No, I have never jumped out of a plane, nor do I ever plan to. Unless, of course, we’re going down in flames over an ocean somewhere, I have my inflatable life jacket on and my seat cushion flotation device gripped in my hands, and the stewardess is yelling “Abort! Eject! Jump!” in which case I will do so willingly. Jumping out of a plane is not a sport. It’s survival.
  • No, I have never donated blood. How is that possible? I should really call Canadian Blood Services today. It’s in me to give.
  • Yes, I swear I have been on TV, but no, you can’t see me. There’s an a-ha music video that includes footage from one of their concerts, a wide camera sweep of the venue and audience. I’m convinced it was the concert I was at in Toronto and if I could just get the VCR to stop on exactly the right spot on the tape that I taped off of MuchMusic when the video was released, you’d find me there in row 6. But it was dark. And blurry. So you’ll have to take my word for it.
  • No I do not have a tattoo. Not yet. My best friend brought up the idea the year we turned 40. Six years later I haven’t been able to decide on a design I love enough to have it permanently etched on my body. Maybe I’ll decide by the time we turn 50. Hey! Maybe I could get it done on the cruise that Luc’s taking me on!

The Girl Who Plays Piano

The story goes that there was an old beat-up piano in my kindergarten classroom at St. Mark Catholic Elementary School. Every minute of free play time that I got, I sat down on the rickety stool, my feet dangling above the floor, and practiced the simple songs some teacher at some point in the past had hand-written on foolscap using coloured dots that corresponded to the faded dots mapped out on small, curled-at-the-edges rectangles of masking tape on the loose and cracking ivory keys.

In Grade 1, I got permission to skip morning recess outside so that I could spend 15 minutes in the empty kindergarten room playing the same old songs (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Frère Jacques…) and figuring out new ones on my own.

In Grade 2, my teacher called in my parents–who claimed they had no idea I could even play, let alone that I’d been at it for two years already–and suggested that they buy me a piano and sign me up for lessons.

I have only vague memories of being in my own little musical world seated at that old piano (although as I’m writing about it, I still stongly feel the thrill and the strangeness of being small and alone in a quiet, empty classroom, with no other students and no supervising teacher). And I don’t honestly know how much of the story has been exaggerated over the years, the way family anecdotes become family myths. But from that point on, “Jenny’s the girl who plays piano” became as much a defining part of my identity as “Jenny’s got brown hair” or “She’s the one with freckles.”

Other kids had sports…I had piano. I played a lot and I played well. I had weekly lessons through the school year and often took extra theory lessons in the summer. I practiced because I had to, and then I played because I wanted to.  I participated in talent shows and recitals. I passed my exams with honours. I competed in the annual Kiwanis festival. Eventually, I started writing my own songs, bought synthesizers and a digital piano and tried my hand at mixing and recording.

I stayed on with my piano teacher until the end of high school. By that point I had passed Grade 10 piano and was spending more time on popular music than classical, and was no longer training for exams. Since I didn’t want to study music at university and had no desire to teach piano myself, asking my parents to continue paying for lessons made no sense.

Without the structure of lessons and practicing, I played the piano less and less. Yes, I brought my synthesizers and digital piano with me when I moved away and I sometimes played for my roommates or just to relax. I still played Christmas carols for friends and neighbours at my parents’ annual Christmas Eve party on the sturdy old upright they’d gotten for me when I was 7. When my friends started getting married, of course I played at their weddings. And my first instict, when I received a life insurance payment when my mom died, was to purchase the baby grand I’d always dreamed of owning.

But somewhere along the way, the less I played, the more the part of me that identified with the piano changed too. I would no longer say, “I play piano” but “Sure, I can play piano.” It was no longer something I did; it was just something else I could do. But didn’t.

I’ve been weeding through my stacks of music books and sheet music this morning and feel like I’ve been visiting with someone–or someones–I used to know.

  • I remember a little girl excited to get her first crisp “Teaching Little Fingers How to Play” music book who was confused but enthralled to learn that music was a written language and not simply coloured dots on a keyboard.
  • I remember a child terrified to play her memorized piece in front of the whole school for the first time who, upon playing it flawlessly, becomes impatient for the next chance to play to an audience and applause.
  • I remember a teen smashing her fists on the keys in frustration after hours of struggling to master Bach and then getting right back to it, determined that in the end she’d be able to play it effortlessly.
  • I remember a grown woman crying and saying good-bye when her childhood home was sold, and her dear old upright along with it.

And my fingers remember too; better, even, than my brain.

Beethoven. Liszt. Debussy. Chopin. And yes, the dreaded Bach. I played them all this morning, struggling at first, intimidated by the jumble of notes on the pages that I couldn’t believe I ever knew how to play and thought I couldn’t possibly still pull off.

But the minute my brain shut off, my hands took over and I made my way through. Not flawlessly. Not effortlessly. But I played.

I’m no longer “the girl who plays piano.” She’s just one of many someones I’ve been but will never be again.

But I can play.

And I think I will.

Where I’m Coming From…and Going To

In January 2013 my husband, Luc, and I started up the parallel blogs mewomanyouman.WordPress.com and memanyouwoman.WordPress.com (check them out if you have a minute).

We had a great run for awhile there, posting our he said/she said format regularly in the first year, a little less frequently in our second, and only four times in all of 2015. What can I say? Life gets in the way of a good thing sometimes.

In the meantime, I’ve been dabbling again in some of my own writing: dozens of unfinished children’s books, several unfinished short stories, two unfinished book-length works of non-fiction…you get the picture. While I would like to actually finish and publish something (sooner rather than later) I’ve also realized that I really miss blogging. I just couldn’t come up with anything to blog about on my own.

Then my 10-year-old daughter came home from school with this literary masterpiece: “My mom’s name is Jennifer. She gets stressed a lot but is really nice.” Ouch.

And here we are.

What better way to figure out how I’ve gotten to be this me than to write about it? I mean, if I’m going to obsess about it anyway (which we all know I am), I might as well build a blog about it. How did I get here? Who am I today? What makes me ME? And ultimately, is this the me I want to be?

So that’s where I’m coming from. As for where I’m going to, I’ll figure it out along the way.

Let’s have some fun with this!