Thursday, October 30, 2008

We coulda taken him

I spent two years as a Mormon missionary. Except I didn't go anywhere exciting like Brazil or Mongolia. I went to Sacramento. I know.

The only "cool" thing about the location is that I was in some rough inner city areas and pretty much didn't see any white people for two years. Well, there were a few white people, but they were definitely the Larry the Cable Guy crowd. And I don't think I saw a car that had been manufactured in the last ten years except the one I was driving. I also spoke Spanish, which was more or less an imperative in some of the neighborhoods, especially out on the delta.

I spent about five months in Stockton, which is usually towards the top of the list for per-capita violent crimes and numbers of gang members. In the last month I was there, there were three or four shooting fatalities within a mile of my apartment, one of which was law enforcement shooting an alleged criminal. It was certainly an interesting place to live.

As missionaries, everyone is assigned a companion--a sort of buddy system, as it were. Incidentally, I used to think that "partner" was a better word than "companion," but in light of societal attitudes towards clean-cut men living together, I now think that "companion" was an inspired word choice.

While I was in Stockton, there were two Spanish-speaking companionships in the city, and all four of us lived together in one apartment. Missions are organized into districts and zones, and the four of us formed one district, of which I was the leader. Part of my responsibilities were to trade off and spend time working with the other missionaries in the district. I guess this was to make sure they were doing their work and didn't have any problems getting along.

While on one of these exchanges with a missionary who we'll just call "Anderson" (which will keep his real name anonymous, especially since I think fully 1/3 of Mormon missionaries have the last name "Anderson"). Anyway, Anderson was one of the coolest guys I have ever known, even though he wanted to be an FBI agent. In fact, he was so intent on this career path that he made some fake business cards at a mall kiosk with his name, followed by "Federal Bureau of Investigation," and a bogus address in New York.

He made them when he was 17 or so, before he realized that doing so was probably illegal, and put them in his wallet and sort of forgot about them. Until he was a missionary, that is, whereupon he rediscovered them in his wallet and occasionally showed them to other missionaries for a laugh.

Anyway, he and I were out knocking doors one day when we came upon the home of some of these Larry the Cable Guy white people. The reception was downright hostile. We found out that this was because at some point they had been Mormons but for a variety of inane reasons had decided that the church had mistreated them and they weren't going anymore. We talked through some of these concerns and brought things around to the point that they were feeling good and friendly towards the church again, possibly enough to start coming back. We thought.

Before we left, we made the standard missionary offer "is there anything we can help you with?" Turns out they were going to be moving and needed some help with that. We told them they could call us. They looked frantically around the house for something to write our names and numbers on. Not a corner of newspaper, gum wrapper, or napkin could be found. The only piece of paper any of us had was one of Anderson's business cards.

Reluctantly, Anderson wrote our number on the back of one, scribbled out the FBI details on the front, and told them the cards weren't real, and he had made them as a joke. In hindsight, our attire of white shirts, conservative ties, and dark trench coats probably didn't make that claim very convincing. This should have been all the more obvious to us since it was not uncommon for the gang members to scatter (like roaches before light), shouting "5-0, 5-0" when we walked into the 7 eleven parking lot.

A couple of days after leaving our names and numbers, someone called on the telephone asking for Anderson. "He's in the shower," I said. "Can I take a message?"

"This is John Gliani with the FBI, and I need to speak with him." My heart was in my throat. "Who's this?" I told him my name. "Well I need to speak with you, too." I was now trying to figure out who this really was and who put him up to it. "Can I come over right now?" I told him he could and hung up.

I then got out the phone book, looked up the number for the local FBI office, and called it. "Is John Gliani there?"

"Yes, can I tell him who's calling?"

"Nobody's calling. I just wanted to make sure John Gliani really worked there. He called me a minute ago, and I wanted to make sure it wasn't a joke."

"Hang on--he wants to talk to you."

"No, this is not a joke," John said. "You've violated a federal law and are in some serious trouble."

By the time I was finished speaking with Mr. Gliani the second time, Anderson was out of the shower. It was time to get everyone together and talk about what was happening.

Anderson's companion was a guy we'll call Sergei. He doesn't really figure into the story except that he sat at the Kitchen table and just sort of observed everything that went down. My companion was a guy we'll call Duke. He was from South Florida and had a pretty interesting life before finding religion in his early 20's and deciding to go on a mission. He used to tell us stories that made Bo and Luke Duke seem like a couple of pansy choir boys. He and I really got along well, and I'm pretty sure that if it came right down to it, he would have killed with his bare hands anybody that threatened me. He was a former gold gloves fighter and could probably give Kimbo Slice a run for his money.

We knew it was Gliani as soon as the plain vanilla domestic sedan pulled into the parking lot. John Gliani got out of the car and through the windows we watched him walk to our door. He knocked. I opened. I noticed three things: 1. he was as tall as the doorway, and his shoulders were as wide as the doorway--he may have had to turn sideways slightly to enter; 2. there was a large bulge in the armpit of his sports coat; 3. he was holding his badge right in my face. He made the comment (regarding the badge), "just in case you didn't believe me that it was real."

We welcomed Mr. Gliani into the apartment. He said something about impersonating a federal officer, federal offense, how it wasn't up to him but rather the magistrate whether to prosecute (but he HAD to turn in the charges), and a few other things for about ten minutes or so. I really don't remember. I do remember being intimidated and nervous.

As soon as Mr. Gliani closed the door, Duke turns to Anderson and me and says "we coulda taken him."

"What?" I said. "How? Did you not notice the gun? Or how big he was?"

"You could have wrapped up around his shoulders," Duke informed me, "Anderson could have taken the legs, and I would have jumped on his head and scooped his eyeballs out with my thumb. Sergei could have...well Sergei would have just watched."

"What about the gun?" I asked.

"It's hard to aim and fire a gun when your eyeballs are hanging down on your cheeks."

"You mean to tell me the entire time I was sitting in that chair nervous and wondering what kind of trouble I was going to be in, you were just thinking about what you would do if things turned violent?"

"Yeah, pretty much."

Epilogue: John Gliani was totally bluffing. We never heard another word about it. And Anderson, last I heard, was working on some sort of FBI task force on Internet crimes. I'm pretty sure he doesn't read my blog, not that his cover would be blown anyway. This incident apparently didn't come up during his background check.


  1. Those were the days. Why is it trouble always seemed to find "Anderson"? Do you remember Petgate?

  2. I remember that petgate happened, but not all the details. That was in Stockton, too, right? I think it was right before I got there.

  3. It was in Stockton. Anderson had a snake, then plucked some cat out of the middle of an apartment complex and adopted it. Before long the zone had all sorts of animals--turtles, fish, etc. Then there was the conference where President charted the decline of the Nephites and likened it to us. I never understood how adopting pets would lead to the fall of our civilization.

  4. Whoa, now hold on, Justin. If I remember correctly, that cat, named Vincenzo, was yours. Yes, I had the albino bull snake. I take full responsibility for Agent Gigliani, though. I thought it was somewhat vindicating when I received my real FBI credentials. I still have them somewhere...

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I still think Dyal is an international agent.

  5. By the way, Sergei? Lol. It took me a bit to figure out who that was. I googled him and I think he works for Barclay's. Maybe I'll get my FBI friends to track Sergei down so he can share his journal from that day...

  6. I wanted a dog. The cat was yours.

  7. What was Sergi's name? I can picture him, but I can't remember his name. I think it started with a V.

  8. You guys are awesome! It is taking me back to some fun memories. Anderson do you remeber calling me your companion Elder doggie pooh at the door of the ladie that couldn't speak English? Good times.