personal


HE SAYS:

When I started writing my blogs for the USFSB website in June, 2010, I had no idea that it would last this long or would have covered so many topics.   It has been an adventure that for the most part I enjoyed and from which I learned some valuable lessons.

Prior to this experience, most of my writing efforts were confined to the many court papers that needed to be written on behalf of my clients.   Even though those papers would be critiqued by a Judge and sometimes criticized for not being persuasive enough, I always was able to detach my personal feelings from the critique or criticism.   I took pride in my professionalism but never looked at those writings as personal statements.

Not so with blog writing.  Each effort was from a personal point of view and, as I was prone to say to Annemarie, posting each blog was like giving birth to one of my creations.   I had to learn both to accept challenges to those posts that were personal in nature and to respond in as civil and courteous a manner as I could muster while still meeting the challenge and defending my opinion or belief.   That’s not to suggest that I did not welcome the responses even the negative ones since having an involved and engaging discussion was the point after all.

In any event, I have run out of topics of interest to me and decided to take a hiatus of an indefinite duration from writing blogs.   For those who have enjoyed my efforts I am gratified and for those who did not all I can say is that I believed it was far more important to be true to myself than to try and please everyone.

Goodbye and good luck.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

I once posted a blog entitled “Give Them What They Want” in which I succumbed to the popular interest in all things cute by posting some incredibly cute pictures of my son’s Min Pin, Enzo.  I was reluctant to do so because I do not personally believe that just being cute is enough to inspire, amuse or entertain me or anyone else.   Cute is overrated.

I feel the same way about all of those trite feel good quotes and canned inspirational statements that are plastered all over Facebook and other social network sites and which pass for meaningful observations on life.   They have no validity when it comes to defining what life is all about and it is just as ridiculous to be inspired by them as it would be to rely on a fortune cookie to give you a meaningful look at your future.   They are both just superficial fluff that offer nothing of substance to your spirit or your mind.

I suppose there is no wonder that these things are so popular since we have reduced all of our information and thoughts into short sound bites so why not find our inspiration in the same way.   Real thoughts and true depth of feelings have given way in our fast paced and shallow culture to trite statements of wisdom and inspiration that are simply contrived messages designed to trigger a superficial feeling of well-being.

Life is far too sublime and your spirit much too lofty to be reduced to a few insipid words of fluff just as your future is too mysterious to be described in a fortune cookie.   I believe that our minds are too intelligent to be swayed by cute just as I believe our spirits are too expansive to be satisfied by the vapid purveyors of pre-packaged feel good words of inspiration.   We should understand that the real worth of the world and of our place in that world cannot be summed up in a few words of fluff.   You deserve better than that.

On Monday, Joe says goodbye.   

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

I have heard of people claiming to have had an out of body experience usually in connection with a near death experience.   I have never had an out of body experience even though I have been bored nearly to death many times.

However, I have had what I consider to be an out of mind experience on numerous occasions.  There are times when I am so befuddled or incredulous over some of the ridiculous things that people do that I start to feel that I must be going out of my mind since this can’t really be happening.

I am not talking about the intense or profound kinds of things that can dramatically affect our lives or which are of such great importance that they demand action.   I am talking about those simple yet annoying everyday kinds of things that just drive you up a wall even though there is not much you can do about them except shake your head in bewilderment.   I am sure we all have had an out of mind experience.   Here are some of mine.

I love going to the movies as a way to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life by enjoying a couple of hours of undistracted entertainment.   I usually have an out of mind experience when people can’t organize their lives well enough to even get to a movie on time and then think it is acceptable to rummage around a dark theater looking for a seat or when people feel it necessary to sit in front of me even though the theater is nearly empty or when people decide that a dark quiet theater would be the best place to have a conversation with their friends or when people spend two hours loudly ripping though one bag of treats after another as if no one will notice that they spent two hours eating everything they could get their hands on.

I do a fair amount of both local and highway driving and find that it can, even under the best of circumstances, require a good deal of patience.  I usually have an out of mind experience when people pull their car out of a side street or parking lot right in front of me as if they are in a great hurry and then hold me up as they proceed to go 10 MPH under the speed limit or when people are oblivious to the other traffic around them and won’t give me any room as I’m trying to merge onto a highway or when people rudely cut me off in traffic and then give me the universal salute as if I’m the one at fault or when people in bumper to bumper traffic make matters worse by holding back instead of helping to keep the traffic moving and most of all when people slow down to look at something on the side of the road thus needlessly causing the bumper to bumper traffic in the first place.

I have been on many cruises and in many other situations where I have had to go through a buffet line.   I usually have an out of mind experience when people take forever to work their way through the line as if they never saw food before and have to inspect and analyze every dish or when they act as if each choice is of monumental importance and have to carefully weigh each option before they can decide what to put on their plate or when they feel the need to meticulously fill their plate with some of everything available as if they will never have an opportunity to pass through the buffet line ever again.

I have had to patiently wait in line to buy tickets at one attraction or another just like everyone else.   I usually have an out of mind experience when people hold up the line as they negotiate with the person in the ticket booth so that they can figure out the absolute best combination of ticket options that will save them, maybe, a couple of dollars or when people ask one inane question after another as if they are completely unaware that there is a long line of people behind them or when they do anything other than quickly complete their business and move on.

Luckily, Annemarie can be the voice of reason and a paragon of patience whenever I get agitated by the things people do that seem to drive me out of my mind.

On Wednesday, Joe comments on those contrived words of inspiration we are all asked to share and like in “You Deserve Better Than That”.  

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

This is the second part of a two-part story. Click here to read part 1.

HE SAYS:

The credit card companies and the credit bureaus did a good job helping us build a security bubble over ourselves so that the thief was having a hard time being successful in his fraudulent efforts; however, none of them were interested in finding the thief and putting a stop to his criminal activity.  So, we naturally turned to law enforcement to catch and punish our thief in the belief that a crime as pervasive and destructive as identity theft would be taken seriously and pursued with vigor.  Oh, how wrong we were.

We first called the police department in our home town in New York and were advised that they would not take a complaint over the phone which, of course, would have required me to suffer the hardship of traveling over 2,700 miles to make a complaint in person.   This was just one of the many road blocks and inadequacies we encountered with law enforcement’s lack of desire and inability to do anything about identity theft.  We next went to our Sheriff’s Department in Arizona and we were able to make a report and, eventually, obtain an Incident Report; however, other than generating this report they had no interest in pursuing this crime or conducting any investigation on our behalf.   The Sheriff’s Department would not contact any of the credit card companies to obtain the information they had on the thief and took the position that unless the thief was in their jurisdiction they would not take any action.

Despite all of the frustration and lack of any effort by law enforcement to find the thief, we felt like we had things under control until the thief made his next move.   The postman that delivers the mail to our office in Schenectady, New York knows us and was somewhat incredulous when he asked our office manager why I was having my mail forwarded to some address in California.  We learned that our thief had filed in my name an online change of address form with the US Postal Service to have my mail forwarded from my office address to an address in a small town near Los Angeles, California.   This was the most unnerving development since not only was the thief trying to fraudulently use my name but was now trying to steal my mail with all of the privacy issues that entails.   This prompted us to go paperless and exclusively rely on receiving our credit card statements, bank statements, investment statements, and even our bills online.

We immediately called the Schenectady Post Office and we were given the number for the national postal service department that deals with change of address requests.   They were cooperative and cancelled the change of address; however, we were advised that it would take several days for the cancellation to become effective so that some mail would probably get forwarded since our mail could be automatically diverted before it ever reached Schenectady.

We next called the post office in California and they proved to be very helpful.   They agreed to intercept any of my forwarded mail and send it back to Schenectady.   They also advised that they had already been suspicious of the address the thief was using and that the post office would conduct a sting operation to catch our thief.   We were also assured of this by the US Postal Service Fraud Department which considers itself to be a national law enforcement agency.   We were very hopeful that something would finally be done until we came to understand that they are all talk and no action.   To our knowledge, they never pursued the matter and they never kept any of their promises to call us with updated information.

We also contacted the police department in that small town in California and sent them the Incident Report from the Arizona Sheriff’s Department in lieu of going there to personally file a complaint.  Since then, they have never returned any of our calls and apparently have not done anything to pursue this crime or help us.   We have found that law enforcement thinks and acts in very narrow and limited ways and is not prepared or equipped to deal with sophisticated technological crimes that are conducted on a national scale such as identity theft even when the thief is in their own backyard.

We ultimately filed our Police Incident Report with the three credit bureaus in order to extend our “Fraud Alerts” for seven years.   It has been six months since we have had any identity theft activity that we are aware of anyway and we have taken and continue to take remedial steps and precautions to prevent this from happening to us in the future.

What we learned is that it is easy for identity thieves to steal and use your identity and for good reason since no one in the entire process from the companies being defrauded to law enforcement to even agencies having a national reach such as the US Postal Service has the desire to fight identity theft and bring the thief to justice.   If you become the victim of identity theft, good luck, since you will have to fight to protect yourself with little or no chance of actually finding and stopping the thief.

On Monday, Joe encourages everyone to vote in “Bigger Than Any One Of Us”.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

That became the question once I realized I was the victim of identity theft.   Before it was over, I came to a new understanding of how frustrating it is to have your identity and good name assaulted in this way and how inept the system can be in providing any help in stopping the criminals involved.

It started in early April, 2012 while Annemarie and I were on our extended stay at our home in Arizona.  One day, my office manager called to tell me that my new card from a major credit card company had just arrived at my office.   I knew that I had not applied for any new credit cards, so I asked her to scan and e-mail me a copy of the card and the accompanying welcome letter.   Since the credit card had not yet been activated, I immediately called the fraud department of the credit card company and explained to them that the credit card was not requested by me and was a fraudulent transaction.   I must admit, that the credit card company was very cooperative in cancelling the credit card and agreed to flag my name and social security number so that even I could not obtain a new credit card from them without additional security screening.

What both angered and surprised me was that even though the credit card company would confirm that the fraudulent applicant had used my correct date of birth and social security number, they would not provide me with any other information regarding the thief claiming that the thief had privacy rights.  I was outraged that the person who was violating my privacy was able to hide behind the privacy rights afforded him by the very credit card company he was also defrauding.   The credit card company advised that they would give the information to law enforcement agencies if I provided them with an Incident Report; however, as we will see that proved to be a futile and fruitless process.   As an aside, I have not been able to determine how this thief obtained my Social Security Number.

Over the next several days my office was inundated with store cards from just about every major department store chain in the country.   Annemarie and I spent hours of our time calling the fraud departments of each of these stores and, in some cases, the banks that sponsor the store cards to have them cancelled.   Each call was an ordeal trying to work through the automated telephone prompts before you are able to reach a live person, then the list of questions to prove it was really me before they would address my problem, then being put on hold while they looked up my information and then the inevitable transfer to another person or department with more questions before you are finally able to find someone who could offer some help.  We would always follow-up with a letter to document the problem and request confirmation of the cancellation.   Fighting the fires started by the thief became a very time consuming process that took over our daily routine.

One bright spot was that the three major credit bureaus allow you to set up 90 day “Fraud Alerts” that lets the credit card companies know that you are the victim of identity theft.   This did go a long way in stopping or, at least, slowing down the thief’s success in obtaining credit cards in my name.   Instead, I would get calls every day asking if I was indeed the person requesting a new credit card and I would have to explain that I was being victimized by an identity thief.   In each case, they all took the position that the thief had privacy rights and they would not provide me with any information about his identity.

With the credit card situation somewhat in check, the thief turned to making purchases directly online using an online payment account he had set up in my name.   I did not find out about this until I received a bill from the online billing service connected with the fraudulent account.   Again, calls were made to cancel the account and we even called the underlying merchant to tell them directly about the fraud.   Unfortunately, one order had been shipped already and even though we were not being held responsible for the charge, I felt angry that the thief had found a way to be rewarded for his crimes.   Even under these circumstances, neither the online billing service nor the merchant would tell me anything about the thief even though they had his delivery address.   I could not believe that the business that was being robbed would protect the thief in this way.

In each and every case, we were told that it was our responsibility to seek the help of law enforcement since the credit card companies, department stores and even the small merchant all looked at identity theft as part of the cost of doing business and will not pursue criminal charges against identity thieves.

On Wednesday, Joe concludes his story about his personal experiences with identity theft in “Who Would Want To Be Me? (The End, Maybe)”.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

I have mentioned that we are a very competitive family and that sports have been a big part of our family activities in “Sports Are A Reflection Of Life”; however, I failed to mention that the game we played the most often together as a family and with great competitive spirit was golf.   I don’t mean the version where the players must negotiate vast tracks of well manicured grass at exclusive country clubs.   I mean that much more intricate game of miniature golf that is played with great finesse as well as fine tuned eye hand coordination and motor skills.   In miniature golf you have more to contend with than some sand or a pond; you have to deal with such things as windmills, dragons and sliding trap doors as you traverse the booby trapped course.

Miniature Golf with our children - 1993

Miniature Golf with our children – 1993

Miniature Golf with our children - 1993

Miniature Golf with our children – 1993

Miniature golf became a big part of our Jersey Shore vacation experience and from the beginning we would find the time to play almost every day.   When my children were very young, I would patiently teach them the finer points of the game and as they got better the competition became more intense.   As they were learning the game, I would give each child a handicap based on their age and level of skill in order to keep the matches fair and competitive; however, even the handicap became a bone of contention.   As my children got older, they would invariably complain about the size of someone else’s handicap if that player was playing better than expected.   The handicaps have long since become unnecessary and, eventually, as the students became the teachers and could, on any given day, beat me, the matches became especially competitive with the gauntlet being thrown down at the beginning of every match.   Annemarie decided early on that she would rather be the official and impartial score keeper than be part of this competition.

The Champion Match - 2000

The Champion Match – 2000

One year, we decided to raise the stakes at one of our family matches and, inspired by a movie the children liked, we all agreed that the losers would bow down and say “we are not worthy” to the winner.   I will not reveal who won on that particular occasion but suffice it to say it was one of the children and the whole victory display was videotaped for posterity.   Just this year, when Annemarie, Julia and I went to the Jersey Shore in June to check on the condo, Julia challenged me to a head to head match at our favorite and quite difficult miniature golf course.   The competition was intense and after a well played match Julia emerged the victor.   At her request and in homage to that one match many years earlier, I bowed to her in deference to her greater skill on that day.   She posted that picture on Facebook with the caption “It’s a tough life always winning.”

Julia's Facebook picture - June, 2012

Julia’s Facebook picture – June, 2012

We have had many guest players join us on our family miniature golf matches and we always welcome friends and extended family to join in the fun.   Many of these guest players have been very good and, on occasion, even win the match; however, at its heart, every match is still about the family competition that is miniature golf with the Cardamones.

Our children with some guest players

Our children with some guest players

On Monday, Joe begins his two part story about his personal experience with identity theft in ”Who Would Want To Be Me? (The Beginning)”.  

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

There are times in everyone’s life when you come to the proverbial fork in the road that requires you to make a choice and, sometimes, the direction you take comes to you by chance through a random series of events.   One of the most meaningful changes in my life came as a result of one of those completely unplanned and unexpected events.

Before I get to the heart of the matter, a little background information is in order.  Despite the fact that no one in my family had ever gone to college, my mother always impressed on me the importance of an education and it was a given as far as she was concerned that I would go to college.  As I mentioned in “Simple Lessons”, my mother did go to a “business school” for a year; however, it really was a trade school to learn secretarial and clerical skills so she was not able to give me any practical advice when it came time for me to choose a college.  My high school guidance counselor recommended that I go to the newly expanded campus of a local state university that only a few years earlier had been a small teachers college and lacking any other information I took his advice.

I was unhappy at this local school for many reasons all of which came down to the feeling I had that this was somehow not the college experience I wanted.   It felt ordinary and bland, it was lackluster and uninspiring and it was close to home.   I felt that I wanted more.   Then the fork in the road came by chance.

One Saturday morning during my first spring semester, a fellow student that I barely knew told me that he was driving to Syracuse to see his girlfriend and would I like to go along for the ride.  Looking for any excuse to get away, I agreed to go with him without asking many questions nor was there much information given before or during the drive.  As we approached Syracuse, I was informed that his girlfriend lived with her parents and would I mind if he dropped me off at Syracuse University and pick me up on Sunday as he was sure that I could find a place to “crash” on the campus.  I was surprised but not all that upset since I was curious to see the campus.

I remembered that Carl, a high school acquaintance, had once mentioned that he was going to Syracuse University.  I went to the Student Center and inquired about Carl who was, in fact, a student and I was able to find his dorm room.   He was not at his dorm but his roommate told me that he was working at the Sigma Chi Fraternity so I went there to find him.  He was busy working in the kitchen and told me it would be alright for me to wait for him in the game room of the fraternity.  As I was waiting, I struck up a conversation with some of the fraternity brothers and before long they were inviting me to not only go out drinking with them that evening but also invited me to stay at the fraternity house.   I had a great weekend which proved to be a turning point for me.

By the end of that weekend, I knew that Syracuse University was the place for me and would give me the college experience I was looking for and not finding at my local school.  I was able to get into Syracuse University the following fall as a transfer student and soon was invited to be a pledge and, eventually, a brother of the Psi Psi Chapter of Sigma Chi.  For me, being at Syracuse was an awakening and opened a whole new world of experiences that, in many ways, changed my life.  I met and interacted with people from all over the world, from many walks of life and from every socio-economic level far beyond anything I would ever have experienced in the provincial confines of my home town.   Little did I know that years in the future all of my children would also graduate from Syracuse University and that I would have a life long relationship with the University.

Planning and paying attention to details aside, sometimes, the best choices you can make come upon you by chance.   The unexpected fork in the road may present some risk but taking that risk can lead to wonderful changes in your life.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

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