It’s 4:00 on Friday afternoon. I’m in my bedroom getting ready to go to a wedding at 5:00 when my doorbell rings. Half-make-upped, I open the door. It’s a man I’ve never seen before, maybe early 40s, wearing a black sports coat over a white polo shirt, black pants, and black dress shoes.
“I am so sorry to bother you,” he says with a chagrin smile by way of introduction, “I was wondering if you’ve got AAA*. I’ve locked my keys in my car.”
“Sure, I’ve got AAA,” I tell him. “I’ll call them for you.”
“I’m Melissa’s boyfriend, Melissa from upstairs,” he calls after me as I start to shut the door so I can go get my purse. “I’ve seen you around.” The only people I know who live upstairs are guys flutters through my head, but then I think Maybe he’s talking about the people I don’t know who live on the other side of the building.
As I hold my AAA card in one hand and my phone in the other, I ask him to write down the information about his car.
“Where is your car?” I asked him.
“It’s at the UPS store on Atlantic Avenue,” he tells me. “I feel like such an idiot. I'm really sorry to bother you, but I appreciate your help.”
Atlantic Avenue? That’s like four miles from here! I think. Did he really walk here from there? Wasn’t there someone else he could have called before getting to my apartment complex?
“That’s far,” is my only comment. He scribbles down “2014 Honda Accord” on the piece of paper I offer him.
“Don’t you have to be with me when AAA comes?” he asks, a little nervously.
“The last time I used it the person with the card had to be there.”
“Nah, I don’t think so,” I tell him. “If they know where your car is, that’s all that matters.” I start to dial the phone. We’re still standing outside in front of my apartment door, the door itself shut tight behind me. The phone starts to ring.
“If you need roadside assistance, please press one,” says the automatic recording. I press one.
“Thank you for calling Triple A, this is so-and-so, are you in a safe location?” intones the customer service associate.
“Yes, I am. I was calling about – ”
The man immediately interrupts me. “Uh, thanks a lot for calling,” he says, “But I guess I’ll just go see if I can find the maintenance man.”
“ – never mind,” I tell the woman on the phone. “Everything is OK. Thank you!” I hang up and look at the man. But he’s disappeared down the stairs.
I go back inside, lock my door, and call the front office.
“Hi, this is Jaimie,” I greet the woman on the phone. “Do you know if there’s a
Melissa who lives in my building?”
“Melissa? Not off the top of my head,” she says. “Why?”
I tell her about the man who just came to my house. She asks for a few more details, and then says, “Yeah, he shouldn’t be here. I’ll send someone out right now to find out what’s going on.”
A few minutes later I get another knock at my door. It’s the maintenance man. He wants to know what the guy who came to my house looks like and what he’s wearing. I tell him, and he runs off.
Meanwhile, I finish getting ready for the wedding, step outside, and lock my door tight behind me. On my way out of the parking lot, I see the woman from the front office locking the office door behind her. I don’t see either the maintenance guy or the AAA guy.
As of Sunday night, I still don’t know what that scam was all about, but I do know that it left me feeling suspicious and on guard. I’ve had weirdoes come to my door before, but that was in Japan. I don’t like to think that they’ve followed me here.
*for friends in foreign countries who don’t know, Triple A is a road-side service company that helps you when your car has a flat tire or runs out of gas or something. Or if you lock your keys out of your car.