We often take for granted the consequences of being confused with someone else. Maybe you just have that kind of familiar face that allows you to, by passing glance, share a resemblance with an angry woman's ex-boyfriend. Perhaps your phone number was just one digit off from that of a well-known lawyer with clients who had a number of complaints to share. Or maybe your name is synonymous with a desperate man who once borrowed money from the mob and "John Smith" is next in line to pay the debt.
Of course, all these instances require is a simple explanation and an apology. Then, the concerning parties can move on and the person they originally meant to reach can be found. Unfortunately, for some, it is not that easy. Some people are not of the mindset to comprehend to logical explanations. Thus, until things go their way, you are whoever they say you are.
Such was the case for "Elle," a thirty-something, single woman who leads a comfortable suburban life with her two cats and her mother. One day, she was paid an unexpected visit by a stranger who wrongfully assumed that she was someone else. No explanation she could give the woman could convince her that she was not who she thought she was. But the biggest surprise was that the mystery woman was not who she claimed to be either...
Elle had recently faced a dramatic change in neighborhood occupants. The house to the right of her home was currently empty with a “For Sale” sign in the front yard. The house to her left was now occupied by a family of six who had only moved in around the previous summer and were rarely home on Sundays.
And then there was the house to the left of that family, which was, at this point in time, under renovation and also up for sale. But, until July of the previous year, it was home to a woman named Bridget and her husband. They had three "bright and well-behaved" children - their youngest was 8 and their eldest was 13 years old. Elle always regarded them as very pleasant people.
Elle had the utmost respect for these people, though, in the familial sense, she did not have much in common with them. She was not married and did not have any children either. The only person she shared a house with were her cats and her 73-year-old mother, Gladys. But on one Sunday afternoon, Elle had her independence challenged by an unexpected visitor.
Elle heard the doorbell ring and went to answer it. When she opened the door, there stood an older woman on her porch. The cats were desperate to follow her out onto the front porch, so Elle decided to step out and closed the door behind her. Before she could ask her "Can I help you?" the lady, whom Elle had never met before, introduced herself.
"I’m with CPS," the lady said, belligerently. "I’m here to inspect the children and the house."
"You what?" Elle asked.
"I need to see the children right now or I’ll call the cops and have them taken away. Let me in!"
Something was not right, and she could tell already. Elle's adoptive younger brother had a history of mental and behavioral health issues, even from before her family adopted him. Because of this, this wasn't her first encounter with Child Protective Services. So, from this, two things became clear to her: this woman was at the wrong address and there was no way that she was with CPS.
"Can I see some ID," Elle asked.
"I don’t have to show you any ID!" the lady, quite incorrectly, responded.
"Well, then I guess you can’t come in, and if you don’t get off my porch, I’m calling the police," Elle proclaimed.
The CPS imposter was struck like a deer in the headlights, staring aimlessly back at Elle. It must have been time for her to initiate Plan B.
"I just want to see my grandchildren!" the woman screamed, through a waterfall of tears. "You have no right to keep them from me! I don’t understand why you’re so cruel to me."
Elle did not understand what gave this woman the impression that she could solicit the property of a woman she had never met before and expect to find her grandchildren. Additionally, she was actually quite taken aback by the immediacy of this woman's personality shift. She had never seen someone go from staunch confidence to extreme desperation so quickly. It was a startling sight. But if this woman's intention by bursting into tears was to earn Elle's sympathy's, that is where she really failed.
"Look, lady," Elle said, interrupting the water works, "I don’t have any kids. You have the wrong house and you need to get off my property."
As if this lady was a mechanical specimen programmed with automated behavioral responses to certain keywords, her demeanor shifted like the crack of a whip once again, now throwing a "string of expletives" her way.
"You can’t do this to me! Where’s my son?" the lady demanded. "I know you’ve told him nothing but lies about me, but I’ll make him see the truth. He needs his mommy! My grandbabies need me!”
Then, she called out the names of three people she demanded to see: Sam, Joseph, and Joanie. That's when it hit Elle. Sam was the name of her former neighbor Bridget's husband. Their first son was named Joseph. Their daughter, however, was named Jane, not Joanie. But now she knew what this woman was mistakenly here for.
She was meeting the grandmother and, somehow, this woman thought Elle was her daughter-in-law.
Soon after Elle discovered who she was dealing with, the front door opened behind her. It was Gladys, inquiring what in the world was happening outside.
"Your mother gets to see the babies but I don’t?!" the strange woman exclaimed, continuing her fowl-mouthed, incoherent babbling - apparently her default setting now. Among her ramblings were, "It’s not fair"; "You’re a home wrecker"; "I just want to see the babies"; and "Your mother is a -" followed by another string of expletives.
Fortunately, her own screaming was enough to distract her from hearing Gladys call the police. She tried to get Elle to join her inside, hinting at her to get away from this woman before she switches to attack mode. Elle said she would stay outside. She wanted to make sure this lady was not leaving unless in a police car. On top of that, Elle was not very scared in this moment. She forgot to be scared, having gotten caught up the amusement of witnessing this strange woman's lunacy at her doorstep. Furthermore, anger is sure to trump fear, and she was rapidly approaching her breaking point with this lady. If she were to try anything physical, Elle was ready to take her on.
Gladys went back into the house. Evil Grandma continued to babble. Elle had to finally let go of her restraints if she was going to get through to this woman. She began yelling over her rambling, trying to succeed in the seemingly impossible task of making her understand that she had the wrong house, she was not Bridget, and she had no children. All the battle of words resulted in was a loud entanglement of aimless noise. There was no hope.
That was, until Elle heard a sound she had been longing for: sirens, coming from no less than three cop cars racing down the street up to the house. Elle figured that her mother must not have been the only one who dialed 911. Most likely, her neighbors unmistakably caught wind of the commotion. As the black and whites stopped in front of the house, Evil Grandma reverted back to her "calm" and "professional" demeanor to confront the police.
"I’m so glad you’re here, I was about to call you myself!" she said to the officers. "I’m with CPS and I’m here to check on the children, but she won’t let me in to see them."
The cops immediately asked her to provide her credentials. Realizing, once again, that her hoax was ill-prepared, she huffed and puffed and pulled out the old "I left it in the car" ploy. An officer was appointed to accompany her to the car. Another officer approached Elle at the front porch to learn the meaning of this madness.
Elle began by squashing Evil Grandma's claims of representing CPS, followed by how the lady was somehow convinced that she was her daughter-in-law and that she meant to knock on the door two houses down, despite the fact that she would not have found her "grandbabies" there anyway. Following procedure, the officer asked Elle if he could check inside the house and see for himself that there were no children and kindly requested her identification. She gladly complied, and went as far as providing him with Bridget's phone number.
Elle and the cop did not get far into the house before Evil Grandma's verbal attack kicked back in. She must not have been able to find her CPS credentials, because she began to scream at the officers who were trying to talk to her. Elle actually found herself quite impressed that her voice had not given out yet. Perhaps she had a healthy amount of practice in the art... or it was just part of her programming.
Suddenly, the woman initiated a highly unnecessary switch into physical defense mode. Elle could not help but take utter delight in watching this lunatic trying to shove one of cops to no avail. As quickly as she sprang her attack, she was pinned down, cuffed, and promptly placed into the back of the cop car.
With her identity confirmed and Evil Grandma in police custody, Elle was pleased to see the complete lunacy that took place on her front porch to be done with, but several mysteries spawned from the situation remained unsolved. What compelled this woman to pose as Child Protective Services? Why was she so desperate to see her grandchildren? Above all, how on Earth did she mistake Elle for her own daughter-in-law.
The following day, Elle received a call from just the right person to clue her in. Bridget began by profusely apologizing for Carol's (Evil Grandma) behavior before filling in the blanks.
Carol resided in a much warmer climate where people in her supposed age range would often retire to - a good 20-hour drive north of Elle's town, with a less than favorable current climate. Signs of Carol's erratic behavior showed soon after the birth of Sam and Bridget's first child, Joseph, or as Carol would refer to him, "my baby." She spared no effort in trying to score time to spend with the child herself. She would feed him food that was not appropriate at his age. Several times, she attempted to take Joseph with her without his parents' permission. She went as far as trying to convince Sam and Bridget to let her move in with them because she wanted to be the one to take care of "my baby." In that context, it was never clear if "my baby" referred to Joseph or her own grown son.
Carol felt that her "baby boy" Sam was stolen from her by Bridget and she resented her for it. Much to her chagrin, "Baby Boy" was not willing to comply with her "motherly ways." He had had enough of that his entire life. In the beginning, Carol was known to be habitually clingy, but the closer that Sam got to adulthood, her grasp grew tighter. All it did was push her son further and further away. A couple of years before Joseph was born, Sam's father had died. Thus, by Carol's logic, her "babies" were the only family she had. Sam and Bridget wanted her gone.
The couple "shooed Carol back" to her warmer climate trying to maintain a strict low contact regimen with her. It worked, until the couple welcomed Jane into the world. All Carol saw in Jane was a new baby for her claim as her own. Her behavior was even more treacherous this time around. Sam and Bridget felt, then, that is was time cut Carol off completely. She was not to see her grandchildren again, an action that had been in place for the previous decade.
For that reason, Carol had no idea that she had a third grandchild and the extended separation also caused her to completely forget what Bridget looked like, as well as the couple's address. Thus, the case of the mistaken identity was solved.
Carol faced charges of impersonating a CPS officer and assaulting a police officer. Elle filled out a police report detailing the incident, but the video footage captured on the dash cam and firsthand witnessing by the cops was enough evidence. Elle only hoped Carol was aware by then that she and Bridget were not the same person. However, she knew that if Carol ever did come back to her house, she would be ready. The police station assured her that all she would have to do is say her name and quickly after, the sirens would be there to tune out her screams.
But, the following weekend, Elle had another surprise visitor...
Bridget stood at Elle's front porch with a plate of cookies that she offered as an apology for her mother-in-law's lunacy. Elle assured her that no apology was necessary, but that was not going to stop her from accepting those cookies.
Bridget gave her the latest scoop about Carol. She confirmed that her mother-in-law had since been informed that she went to the wrong house and ended up berating a complete stranger who "kindly" did not press charges. Her and Sam went to the police station for what was a very brief reunion. Seeing her again after so long reminded her of "before and after" photos used to represent the physical changes of hardcore addicts. Her current day appearance would have been the "after." She was so unrecognizable, in fact, that her CPS disguise might have worked after all, if not for her "screeching voice."
That comparison was not very far from the truth. They learned that Carol was in possession of a stash of opioid pills at the time of her arrest. Soon after that was discovered, she was transported to be held in a secure infirmary unit in jail where she could allow her withdrawal symptoms to pass. Sam actually tried to help her by finding her a lawyer to negotiate a deal for her to stay at a rehab facility. At the same time, he sought legal assistance to apply for a restraining order. Carol still did not know about Lisa, her third grandchild, and Sam and Bridget wanted to keep it that way.
For their safety, however, they felt the children should be made aware of the situation. For the first time in a decade (and the first time for Lisa), they got to see what their grandma looked like... from her mugshot. This way, if she ever came after them, they would know to run away. Upon hearing about the case of mistaken identity, the children were actually disappointed to have missed out on witnessing the camaraderie. Joseph remembered her being creepy and Jane barely remembered her enough to care, but Lisa was more sympathetic. She felt sorry for who her grandmother had turned out to be, but that only made her happier to have never met her.
In that moment, Elle was convinced that, despite the mistaken identity and the verbal abuse, Carol's nearly traumatic visit turned out to be a modest blessing. Through the incident, she was able to reunite with her friendly neighbors and their children. She had missed having those kids around. At least she could be allowed to see them again.