Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

You’re at work and get a phone call from the police. 

Your house has been broken into, a cop says. So have nearly all the houses in your neighborhood. For that matter, almost every house in town.  So you drive home and look around. Nothing seems to be out of place. Nothing’s missing, at least not that you can detect. 

“Are you certain we got hit?” you ask the investigator. 

“No doubt about it.” 

He continues: “We don’t know who did it—probably won’t ever find out, to be perfectly honest—but there are fingerprints all over this place. Just wait. In the coming days and weeks, you’ll probably discover how much stuff was taken from you. Hope it’s not too serious and doesn’t ruin your life.” 

Gulp . . . 

That’s the unsettling feeling more than 100 million consumers—present company included—experienced when news broke about a huge security breach at Target and Neiman Marcus stores. Seems our credit card information—including name, street address, e-mail address and phone number—got hacked. Trillions of pieces of personal data then were available for sale on the international black market. 

Welcome to the nightmarish side of technology. 

Mary Ann, chief financial officer in the House of Venable, tracks our credit purchases. Always has, even before this disaster. Nothing is awry at this point, she reports.


Maybe, knock-on-wood, nothing will be. Just the sheer volume of this purloined information likely means most of us won’t be affected. We’re all swimming along like a huge school of fish, hoping dumb statistical luck keeps us from winding up in the belly of a shark.

In my particular case I almost want to laugh. The thought that someone halfway around the globe would pay bootleg prices to become me is hilarious. Why bother with us po’ folks when millionaires are available? 

Just in case it happens, though, here are a few cross-references for anybody tempted to do business with the new Sam Venable: 

Check for my appendix operation scar. Ditto the ones from two back surgeries. There’s also evidence on my right arm from a nitric acid burn in high school chemistry. In the web between my right index finger and “social” finger is a scar from a spurring I took from a wild turkey gobbler that wasn’t as dead as I assumed when I picked him up (also another on my left arm from a similar thrashing several years earlier; I’m a slow learner.) See if they know some of the weird middle names in my family. Quiz ’em about the title of the first magazine story I sold nearly half a century ago. Oh, and two sports-related questions: What product did Mr. Fleming sell at Neyland Stadium, and who was “Orange Drink” at Smokies’ baseball games? 

If the new Sam Venable passes all those tests, he’s in. Shake his hand and welcome him to the fold. 

I do hope he’s a few inches taller and 20 pounds lighter than the original version. Even in a case of identity theft, a guy can always dream.

Sam Venable is an author, entertainer, and columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at