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Please, take my identity, my phone and my mug

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By JAN GLIDEWELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2001


Identity theft may be a scarier crime for some of us than others.

With apologies to Othello, he who steals my good name steals even more trash than he who steals my purse.

I was really surprised about 20 years ago to learn that there was a Spring Hill bar where I had been declared persona non grata. Being declared such was not an entirely unheard of situation back in those, my younger and wilder days, but I had never been in that bar.

Seems that someone with the extreme misfortune of looking like me had created a disturbance there in my name and, on being ejected, had left threatening to write bad things about the bar and its management.

I have an ethical problem with using my column to settle personal scores, and I have, or at least had when it was an issue, an even bigger problem with using it to advise Times management that I had been involved in public disorderly conduct. They had a way of finding out enough as it was.

And I am blessed with only having had one credit card stolen, and having had only about $1,000 racked up on it by someone who made it easy for me to explain that it was probably not I who had bought 10 pairs of jeans from the petite juniors section of a department store.

Having your picture in the paper three times a week is a two-edged sword. It makes it harder to get away with some things, but it also makes it hard for someone who isn't you to pretend that he is.

We even ran a "Jan Glidewell Look Alike" contest back in 1982. As I recall there were three people with so little self-respect that they entered . . . and that is only if you include the guy who was so unkind as to send in a picture of his dog's rear end.

The prize was a dinner with me, and the winner actually said he'd rather not.

Other than that, go ahead, take my identity, please.

The big thing with identity thieves is using your Social Security number and other vital statistics to obtain credit cards.

It should be a hint that the only guy who ever tried to steal mine had to settle for getting into a bar fight. If you apply for credit cards in my name, you are going to spend a lot of your time opening correspondence that reads:

* * *

Dear Mr. Glidewell,

We regret being able to add you to our chump list of people who bit on ridiculously low interest offers that skyrocket to 23 percent the first time your payment fails to meet the fine-print requirement of having a Ukrainian postmark. And, anyhow, our research of your credit history shows that you are more overextended than a 4-foot tall NBA center and spread more thinly than the HMO resources our insurance friends promise retirees. Even though we, personally, think your entry of the word "manana" in the "amount paid" box on credit card payment coupons is cute, we are about as likely to offer you credit as Marilyn Manson is to become a heavyweight contender. . . .

* * *

And then, if you must steal my credit, take my phone number, too. Be prepared, then, to spend an inordinate amount of your time talking to people wearing tinfoil hats who are being pursued by black helicopters and are convinced that global warming is a direct result of limitations placed on school prayer.

There also will be a few dozen calls each night from people who obviously studied elocution by dropping acid and listening to rap music, who will introduce themselves as loan officers and beg to loan you large amounts of money for second mortgages and who will pretend to be offended if you use the term "kneebreakers" to refer to their collection departments.

Throw in several angry ex-wives and girlfriends, a few dozen readers who don't like what you've written about cats, low-income housing, separation of church and state, nude dancing, political bosses or developers.

And, finally, when you can't take it any more, just get in your car and go for a ride.

When a cop or deputy stops you, remind them that you are the guy who suggested that their sheriff or chief wear a red nose and big shoes and have a car horn that plays Send In The Clowns.

They love that kind of stuff.

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