How could I not do this?

It was nothing personal — I never met the guy. It wasn't political, either — I don’t remember his politics, and I had no politics of my own yet. He was the Mayor, and I didn’t like him, that’s all.

His name was Charles Royer. He’d been a local TV reporter, and I’m not wild about TV reporters. In a newspaper, the coverage of anything local might be 10-12 paragraphs, and you can gain same actual information from reading it. On TV, though, the report will last 30 seconds, maybe a minute and a half max — so superficial that it adds next-to-nothing to your knowledge.

Then Royer was promoted to the anchor’s chair for Channel 5, the NBC affiliate in Seattle. It’s been decades, but nothing’s changed, so you know exactly the type: Handsome, white, young, nice necktie, perfect hair. I can’t find a picture of Royer behind the anchor’s desk, but here he is in a publicity pose, pretending to talk to someone important on the phone.

Royer wasn’t satisfied with his career trajectory, though. He quit the anchor job to run for Mayor.

This annoyed me, on two fronts: First, it puts the lie to ‘impartial journalism’, when a reporter goes directly from “just the facts” to being a candidate and having opinions on every issue. And second, Royer had never held any elected office, but he was parlaying his local fame and handsomeness to leapfrog over more experienced candidates. You see a lot of celebrity candidates these days, but I’d never seen it before Royer.

I voted against him, and when he won, I wanted to flip him off and call him an ass. Being nobody, I knew I’d never get within shouting distance of the Mayor, though, so I flipped him off by mail.

My employer was a major medical center, where I worked in the billing office. The clinic was skyscraper-sized, and tens of thousands of patients saw their regular doctors there. A matching-branded hospital was right next door. My job involved using computer software to send patients their bills, and I knew the program well enough to monkey with it. There were boxes and boxes of blank billing forms stacked in the back room. The Mayor was already a patient of the clinic, so I had access to his home address.

How could I not do this?

I visited the downtown library, did some pre-internet research, and then came into the office an hour early one morning, to accomplish my mission. Using the software’s ‘wild card’ billing code, I input a series of medical events for Mayor Royer — hormone therapy, surgical removal of testicles and penis, sculpting and installation of a vagina, and breast enhancement. I hadn’t been able to find much info on the cost of such work, so I pulled the prices outta my butt. The bill came to something like $95,000, I think — maybe that was a bargain?

Then I printed a billing statement for Mayor Royer, slipped it into an envelope indistinguishable from that morning’s hundreds of other outbound mailings, and, of course, deleted all records of my prank from the computer. A month later, I created a follow-up bill, marked it as “past-due”, and sent it again. After the second mailing, though, it seemed unwise to mail it a third time.

All this would now be considered ① trans-unfriendly, ② feminist-unfriendly, and ③ a violation of patient privacy. On all fronts, I apologize. But also, gimme a break — I was 19 years old, and clearly a dumb kid.

For a punchline or payoff, all I’d wanted was to hear that the Mayor, or someone on his staff, had called the clinic and been furious. And it was successful, somewhat. My group worked within earshot of the billing help-lines, so I had hoped to actually overhear the call, or at least be told about it soon after the fact, but no such luck. Even in that pre-HIPAA age, the clinic had strict confidentiality rules, so nobody said anything about who’d called or why.

A few weeks after the second mailing, though, I opened the Mayor’s billing record, and saw that someone on his staff had phoned. The notation said something like, “Mayor’s office inquired about a bill for an operation, but I see no such records, and told him not to be concerned.”

The statute of limitations passed on this long ago, so today I'm sharing the story. I do wish it had a better punchline, sorry. Probably, the only smart thing I did in all this was not sending a third bill.



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  1. Honestly, knowing you, I expected the prank to be shitting in a tube and sending it.

    1. You'd expect that of me because I've probably told you about sending shit-tubes in the mail. I mailed my poop more than once, and probably told you more than once. All my stories become reruns.


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