America losing its credit rating simply means that America is no better at handling its finances than I am. At least I get to claim mishandling less than a gazillion dollars. But America gets to extend its credit, run it up higher. I, on the other hand, am blackballed, written off, refused credit, called every hour from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 each night. Is anyone harassing the government during dinner, asking if payment has been made or if one can be set up for an electronic deduction right now? My debt touched the ceiling and got stuck. It has yet to find its way down from that seemingly ill-fated height. It doesn’t even have a chandelier to swing from absentmindedly while it waits for me to figure out how it’ll get down. It’s just…stuck.
Sometimes there is a never-ending loop of Seth & Amy’s “Really?” in my head. Usually triggered by my commute and the horrendously dressed, seemingly endless stream of gender confused, happy to know that curse words exist teenagers, I’ve noticed that it pops in there more frequently now. At work, at Target, in the shower. Today, it’s pointed at collectors in general, State Farm and two idiot attorneys specifically.
Collection number one:
State Farm sued me this year claiming it paid twice for repairs to my vehicle in 2007. Really? It claimed I owed nearly $8,000 because it double paid — it paid me and it paid the repair shop. Really? Doesn’t it keep records of payments? And really? Their attorney didn’t know that the statute of limitations for fraud is three years in DC? Really? I knew that and I’m not an attorney. I did, however, learn a hell of a lot from the attorneys I worked for over the years. Thankfully, one was willing to help me with my response. The case was dropped.
Collection number two:
Before State Farm withdrew its suit, I checked the DC Courts page to see if there is a status update on the State Farm case. It pulls up another case against me. Really? What. The. Fuck? It’s a small claims suit for $1700 from a collector for a credit card company. I’m not sure how long ago I had this credit card but I’m pretty sure it’s one of the ones that hiked up the interest rate and I could no longer afford it (in relation to every damn thing else).
So, really? Really? You bastards go around buying old, charged-off debts then add finance charges and sue for more than is originally owed on the card? I show up to court and unlike all the other people (and there were a lot of people; the court room was jam-packed with people all there for various collections: utilities, credit cards, cars, rent) I don’t immediately set up a payment plan. I relied upon my I’ve worked with attorneys attitude: I questioned the debt. The paperwork sent to me had the account number redacted. How was I to know if this was actually the account I had with that company? I accepted a continuance so that the attorney could gather the original agreement and payment history. When I returned a month later, there was no such documentation, so it was dismissed (even though I had determined on my own that the account referred to was mine).
The old debt buying business bothers me to no end. Yes, I accumulated that debt. Yes, I owe it. But when the original creditor and I agree that I am unable to pay or they are unwilling to work with me toward a mutually acceptable payment arrangement, then charge it off as uncollectible, that’s what it should remain: uncollectible. By anyone. That someone can, two years later, sue me for $1700 on a $1200 debt, is preposterous. The original creditor got pennies on the dollar so they aren’t receiving full payment either from me or the buyer; it’s still essentially a write-off. I readily admit that I was able to pay toward the balance. The problem is my ability was considerably less than they were willing to accept. They opted to not work with me, and although that doesn’t negate the fact that the debt is mine and should be paid, how do you pay it when they write it off?
Either way, I won in both cases and neither can sue me again for the same debt. Looking back over the past few months when these cases were ongoing, I see so much time wasted to stress. So many headaches, backaches, and hidden tears. So many questions of “what now?”. But never once, never, did we seriously consider requesting more money or raising our ceiling (hello, America). When we raise the roof, it has nothing to do with debt, duh.
So, here are a few fun ways to stay sane when collectors call and you feel compelled to answer (after you whip off your cap and throw it to the table angrily in a true James Evans, Sr. fashion):
1. Speak Spanish. Say ola repeatedly. When she places you on hold and gets a Spanish-speaking representative, say no habla Espanol.
2. When she calls from a blocked number, answer and say you don’t accept calls from mystery callers. When she calls back immediately from an actual number including an area code, tell her you don’t accept calls from whatever area code she’s calling from (then put the number on an S&M; internet chat room (I’ll let you pretend not to know how to find those)).
3. Make it racial: “You’re calling here because I’m black, aren’t you?”
4. Ask if his mother knows what line of work he’s in. If he says yes, tell him his mother hates him. If he says no, tell him his mother hates him.
5. Let the baby answer the phone.
6. Speak like Raymond Babbitt, saying “I don’t know” to every question.
Living with a constant stream of collection calls teaches one to find humor at their expense. Because when you simply don’t have it to pay, what else can you do but harass your harassers?