Stupid Old Lady

Kathryn Lynch

Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch

Photo of an old lady in a bank vault.

If there was anything that annoyed her, it was the way members of the public viewed the elderly. TV commercial advertisers were the worst offenders, because they imprinted their viewers with all of the common stereotypes. They portrayed seniors in states of confusion akin to borderline dementia or alzheimers, making mistakes because of poor eyesight or hearing, driving cars like two year olds, and falling down when they were stone cold sober.

Of course the Old Lady knew that with passing years, some seniors suffered from progressive mental or physical impairments. As a result, they needed help with every day tasks. But the silent majority had their cataracts repaired, got hearing aids when they needed them, and they went on with their lives as they had years past.

The stories of university professors writing definitive textbooks, of research doctors expanding medical horizons, of painters like Grandma Moses, all who were well past retirement age, were duly reported, but they did little to offset the portrayal of old folks looking idiotic and befuddled as they searched for "the beef" in the hamburger or the "fiber" in the cereal.

The Old Lady was bored and broke. She would solve both problems by committing a slick and efficient bank burglary under the noses of those who regarded her as mentally marginal or otherwise a candidate for the glue farm.

Preparations had begun ten years ago when she first retired. She had slipped into the neighboring state, rented a small office to obtain a local address and filed a Name Change Petition. The Notices were properly published so that when she went to Court, the Judge had granted her the new name.

Driving a rental car, she had gone with the Decree of Name Change and her birth certificate to the same state's DMV, taking the position that she had never before had a license. After taking a written and driving test, she had her new identity.

Two months later, she stopped paying the office rental and rented a mailbox. She notified the DMV of her new address and renewed the driver's license by mail when the renewal notices came in. She always paid the mailbox rent by money order.

Now she drove to a local bank where she produced the license and a hundred dollars to open a checking account. A few weeks later she rented a large safety deposit box.

She began to sign into the box area twice a week, usually staying more than an hour. Studying the fixed cameras, she concluded that it was not possible to move about the area without being observed. She took breaks often, walking around with her cane, until bank personnel lost interest in watching a disabled old woman pacing about. She never touched anything but her own box so she wouldn't leave fingerprints.

The Old Lady made careful note of the visitors to a box and how often a visitor came to that same box. Since the burglaries would take place in the day time, she had to reduce the chances that a visitor would stumble upon her opening his or her box. From her observations, she now knew that only a few boxes were accessed regularly. She would leave these boxes untouched.

As she wandered around, she spotted the name of the box manufacturer and she was able to locate the company through its website on the internet. When she reached them by phone, she lapsed into her sweet, somewhat confused, Little-Old-Lady routine, telling the helpful "young man" that she owned a mailbox store and to her horror, she had lost her master key. The man told her to mail him a key to one box and he would send her a replacement master key. It didn't seem possible that it would be so easy, but she mailed her safety deposit box key to the company and 10 days later a small package arrived at her out of state mailbox. Inside were her own key and a shiny new key as well.

On her next trip to the bank, she tried the key in the boxes adjacent to hers. The boxes opened easily.

Setting a goal of the cash in 30 boxes, the Old Lady opened three boxes every time she went to the safety deposit box area. She was careful to pace around first to deflect interest in her activities. With a quick movement of the key, the doors opened and she grabbed any bills with a gloved hand. Then she went back to her own box on the table, placing the money inside. When it was time to leave, she placed the cash in her purse and went home. The very last time she exited the bank, fingerprints were discretely wiped from inside and around her own box.

From the 30 boxes, the Old Lady obtained $293,000.00. She was done, immensely pleased with herself. She felt no pity for the box holders who had hidden the cash from the IRS or because they had earned it from some criminal activity. She felt no sympathy for the bank personnel who should have been watching the safety deposit box monitor, but who weren't watching, because they had written her off as useless.

After burning the driver's license and Name Change Decree in the woodstove, the Old Lady slipped back into her everyday identity and prepared to take a vacation.

The flight from San Francisco to Paris was going without a hitch. She would have a steak dinner tonight in a first class restaurant. She would hop into a cab afterward for a ride to the Eiffel Tower. During the long hours, her mind reviewed the activities at the bank which had made her rich. A smile always crossed her face when she thought about it.

After landing the flight attendant was required to walk the plane back and forth to determine that all passengers had deplaned. When he spotted her, the attendant thought, "Stupid Old Lady". "You need to get off the plane", he said.

The Old Lady did so, in a first class body bag.

Epilogue: The first theft from a safety deposit box was reported three weeks later. This triggered an FBI inspection which found no evidence that the boxes had been tampered with. It was suspected that the reportee was looking for some "free insurance money".

When similar reports continued to filter in, the agents decided to ask other box holders to check their boxes. The magnitude of the loss threw the agents into a frenzy of activity.

One box holder could not be located; an Old Lady with a mailbox address in another state. Records of her bank visits predated the first reported box burglary by thee weeks, so this was regarded as a fluke. An old lady would not have had the smarts to pull this off.

The bank burglary was never solved.

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