Fun With Bill Collectors

edited by ANDREW HICKS

A stunned Ertel receives terse words from a deceptively smiley, multiethnic lady named Nancy. Image by Eric Dohman.

[DISCLAIMER: The following conversation between me and a debt collector literally just happened. As I was on the phone, I was furiously typing away on this porno/typewriter thing I call the Internet. The rest I filled in from memory. Some I may have even embellished. So sue me… wait, don’t sue me. Forget I even mentioned that.]

NANCY: Hello, this is Nancy with [insert bullshit collection agency name] and am I calling in regards to an overdue bill, on your account with [bullshit business name] Am I speaking with Ertel Gray at the moment?

ME: Yep. You sure are.

NANCY: Mr. Gray, I am calling on behalf of [bullshit business] in regards to your outstan–

ME: Yep. Listen, Grace, we’ve established that.

NANCY: It’s Nancy.

ME: I am who you’re looking for, and yes I owe [bullshit business] [X amount of] dollars. Congratulations, you’ve tracked me down.

NANCY: We can offer you, if you’d like to settle this debt today, by check or credit card, no service charges whatsoever.

ME: Well, that’s awfully generous of ya to waive a three-dollar surcharge if I pay today, Shelley, but I have like no money on my bank card until payday, so I’m gonna have to pass.

NANCY: Again, it’s Nancy. Let me ask you this, what would you be comfortable with paying today?

ME: Greta, I gotta tell ya–

NANCY: It’s Nancy.

ME: I’m sorry, I mean no disrespect, I just have a hard time with names.

NANCY: How much would you be comfortable with paying today?

ME: Well, I’d be completely 100-percent comfortable if I could just give you all of it. I’d literally be lying on a marshmallow cloud of comfort. However, the myth vs. reality of the situation here is I can’t pays what I ain’t gots.

NANCY: Is there a partial amount you could pay today?

ME: How does three dollars sound?

NANCY: Three dollars? [long pause]

ME: Yeah. I mean, that’s what I have available to me at the moment. I could search the apartment for loose change. I tend to forget to take it out of my pockets when I’m washing clothes, but it’s probably not worth your drive all the way to Pennsylvania for a few loose quarters and dimes in change. I could be wrong, I’ll admit. It’s possible I’m underestimating your devotion to settling this outstanding debt. But like I said myth vs reality, I’m betting on reality.

NANCY: Sir, I don’t believe that you are taking this matter seriously.

ME: Oh, but I am, Gertrude.

NANCY: Nancy.

ME: Sorry, Darla.

[I can feel the aggravation literally oozing through the telephone at this point.]

ME: Look, I’ve never had one of these calls before, so I just don’t know what to tell you. Blame the economy, blame my shitty job, blame the home-market collapse, I know, I’m not happy about that either. But it is what it is.

NANCY: Well, sir, this is a very serious matter.

ME: Look, what do you want me to do? I’ll turn tricks if I need to, but you guys will have to front me the fishnets, high heels and a good strong-armed pimp. One who watches out for his tricks, ’cause I’ll tell you this — I am NOT getting punched in the mouth by that Slap Chop guy ’cause I refused to kiss him.

NANCY: Okay, good day to you, sir.

ME: You too, Debbie.

NANCY: [sighs] Nancy. It’s Nancy.

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