My Source Was Self-Insured

I had talked to the woman several times, and thanked her, but I had never met her.

I won’t say who she worked for, but I will say she was secretly photocopying their records and giving them to me. All in the public interest and, yes, in my interest too.

Sometimes she would mail the records to me, sometimes she would leave them at the front desk, in the lobby of The News & Observer where I worked as an investigative reporter. This time, however, she wanted to meet. 

She didn’t tell me her name — she never told me her name — but she told me what she looked like, and that she would be wearing a yellow dress. She asked me to meet her at a restaurant, sit at the table next to her, but not to acknowledge her.

I saw her as soon as I walked in.  She was sitting at table for two, on a bench with her back to the wall. There was an unoccupied table for two beside her and I sat down there, not three feet away. There was a brown manila envelope on the bench between us, at her side, the records she had promised. I picked up the envelope and moved it to my other side.

A moment later she spoke to me. Only she wasn’t looking at me, she was looking straight ahead.

She told me she was afraid.  If anyone found out what she had done, what she was doing, she said, they might hurt her, or worse.

I didn’t know what to say.

She asked me if I ever worried about something like that, that I would be harmed.  I kept looking straight ahead, at the empty seat across from me.

“Yea, I guess so,” I said.  “Sometimes. Not very often.  But I took care of that problem. I have a ton of life insurance.”

She seemed to relax.

“I have insurance too,” she said. “I have a gun in my purse.”

Coming Monday: Liar!

Whose Side Was I On?

The reason I thought long and hard before I joined the Navy of the United States may seem strange to you, wacky even.

I am a Southerner, born in Alabama, raised in North Carolina. My grandfather, Paul Jones Stith, was born before the Civil War — it hadn’t been that long since the United States destroyed the South.

Pat Stith
Pat Stith

My father had served in the U.S. Army, arriving in France on Nov. 11, 1918, the day World War I ended. My three brothers had all served in the U.S. Navy. One brother in law had served in the U.S. Air Force and another one was still in the Air Force.

But I hesitated over one question: If I took the oath could I remain loyal to the United States even against the South, if it came to that? I finally decided I could, and would, and, if I ever had children, I would raise them to be loyal to the United States.

So I joined up, swearing allegiance to the United States when I was 17.

Coming Friday: My Source Was Self-Insured