Thursday, March 22, 2012


I've been seeing a lot of people talk about karma lately.  I've been living in the land of karma myself since last November.  Now I've hit the jackpot of karma-ness.  I am working as a long-term substitute teacher.  I'm teaching Spanish. It's a Catholic high school.  And I love it.

Anyone who knows me from my Mexico days will probably not believe it.  I don't believe it myself.  All I can say is it different here in Iowa, a landlocked state no where near Mexico.  If I tried to be a Spanish teacher anywhere near the border with my gringa accent, I would be laughed out of town.  But here in Iowa, no problema. In fact, good luck finding a qualified Spanish teacher here more than 3/4 of the way through the school year.  Iowa is a little more strict on licensing substitute teachers with most districts requiring a degree and completion of a teacher's education program.  Texas only requires a high school diploma!

I have 120 Spanish II students. I can keep 2 steps ahead of them.  I also have the only Spanish AP class, all seniors and brilliant.  Keeping them challenged is my challenge. Also, a prayer is led at the beginning of each class.  Public schools should try it (nondenominational, of course). It gets the students settled and focused to begin the class.  And it is helping me too. Since my brother-in-law died, I have been too angry.  The anger is slowly deflating like a balloon leftover from a party. Soon I am going to throw the balloon out.

Friday, March 16, 2012

When Did I Become A Fuddy-Duddy?

I've ranted about women who tattoo on their eyebrows so in the interest of fair play I shall ask what's up with the guys that stretch out their ear lobes?  I took the older nephew shopping tonight at Old Navy and was greeted by the sight of the manager with 2 inch holes in his ears. I had an overpowering desire to hook up my dog's leash to one of his ears and take him for a walk.

Then I saw these brand new ripped up jeans on sale for $29.99.  Seriously?  They look ready for the rag pile.

And then I remembered an incident back in the 1970's when jeans were only sold with the crispiness of dark blue. My mother bought me a pair of blue jean overalls which were the rage that year. The first thing I did was pulled the hem out of the bottom so they would drag on the ground. Then I washed them with a gallon of bleach. I went to the local drug store and bought 2 patches in the form of an American flag and a peace sign . I sewed them on the butt area. Finally, I walked up and down the sidewalk to scruff up the bell bottoms. About a week later I came home from school and walked into the kitchen. Mom was eyeballing me and finally asked  where I had gotten the overalls I was wearing. 

"These are the new ones you bought me last week. Aren't they cool?" I replied.

"I spent good money and you ruined them!" she cried.

I used to be hip, cool and with it. At some point I've become a fuddy-duddy turning my nose up at tattooed eyebrows, stretched out ear lobes, and brand new ripped up jeans.  But I would pay good money to get back my cool, bleached out, patched up, hem ripped overalls. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Trish the Skim Artist

The moral of the story is never let your credit card out of your sight especially to a waitress named Trish at the Olive Garden in Mcallen, Texas.

Backtracking more than 2 years ago, my friend Linda and I spent an lovely November afternoon away from Reynosa shopping in Mcallen and finished up by having a delicious meal at the Olive Garden. I remember that day very well.  As we ate, another teacher called us from Reynosa wondering where we were because he was locked inside the supermarket while a gun battle was raging outside.  We told our server Trish about the gun battle and that's when we found out that she, a blonde gringa, also lived in Reynosa with her Mexican husband. We chatted for a while and Linda and I both thought she was a excellent waitress and a lot of fun. Heck, she even brought us an extra plate of fettuccine Alfredo. We ended up exchanging numbers with a promise to get together.  I paid by credit card. It was easier to shop in McAllen with a credit card and once a month I exchanged pesos for dollars to pay my bill. About a month later, I got a phone call from my credit card company asking me if I had made 4 charges totaling about $880 to a Home Depot in St. Cloud, Florida.  Uh, no, I responded, I had not been to Home Depot, let alone Florida. I had to fill out a form contesting the charges and I was issued a new credit card. 

Linda and I made another shopping trip to Mcallen the following January and topped it off by another lunch at Olive Garden. And guess who was our server?  Yup, it was Trish again. And again we had a wonderful time and we promised we'd get together in Reynosa.  I paid by my newly issued credit card. Guess what? The following month I was called by my credit card company about 4 transactions at Home Depot in Florida for nearly the exact amount as before.  This time the fraud investigator called me and he was downright nasty. He insisted I had given out my card to someone and that I knew who was doing this.  I replied I'd never given my card to anyone EVER and I had no clue how it could have happened to me twice. I was threatened with permanent cancellation of my card.  I requested to speak with his supervisor. He refused my request and hung up on me. Needless to say, I was livid and I called back, spewed a few choice words, and requested a supervisor.  A few days later I got a call from them. Surprisingly I was given an apology and they issued me a new card. 

Fast forward to June 2010 when I got a letter (my mailing address was in Edinburg, Texas) from the U.S. Department of Justice. I stared at the envelope with trepidation fearing what I would find inside. Nervously I opened the envelope not sure as to why they would send me a letter. As I read the letter, it did not make sense. I still did not put 2 and 2 together. It said:

Re: United States vs. Patricia Kaefer
Case number xxxxxxx and court docket number xxxxxxx
Account number xxxxxxxxx 
Dear Ms. Gervais,
Your name has been forwarded to our office by law enforcement as a victim (or potential victim) in the above mentioned criminal case. Charges have been filed against defendant Patricia Kaefer...

The rest of the letter just gave generic information and how I could call the VNS (Victim Notification System) which I did but this still did not really give me a clue. 

I took the letter back to Reynosa where I discussed it with another friend.  This friend, who shall remain anonymous, had a login id with access to look up federal case numbers.  After looking up the case via the internet, finally, the light bulb went on.  Patricia Kaefer, a waitress at the Olive Garden, was taken in for interrogation by a federal agent where she confessed to having a device that could skim all credit card information. She said that she was given the device before her work shift by a man that she only knew his first name and then gave it back to him after work. For each skim, she was paid $5.  She pulled the device out of her purse and gave it to the investigator.  The interview was concluded and she was allowed to leave. 

Now I was curious. Where was Trish?  In jail or did she hightail to Reynosa? I went to Linda's apartment and asked her if she still had Trish's phone number and she did so I called Trish.  And she answered! She was definitely in Reynosa. I told her my name and asked if we could meet. At first she was all excited, but I could tell by the disjointed conversation she thought I was someone else. She kept talking about me bringing her the birth certificate. I'm guessing she was planning to use someone else's birth certificate to cross into Texas. When she finally figured out I was not who she thought I was, she became hedgy and wouldn't commit to meeting me. (FYI - I had no intention of meeting up with her.)  After we hung up, I called the prosecutor of her case and he was very interested because by then she was a fugitive. He called me 3-4 times after that to see if I had any new information. 

Fast forward again to October 2011 when I got another letter from the US Department of Justice stating that Trish would be going to trial on December 6.  I'm not sure if she turned herself in or if her luck ran out. Out of curiosity I googled her name and found an article in The Monitor from May 2010 that I missed before. I also found her on Facebook so, naturally, I sent out friend request to her and her husband.  Unbelievably, both were accepted.  Her FB didn't have any photos, but her husband's did and it was definitely her. So was she in jail or did they let her out on bond?   I was determined to go to the federal courthouse on December 6, but fate intervened when my brother-in-law died on Thanksgiving day and I was in Iowa on that day. I didn't know what happened until I got another letter in February stating that Trish was sentenced to 15 months in prison to be followed by 2 years of probation. 

Meanwhile, we'll still be Facebook friends.