As events were swirling around me these last few days, I couldn't help but think of the classic 1967 Clint Eastwood Film "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly," as sort of a theme, although the Falmouth version of this spaghetti western might more aptly be titled "The Bad, the Good & the Ugly." Here's why:
The Bad: for those that may have wondered, I am not in the United Kingdom, I have not lost my passport, and you do not need to send me money. I was the victim of a very convincing and spooky case of identity theft last week, where my personal e-mail account was hacked and a realistic message was sent to each of my roughly 300 contacts in my e-mail address book. The message said this: "It's me Troy, I really don't mean to inconvenience you right now, I made a little trip to UK and I misplaced my passport and credit cards, please I know this may sound odd, but it all happened very fast. I need to get a new passport, and get on the next available flight home. I've been to the US embassy, they're willing to help, but I'm out of cash and I have minimum access from here. Can you loan me some funds? I'll be willing to pay you as soon as I get home.
Please reply as soon as you get this message, so I can forward the details as to where to send the funds, you can reach me via the hotel's desk phone if you can. The numbers are 011447024035615. I await your response. Troy."
The sophisticated hackers also erased my inbox, outbox and contacts, so my first instinct to send out an e-mail warning to my friends and family was impossible. Once I got over the initial shock of this having happened, the calls and e-mails that followed were an interesting mix of kindness and disdain that were the real lesson from this experience. Many thoughtful Falmouthites (including Enterprise publisher Bill Hough) who suspected that I was not the source e-mailed or called me or a family member (my brother the police detective was flooded with calls) to make sure I was firmly on U.S. soil. One friend who lives in the Caribbean couldn't reach me and sent a frantic note to my brother, figuring I had left Falmouth and was seeking refuge in London. Another left a message on my voice mail, suspecting that the e-mail was a hoax, but offering money if it was not. It is nice to know that friends are out there and that people in today's turn-your-head society are still willing to offer a helping hand. Alas, some were not so convinced that I am incapable of such a hoax. One skeptic called the police, complaining that I was trying to scam her; yet another called the Enterprise, offering a similar warning that I was attempting to take money from innocent folk and looking for the public to be warned. I guess after nearly 20 years in public service, I've still got some work to do with some members of the public. On to the good.
The Good: I had the pleasure last weekend to attend the kickoff ceremony for Falmouth's notable naming as a Preserve America community by First Lady Michelle Obama. This great honor is the result of decades of hard work by dozens of volunteers and town officials - some still with us and some not - to make historic preservation an integral part of our community and preserving its character as a cornerstone of our public purpose. The thoughts offered by Selectmen Chairman Pat Flynn at Highfield Hall on Sunday touched my heart and brought back some memories of the early days of Highfield Hall, when Pat and I sat across the table from some unwilling and not-so-cooperative negotiators from the Cape Cod Conservatory as we attempted to convince them to agree to a "friendly taking" of the building. We were only at that table because of the tireless efforts of a couple of historic preservation pioneers in Falmouth, namely Mary Lou Smith and newly minted nonagenarian Bob Bidwell. Others, including Susan Shepard, Noah Greenberg, and Art Calfee, among many, many more, helped restore the building to its current day magnificence, a fitting and glorious tribute for the ceremony. The Preserve America designation itself is a superb achievement, validating a lengthy cooperative process between the Chamber of Commerce and Town Hall. What a nice way to spend a Sunday. I did however, read something that leads me to the final segment.
The Ugly: When I worked in public affairs for the 102nd Fighter Wing in my first job out of college, a wise community relations expert from the Pentagon used to tell us, "Go ugly early." That meant that if we had bad news that involved the public, the right thing to do was to tell them - to be straight and forthcoming - and to accept the consequences. Such courage and respect for the public was demonstrated this week by Police Chief Anthony Riello in revealing that six semi-automatic handguns were missing from the police inventory and were in the hands of retired and former summer officers. Of course, the revelation reveals a huge and potentially dangerous lack of attention to detail on the most important inventory in the building, but Chief Riello's candor in addressing the issue publicly demonstrates his confidence in the public's ability to understand that the issue would not have even arisen had the Chief not instituted a tighter inventory system that revealed the missing guns. He went ugly. Good for him. Who among us was not scratching our heads, though, when Selectman and former policeman Ahmed Mustafa was quoted on this issue and offered the purely nutty opinion that it has been common practice to simply let retiring men and women in blue keep their weapons. I asked no less than a dozen locals, all current and former members of the Falmouth PD, and not one heard of such an absurd practice as giving an employee a gun as a present. Where does he come up with this stuff?
Anyway, this week's bad was really bad, the good was great, and the ugly was pretty good too. Nice week in Falmouth. I'm glad I was here and not in the UK.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.