You seem so confident - Have you ever had any issues being Rhonda? This was a question put to me recently.
I would love to say “never”, but that is not the case. There was one very serious incident that did work itself out, but really frightened me. Here is the abridged version. Be forewarned – This was not easy to write and could be disturbing to read:
Rhonda was a part time volunteer at a small charity here in Florida that provided funds, donated equipment and teachers to several remote Guatemalan schools. Every dollar went directly to educate. I was very proud to be associated with such a worthwhile effort. I basically managed the office of two; myself and the director who was rarely in. I posted all donations, wrote acknowledgement letters, returned phone calls and helped the director prepare for presentations. Once a week the treasurer would come in to go over the receipts, pay bills and another older/retired volunteer occasionally helped with mailings. No one was paid.
The problem occurred one Friday when the occasional volunteer asked, “Are you from Canada?” Because of an unusual regional accent I say “about” and “house” in a manner that is associated with Canada. My accent is still a soft southern accent, derives from growing up in Piedmont Virginia. Every now and again, I get that question.
It seems that she was a true crime reader or watcher of obscure unsolved mysteries. Her imagination went rampant. There was a 30-year-old unsolved murder committed in Toronto and the career criminal suspect was never apprehended. To our local police she went and they went into full “this will make us all famous” mode. They contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Their most likely scenario was that he died shortly after the murder, with no sighting, or information for over 20 years. They described their suspicions to be this way, if still alive: “I can see him in a rural setting, essentially a recluse, employed in a menial job where identity is not critical.”
However, none of this discouraged my local police. They went to the office while I was out and fingerprints were retrieved. None of the prints matched the suspect but they assumed they had not gotten good prints.
Unknown to me, I was put under 24 hour surveillance for 5 days and the local police wanted an arrest warrant. Fortunately, a judge disagreed and only issued a search warrant limiting the search to “fingerprints only”. On my birthday about 12 years ago, the warrant was executed. Here is what happened next:
Driving to a client’s office (not dressed as Rhonda), I notice blue lights behind me. What could I have done – not speeding and did stop at the stop sign? As I went to retrieve my registration from the glove box, I noticed not one car but four police cars and now an unmarked police car blocked me from the front. Two uniform offices were approaching on the passenger side, guns drawn. I was told to exit my car. I could see that is was not a traffic stop. I was then told that my assistance was needed to solve a crime and asked, “Had I even been to Canada?” “Not since the 1967 World’s Fair” was my answer. A true statement. I was then told that my assistance was needed at the police station “to help”. Placed in the backseat of the unmarked, I was driven to the police station. I was scared.
On entrance to the police station, I saw news trucks waiting and wondered at first what was going on. Finger printed twice, palm printed once. Then after about an hour and a half, I had described to me the shocking nature of the crime I was suspected of – in gruesome detail. I became physically sick. I was then told, I was not that person and was free to go. I was driven back to my car. As we left the police station, I noticed the news trucks were gone.
Several ignored facts I learned later: The suspect - 10 years older, six inches taller, left-handed, smokes heavily, brown eyes, bald, large nose, cleft, dimple chin - none of which matched me. I am 5’ 4 1/2”, blue eyes, a full head of hair…. As I already stated – the RCMP believed that he had died 20 years prior. They had no interest in my case other than providing fingerprints.
At a later meeting, I requested with the local police chief and detectives handling the case, I asked, “What were you thinking?” A huge, over steroid-ed police thug responded - “WHAT DID YOU EXPECT – YOU WERE WEARING A DRESS.”
Yes, all did work out. The warrant was sealed, the incident was not classified as an arrest and there was no apology from the police. As I write this, I am amazed at how these events still affect me twelve years later. I guess there is a small form of “post traumatic stress disorder”. My hands were shaking as I was typing, I find my under arms wet, breath short and my pulse quick.
Did the incident cause me to purged all of Rhonda’s clothes and vowed never to go out again? Obviously not. The victory then would have been to the bigots, bullies, intimidators and narrow-minded. Never!
Most of the time what I will write here will be light and entertaining with the occasional challenge to you be yourself. I apologize today for venturing down a different street. Please comment and relate any similar experiences.