Mary Ann Ellis

“Lose 20 pounds in 6 weeks,” the magazine article proclaims, “while eating whatever you want and doing no strenuous exercise.” The key to the diet is grapefruit it seems. According to the esteemed doctor who wrote the article, there is a little-known miraculous ingredient in grapefruit that counteracts calories, but it is essential to eat one grapefruit every day before eating anything else. I’m no doctor, but I suspect that a grapefruit a day will not keep the calories at bay all by itself. Eat your grapefruit and conscientiously follow a low-calorie diet, and that probably will work, but to lose 20 pounds in a mere 6 weeks, you’d better eat just a grapefruit a day and nothing else. That’s not very long.

My daddy always told me that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Mama, on the other hand, was a little bit gullible. Once she saw an ad for six white towels for an inordinately low price. She ordered them immediately and eagerly checked the mailbox every day for her package. Finally, they came. The towels were beautiful and thick—paper, that is. When they came into contact with water, they dissolved. Mama was furious, especially when Daddy teased her about it.

“Don’t you dare tell me that if it sounds too good to be true, it is,” she said to him. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“You should have listened to me all the other 700 times I’ve told you,”He laughed, “and then you wouldn’t have all these paper towels.”

My sister and I just kept a low profile until Mama’s fury subsided.

Sometimes we deserve what we get. For example, consider the claim that you can work from home for twice what you’re earning now. That may be true if you’re unemployed. Two times zero equals zero. We fall victim to a variety of schemes. Some one calls claiming to be from the IRS; he has a refund for you. All you must do is provide your bank account number, and he’ll be glad to deposit it for you. Sure, he will!

If I fall victim to some underhanded scheme, I’m disgusted with myself and figure I deserve it for my own gullibility. And I have been victimized. Some one called me in the wee hours to tell me that my son had been in an accident. For more information, I was to call a specific number which he read to me. I must call immediately. Terrified, I didn’t think. I called. After an hour I calmed down and became suspicious, especially after no one answered my call at the number he’d given me. AT&T explained to me that what I had done was give a prisoner electronic permission to charge long distance calls to my phone. Fortunately, the phone company helped me straighten the mess out, but not everyone is so lucky. The scheme goes around periodically, so watch out for it. How do the scammers get the right information to manipulate us? Who knows? They do though.

It really makes me furious when they scam the old and helpless—that means older and more helpless than me, of course. An elderly lady in a neighboring town was sending almost every penny of her social security check to a televangelist. While she ate cat food to live, he lived in a mansion and ate steak and caviar on the contributions of folks like her. That’s not even illegal, but it’s certainly immoral.

Millions of weight loss schemes are out there, but most of them are insignificant compared to the ones that target the elderly. After all, we portly types know better. We just want a fast easy way to undo the damage we’ve done over the years. We know for a fact that to lose weight, we must reduce our calorie intake and increase our exercise. There’s no other way. We all—portly or slim—need to use our common sense and make an honest effort to look out for our elderly friends and family members. If we are the honest folk, then we are in the minority and must unite to save ourselves.