IT’S BANGED UP AND BRUISED AND IT’S ALL GONE SO RUSTY

The best class I ever took in college was a four-credit-hour lab in the political science department entitled “The Perceived Safety of Travel: Building the Perfect Car Bomb.” We covered the history, science, and technology of car bombs, from the primitive ignition-based devices and old-school “tilt fuses” to more current mudguard-or-under-seat magnetic bombs. Three-quarters through the semester, the teacher was arrested for high treason and the class was cancelled. The dean emailed the class list, informing us that there would be no substitute teacher and no credit would be given. When I saw him in his office, he informed me that there was no possible way I could justify the car-bomb course as necessary for my Library Science degree. “I see,” I said. “You’re the white Geo Metro outside, RSX593, right?”

FIVE REASONS MONOTONIX IS THE BEST LIVE BAND TODAY

1. They don’t use the stage. Every time I’ve seen them– which is a lot— they always either start the show off the stage down in the audience, or start on the stage and then quickly move down into the crowd. It’s immediate and awesome. I’ve destroyed some of my favorite clothes at Monotonix shows.

2. They always go up.

3. Always. I’ve seen the singer supported by the crowd’s hands next to the drummer, whose stool and entire kit were supported by crowd hands, next to the guitarist, laying on his back and straight-up throwing down. They’re not the only ones who go up– a couple years ago our friend Jim went up, surfed around uncontrollably, and kicked Barb in the face, causing her glasses to fly off into the crowd and get ground into powder. That, my friends, is rock and roll.

4. Death-defying stunts! He jumped off, but I was too busy catching him to take a picture of it. They always climb all over the place. One show we attended, the show ended when everyone marched out of the venue into the street, blocking traffic completely. The drummer set up in the middle of the street, the singer scaled a lamppost and then the side of a building and never stopped scream-singing. We rocked out on the street until an ambulance came down the road with sirens blaring. Then the show ended. That might have been the same show where Jim kicked Barb in the forehead, come to think of it.

5. Wanton destruction! They carried the drum kit to a trampoline down the way a little bit from the stage, set it all up in a tower, and then threw a snare at it, sending it skittering and bouncing like bowlingpins. I’ve seen them set things on fire, punch through snares, coat each other with garbage, and nearly die multiple times.

Man, I love that band.

SIR THIS IS A LEGAL MATTER

At my job, one of my peripheral duties is to answer the main desk phone. This means that calls come in on an infrequent but regular basis, about one or two calls per hour, and usually from a small number of possible categories. Employees call in and tell me they’re sick and can’t make it. People who want jobs call in and ask me to transfer them to a recruiter. People selling things ask me to transfer them to sales. Other companies call in and ask me to verify past or current employment. Sometimes confused people call in looking to purchase phone service.

Then there are the debt collectors.

I am personally of the opinion that as a category, debt collectors are the absolute scum of the earth. I don’t begrudge any debt collectors personally– the good Lord knows we all have to work, and in this economy sometimes that means accepting a job with ethically shaky employers– but as a category, as a career choice, in terms of providing a valuable service to society, debt collectors are the lowest of the low. Much of this is circumstantial– there’s nothing prima facie wrong with debt collection. Someone bought something from you on credit, they didn’t pay you for it. You want your money. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem that I have with debt collectors is due largely to their methodology. Their shady, shady methodology.

The way that debt collection usually works is this: the company or small business attempts to collect on the debt using traditional methods. After a certain amount of time, it usually becomes clear that the debt is Not Going To Get Paid. When this happens, a professional debt collection business will step in and purchase the owed debt at a huge discount. Then they begin to chase down the debtors. This means doing things like contacting friends, family members, and employers of the debtors until they (the debtors) either cough up the amount or come to an agreement with the collection agency, whether it be a partial lump payment or a payment plan.

Debt collectors use fear and harassment tactics. Generally a couple times a week, I’ll get a call for one of our employees, and the debt collector will kick up a huge fuss about how it’s a legal matter and they need to speak with the technician and if I don’t transfer them I’ll somehow bring the full force of the law down on my head. This is straight-up not true. If someone calls and they’re not a cop, I flat turn them down. I say something like “That person is unable to accept calls at this number.” Which, in addition to being true, also serves a vague legal purpose. My friend Greg, a lawyer who primarily defends people against legal actions related to debt collection, told me that if you use this verbiage or a close approximation, then legally the debt collector is disallowed from calling in again, and if they do, it becomes possible to sue them.

I love this part of the job. I love telling these skeevy debt-collectors to take a flying leap at a rolling doughnut. I love protecting my employees, in the little way that I can, from the fear and loathing that comes with talking to a debt collector.

Sorry. I meant to tell a hilarious story and it turned into a diatribe.

So: there’s the background. Aaaaaand… curtains up.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

The DEBT COLLECTOR has a thick middle eastern accent. This is strong but by no means incontrovertible evidence that he is working from overseas. He is perhaps mid-30s. This is what he does for a living: calls people, asks to speak with them regarding their outstanding debts, threatens them with legal action. The people that he speaks with are mainly combative, argumentative, and screamy.

The FLOOR MANAGER is logy but alive, sipping a coffee and monitoring the activity going down during another business day.

ACTION!

The PHONE rings.

FLOOR MANAGER: [Name of Business], this is Keith.

DEBT COLLECTOR: Hello, I’m calling about a legal matter, may I speak with (name of tech)?

FLOOR MANAGER: I’m sorry, she’s unable to accept calls at this number.

DEBT COLLECTOR: Take down my name and number.

FLOOR MANAGER: I’m sorry, I’m unable to pass along any messages.

DEBT COLLECTOR: Sir this is a legal matter. We represent an important company. This is regarding an important legal action.

FLOOR MANAGER: Sorry. She can’t accept calls at this number and I am unable to pass on a message.

(There is a PREGNANT PAUSE.)

DEBT COLLECTOR: Motherfucker. (hangs up)

FLOOR MANAGER: Ha ha haaaa! I win!

NOTE: In the DEBT COLLECTOR’S thick accent, it sounded more like “mootafukka.” HILARITY! This guy made my entire day.