So much for Plan B

Published 11:18 pm Thursday, June 11, 2009

There was a time when — no matter how bad things got at work, no matter how angry my wife might be at me — I could always take comfort in the fact that I had great friends in Nigeria.

Mind you, I’ve never actually met these friends, but that’s not such a big deal in this age of e-mail communication, Facebook friends and Twitter followers. After all, today, even the most socially inept of us can boast dozens of electronic friends whose “real” identities are only hinted at in their public profiles.

These Nigerian friends of mine also have a surprisingly limited knowledge about the things that one might expect his friends to know about him. But who’s to say that one can’t count on someone else, just because that other person doesn’t know a few arcane details like his name or where he lives?

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When you get right down to it, isn’t it more important that they know about my long-lost uncle, who apparently died in a horrible plane crash, leaving an estate worth tens of millions of dollars that can’t be distributed without a will — or at least without a distant American relative willing to turn over his banking information to a helpful Nigerian banker who only wants my banking information and 60 percent of the take for his troubles?

Since my wife won’t allow me to share that information with just anyone — she only grudgingly allows me to have a debit card — I’ve dutifully filed away all those Nigerian e-mails, secure in the knowledge that if she ever packs her bags and leaves in the proverbial huff, at least Dr. Frank Mbah — Chairman of the Contract Verification and Review Panel, the man in charge of Foreign Debt Payment for his distinguished financial institution — would be there for me. Surely he would understand my situation, and my cut of the Twenty Million United States Dollars would allow me to begin rebuilding my shattered life.

On Thursday, though, I began to wonder just how much of a comfort Dr. Mbah would be in such a time. His latest dispatch, you see, was somewhat less gracious than the former ones. One could even construe it as threatening, though I’m willing to write that off as merely a function of our disparate cultures.

“WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU TODAY BECAUSE THIS MATTER IS VERY SERIOUS HERE,” the subject line shouts. “A very surprising record was discovered in (my) payment file,” Dr. Mbah states, explaining that my $20 million payment has been approved four times and paid twice, resulting in some unwanted scrutiny by dastardly U.S. and British government officials.

Now, the Central Bank of Nigeria, he continues, “really” wants me to explain “what (I) know about this transfer/payment.” Whatever happened to the conciliatory — if not conspiratorial — tone of your earlier e-mails, Dr. Mbah?

I’m not sure I know how to answer these questions. What I do know, however, is that some dishonest so-and-so now has my $20 million, leaving the whole government of Nigeria — not to mention the U.S. and Britain — hot on my trail.

Now that Plan B is out the window, I suppose I’ll just have to pray that my wife never leaves — and that she’ll one day give me back my debit card.