Instant Messages

“I can’t believe you’re even seriously asking me that,” was what popped up in my instant message screen a few weeks later.

As the weeks wore on, I went about trying to get back into what passed for normal in our household.  I completed a redesign of the RS website while my baby slept, I worked with Kim on updating the fan club website with her professional level graphics, I took Melinda to Gymboree classes with my baby in a sling, and picked Zach up from band practice and science club after school.

But the questions Kim had posed to me were still nagging me.  As I watched Elizabeth grow more and more into her expanded role, I grew more and more concerned that she was letting important details slip by.  I’d received an email from a fan asking about our birthday charity drive last summer.  It might sound a little nuts to a non groupie, but fans were always buying Rick Springfield all manner of gifts for his birthday, for Christmas and the like.  As his resurgence grew, so did the gift giving, until one day, Rick had asked us to please tell the fans it was not necessary.

Our fan base was nothing if not persistent.  They reasoned that he was trying to be polite and kept giving him gifts, ever more extravagant as they compared notes online with each other.  I knew there were fans who couldn’t afford to go back to school shopping for their children who were spending hundreds of dollars on gifts for him.  So we’d decided to try and thwart the desire by doing a birthday charity drive last August for Rick’s birthday.  The proceeds would go to one of Rick’s favorite charities, the Ronald McDonald House.  We’d chosen the Tucson one because a room had been dedicated to his father there while he was emceeing their tennis charity event back int he 1990s.  Vivian had asked Elizabeth to handle the collection because she had had such a difficult time with all of the recordkeeping of our 9/11 fundraiser.

The fans had been generous and we had raised nearly a thousand dollars for the charity.  Elizabeth was to send the money to the RMH and close out the drive.  Normally, when we collected money and donated it as a fan group, we published the confirmation letter from the charity so that fans could trust that we weren’t pocketing their donated funds.  Vivian had always done this in her paper newsletter.  We’d given Rick a framed version of the one from the Red Cross as well.  But as I paused to think of the response to this fan’s question, I realized that I didn’t remember Elizabeth ever sending out the confirmation, or sending it to me to load onto the website.

Elizabeth was available online through the AOL instant messenger, so I sent her a quick IM:  “Hey, got a Q about the RMH donation from last August.  Don’t know how to answer it.  Got a sec to talk about it?”

Her response was:   “Sure, what do you need to know?”

I typed in slowly, backspacing several times to make sure my words were clear without insinuating there was some dastardly deed afoot:  “Just need to know when you donated the funds and a copy of the confirmation to send to this fan.  I guess I must have forgotten where I saved it.”

I waited for Elizabeth’s response.  Normally, she typed so quickly that I could hardly finish typing a question before her answer appeared in the window.  But not this time.  A full thirty seconds elapsed before she finally sent these words to me:  “Oh shit.”

I messaged back, blood pressure rising:  “??”

More empty seconds before an explanation appeared on my computer screen:  “It looks like I never donated it.  I had put it in an online only bank account, and I just checked the balance.  It’s still there.”

Oh shit, indeed.  If word got out about this, we’d never hear the end of it.  It was May now.  She should have donated this money in August.  This, on top of the ticket issue that I’d managed to keep quiet for now, would not bode well for her.  I finally wrote back:  “OMG.  I can’t believe you haven’t taken care of that yet.  What were you thinking?”

Already the questions were popping up unbidden in my brain:  was she being truthful about still having the money?  Or had she spent it?  She’d taken a trip to Vegas last fall, not long after we’d closed out the donation drive.  It had come up quickly; had she used this money for it?  She and her husband were having money arguments all of the time; had she used this as some sort of proof that her time doing RS stuff wasn’t unpaid?

“I can’t believe you’re even seriously asking me that,” she typed into the window.  “I’ve had a million things going on.  Obviously I just forgot.  I’ll take care of it this week.”

I bit my lip.  I wanted to believe her, but how do you forget to donate nearly a thousand dollars of cash that isn’t yours?  For nine months?  “Well, you had better take care of it.  Fast,” I added, fingers flying across the keyboard in anger.  People weren’t going to continue to donate to charities through us if they didn’t trust us.  When this got out it would look bad for all of us who had worked on the charity drive.

“Obviously things have been a little busy for me,” Elizabeth typed into her window, clearly on the defensive.  “I hear the phone, I have to run.”  And just like that, the message window broadcasted her departure:  “Elizabeth is no longer online.”

“Just as well,” I said aloud to the computer.  “I am not sure what to say to you right now anyway.”


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