Hello from Casa de Los Roneys,
From time to time I am known to quote the famous playwright Bill S. and this week seemed custom made for a little tragedy a la Hamlet…”When sorrows come they come not single spies but in battalions.” No sooner had we arrived back in BC, ready to get some exercise, ready to get going, when I get a call from my sister telling me that I have a funeral to attend (my Aunty Betty), then I come down with a nasty flu complete with non-stop hacking cough, and lastly I find out that I have $493 owing on an account which was supposedly closed three years ago that has now been sent to collections. Today, just to cap things off, I came out of the gym (my first day back there) to find the driver’s side mirror of my truck smashed in. Sigh.
Here’s a little tip: Feeling too good about yourself? A little cocky? Have an exaggerated sense of self-worth? No problem, just spend ten minutes dealing with a collection agency and you’ll soon realize that you are not only just a number, you are scum.
I’ll make this long story as short and painless as possible. Here goes…
Back in the days of stunts I was incorporated. I had a business chequing account with the Royal Bank of Canada and a business Visa as well. The purpose of this was only to keep my business expenses separate from my personal ones for income tax. When we left the biz and the country in spring of 2003, we both closed our business chequing accounts and zeroed all our debts. While in the bank closing my business account the teller suggested that I consolidate my personal and business Visa’s as I wouldn’t need the business account anymore. She said that any airmiles or outstanding charges would be transferred onto the new card. Simple, right? Ya, that’s what I thought too.
So, we’re talking to the folks who bought our old house and they tell us that someone named Mr.Jerk (name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent) was looking for me, said it was urgent, and left a number to call. I call the man and I am almost instantly bombarded by a verbal attack. What is my contact information?! When am I going to pay the money I owe??!
Whoa…hang on a moment…what money do I owe??
Mr.Jerk, who grows exponentially ruder by the minute, informs me that I have an overdraft on my RBC business account that has not been paid and is now with their collection agency. My attempts to explain that the account has been closed for three years and that there was a zero balance when I closed it are met with sarcasm and disbelief. The Prez, who is listening in, takes over to defend his poor wife; this sends Mr.Jerk into a rage. The call is eventually “terminated”.
With a little sleuthing I find out that a charge of some sort was put onto my business Visa (the one that was supposed to be closed) and when it wasn’t paid Visa re-opened my business chequing account and used the overdraft protection to pay it off – then that account was sent to collection. Are you as confused as I am?
So far, no one has been able to tell me exactly what the $493 charge on my Visa was for or when it was made but everyone (with the exception of Suzanne the friendly bank employee) has treated me like I might be Osama Bin Laden’s first cousin or something. As far as the bank, Visa and the collection agency are concerned I am guilty until proven innocent. But how to prove it? I mean, they have all the records and I have been informed that the bank doesn’t want to go into the archives for such a small amount. Where does that leave me? Frustrated. Angry. Feeling more than slightly impotent.
Anyone who’s dealt with a bloated corporate entity knows how small we, the individuals, truly are. They make the rules and we obey. What choice do we have? We are powerless. Standing in the bank lobby, listening to a woman tell me that I am essentially an idiot because the charge must be mine, it takes every ounce of control I can muster to prevent myself from exploding into a full-blown adult temper tantrum. But what good would that do? I’d just end up looking like a nutcase – i.e. exactly the type of person who would try to get out of paying a $493 Visa bill. The days when you could go to a bank and talk to someone who might be able to access your files and help solve a problem are gone. Character? What’s that? Try and get a bank loan on character. Everything about us is reduced to numbers now. It doesn’t matter that you will work three jobs, night and day, seven days a week to pay off your loan or mortgage, if your numbers don’t work no one is going to take a chance on you. How did we get here? When did we take the “human” out of humanity?
I find it kind of funny that we are so afraid of terrorists, criminals, even our own government when the biggest crooks, the ones that really control and enslave us are the corporations. You doubt me? Guess what, it still costs the roughly the same amount to extract and process oil as it did a few years ago yet we’re paying through the nose for gasoline thanks to the politics of fear. Don’t like it? Well you could um…stop driving or…er…um…maybe write a letter to the editor…or…well, actually, that’s about all you can do. And you better believe the oil companies are having great, big, fat, gut chuckles at our expense. They are looooooovvvving this oil “crisis”.
But back to my little drama…
I did manage to get out of collections because the birth date and social insurance number on the information the bank had were incorrect. Eek! Me thinks I smell some fraud. Meanwhile, the debt is still on the records and there’s no saying if they will pursue it any further. My bank manager has put in a request for the Visa statements up to six months after the account was supposed to be closed. It will be at least a month before they receive them, if they get them at all. After that, well, we’ll see what happens. The bank manager didn’t seem to believe that my card might have been used fraudulently. Despite my insistence that I know the charge is not mine, she seems to have already decided that I am wrong. Nice. Nothing like getting the benefit of the doubt!
Are we only numbers? Drivers License. Bank Card Numbers. Credit Card Numbers. Social Insurance Number. Pin Numbers. Phone Numbers. Height. Weight. Age. Birth Date. Employee Number. Security Codes. IQ Number. GPA. Care Card Number. Gross Income. Net Income. Credit Ranking Number. Numbers. Numbers! &*%#ing numbers!!! I am more than the sum of my numbers. I am flesh and blood and all those wonderful intangibles that separate humans from computers. I AM NOT JUST A NUMBER!
Well, I’ve vented so I feel slightly better. Slightly. And my flu has gotten much better, thank you very much. It’s funny, you never think much about your health until it’s compromised. There’s nothing like spending half the night coughing up your lung tissue to drive home how nice it is to not spend half the night coughing up your lung tissue.
The funeral was another experience, one that deserves a Chronicle of its own. Surreal. Awkward. Mixed emotions. Still wrapping my brain around it.
This Thursday the Prez and I head off on another adventure…Sin City – Las Vegas. But that’s another story…
So until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy and lovin’ life!