The Raven

October 4, 2010 at 6:39 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I thought there was an underground railroad, for cars. If you get upside down on your loan and can’t pay it, and to keep the finance company from repossessing it, I thought you and your car could escape through the financial underground railroad and escape, and be free, and live forever in happiness, and freedom, and open roads. I thought there was a place you could go where you didn’t have to fear having your car taken from you in the middle of the night by The Men in Black. The Repo Men. The Raven…
I also thought that having a luxury car was supposed to be a joy, a thrill. A never-ending automotive orgasm where I furtively spurt 5W-20 motor oil as I take a hard right turn and say, “Wheeee!”
I reminded myself just the other day, when I was missing Nigel and wishing I had kept him–and I do wish that–that Nigel was getting a bit long in the tooth. He was getting older and had some miles on him. He was still quick and spry, but you could tell that when you weren’t looking, he was nursing his aching joints.
We put him out to pasture–quite unexpectedly, I think–and I miss him.
Having the Mercedes was exactly like having a love affair with a younger, exotic, foreign woman. At first–at first it is exciting and fulfilling: The the adventure, the night life, and the jealous glances of lesser men all added to the thrill of wrapping myself in this expensive, luxurious beauty.
But there is always a price to pay.
And often, that price is actually money. I have recounted my financial problems with the Mercedes–how I couldn’t even afford to pay the personal property tax on it to license it, for starters.
Even working on the car was like being with an exotic foreign woman. I didna understand the language she spake; and when I puzzled it out, I had a hard time relating it to what I needed to do to please her.
Just figuring out how to change the windshield wipers was an adventure. Changing the oil for the first time was an epic tale of misunderstanding, stupidity, and frustration.
But that may be all in the past. This torrid love affair, this scandalous experiment in European couture is over. If one can no longer pay for the services of madame escort, then madame escort shall bid you adieu.
Like a poorly-done spy thriller, her people tried to blackmail me, and then they double-crossed me, see? I ignored (or perhaps forgot) their demand for payment, and as their patience wore thin they just took it! They took my money! They absconded like common criminals with money from my account! Extortioners!
As Bugs Bunny famously said, “Of course you realize–dis means war.”
But I guess I am glad they did that, because what it did was brought to my attention the fact that I could no longer afford this sordid affair with German engineering. Maybe if she didn’t insist that we go to the most expensive restaurants and hotels…
I couldn’t afford her, and I started to resent her for it, and it showed. The sweet Fraulein got a taste of what middle-class America is like: fast food trash, mud, and the wrappers of cheap cigars. She was starting to feel used. Vindictively, I felt she deserved it for what she had put me through. Talk about high maintenance.
I held off the calls for about a month and a half. They were really starting to sweat, I think, wondering what I was doing to their little Germanic princess I was holding hostage. Finally, I answered the phone.
Tactically, of course, she measures her words. But the question was, did I want to continue this game, this charade, this cat-and-mouse chase? No. I was done.
The woman was still trying to leverage me when I told her that I am ready and willing to give up my hostage. Where do you want me to make the drop?
Her tone changed from stern but friendly to hostile and accusatory. “You knew what you were doing! You knew!”
“Indeed,” said I.
But it was a game of he said-bitch said. I say they didn’t have authorization to withdraw funds. She said I did approve it, and she herself handled the transaction, because she told me if I couldn’t make the payment by the end of the month to give her a call back.
So now she’s my holla-back girl? Even if that is true…I don’t explicitly recall saying, “Yes, take money out of my account.” On the recommendation of my personal banker (and everyone should have one), I closed the old account and opened a new one. Instead of needing a new debit card, they simply attached the card to my new account.
And not just because I work at the bank at which I bank. My personal banker (You know, he’s just a glorified teller that has a wood grain cubicle off to the side instead of standing behind the counter. And he was the next one available when I went down to see him. Still, that makes him “my” personal banker.) said that whenever there is an issue like this–some breach of security or private information–they recommend closing the account and opening a new one.
That happened back in August. The week I was on my useless vacation, they withdrew the money from my account on Wednesday. That just happened to be the day *before* I got paid, which was Thursday. So they put me in the hole.
I didn’t check my account until the next week, and by then it was too late. Since I’m petty, vindictive, and passive-aggressive, I approached this with a new, calculated strategy. I refused to answer the phone when they called. And they called often. A few times per week. The funny thing–the odd thing–is that right after they would call my work phone and it went to voice mail, my cell phone would ring. My brand new cell phone with a new carrier and new contract and new phone number that I had not given out to ANYONE. How did they find my number? Oh, I know how they did it. I’ve watched Veronica Mars; I know how this works.
But the man leaving me messages on my phone was different and had a different tone than the woman calling my work phone. It made me wonder, really, was it just a coincidence?
In a very stern tone that was meant to indicate “You’re in trouble,” the man would say this: “Today is September 27th. A file has come across my desk with YOUR name on it. A decision must be made concerning this matter. It would be better for all parties involved if you were a part of that decision that needs to be made. Call my office at blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, blah, extension blah-blah, before 4pm Pacific time today, September 27th.”
Yeah. Notice how they never *said my name*. It’s a new phone number for me. I don’t identify myself by my full name on my voice mail–hell, I might not use my name at all, I need to check–so am I supposed to presume the message is for me? Not on your life. Hell, for all I know, it could be one of those identity theft-phishing scams.
But during that time it also gave me time to assess my financial situation. I have pages of budget spreadsheets figuring shit six ways to Sunday, color charts, bar graphs, pie charts–and all they do is tell me in a variety of interesting and colorful ways how broke I am.
No matter how I did it, the number that I was in the red every month…was curiously similar to the amount of my car payment. There was just a point where it clicked with me. I had been looking for ways to make more money–sell blood, sell semen, sell my body–and looking for ways to cut my bills, but *that* bill I never conceived of being able to reduce.
But I could eliminate it completely.
By eliminating the car payment, reducing my car insurance, and going from a big phone plan down to a cheaper one (I’ll explain that in a moment), that puts me in the realm of not being in the red every month. Maybe not “in the green,” but out of the hazard.
We also changed the phone plan. Again. Out of desperation. We had been with–let’s start at the beginning. I was with Sprint when Detroit and I first met. We got together and went with Verizon. Last year, I think, we switched from Verizon to Sprint…for two weeks. Then we went to AT&T. I thought we were getting a good deal–but Christ. Detroit and her son and I, unlimited data and text, and 700 shared minutes *should* have been about $120 per month. But it ended up being about 184 per month, when you add on late fees and all this other stuff. Taxes. Things like that.
So I owe them money now, because we just dropped them like a bad transmission, and went to Cricket. Alex joined his Grandmother’s plan, so we don’t hasta worry about him. Detroit pays her Cricket and I pay mine. Thirty-five bones per month, unlimited text, unlimited voice. And nothing else.
I could get data and web and other crap for another 10 bucks a month, but fuck it. I never used the internet on the phone before. The only thing I can’t do is text photos. I think I’ll live. So our phone bill went from 180 to 70, and *mine* went from 180 to 35. Fucking sweet. Even if it was just the right amount, call it 120 bucks. The car payment was about 275. Four hundred, easily. When I redo my insurance, it’ll be less as well.
I wonder–should I get full coverage on my truck? It is paid for. Regardless, insurance for a ten-year old truck should be cheaper than the insurance on a 10 year old Mercedes.

When my handler finally transferred me to a repo case worker, he was more polite. He explained some of the particulars, and offered me some other options, but that only served to firm up my resolve. First of all, I paid 10 grand for the car. I know I overpaid right there-I bet the car was worth only 8, maybe less at the time. But then factor in my bad credit and what they chose to ream me for on the interest rate–
And by the way–a year later I was able to refinance my house, so how bad was my credit *truly*? But the ganked me on that as well. So, Juan tells me that I’ve made 23 payments–that’s over 6300 dollars–and I still owe over nine thousand. Based on the year and miles of the car, it’s probably worth about 4 grand, he tells me.
It’s the beginning of October, so the car would probably be sold at the end of the month. At an auction, they aren’t going to get anywhere near the four grand it is supposedly worth.
And good luck getting that out of it with a cracked windshield, a trashed interior, body damage, needing engine work and a tune up…oh, and surprise!–A big honking computer monitor rolling around in the trunk.
So by January I would hear from their lawyers, and be responsible for the balance due, which they could garnish my wages or put a lien on my house. Hmmm.
Is it the truth or is it a tactic?
Don’t know, not sure, and I’m a little concerned. Juan did ask me about my bills. I said, with my house payment and child support, I can’t afford the car. That’s the whole point. Can’t afford it. “How much do you bring home a month?”
“About 2 grand,” I answer.
“How much is your house payment and your child support?”
“Eleven hundred and five hundred.”
“How much are your utilities?”
“About four hundred.”
Yeah, cowboy, that adds up to two thousand. Not much there to garnish, is there?
Here’s hoping.
Juan faxes me a form to sign and fax back, for voluntary surrender. But I wanted to make sure, so I emailed my lawyer-friend, and I haven’t heard back from him yet.
Last night–or this morning, at 215 AM–I hear a knocking, gentle knocking, at my chamber door. Actually, first I heard the dog bark. Then I heard someone talk to the dog. Then I heard some other muffled voices. Then someone knocked on my bedroom door. “Someone is here to take the car.”
Really? Really? At 2 am you want to do this? Really?
He was a smallish, short guy in overalls. He seemed slightly taken aback to see my large frame come through the door in the middle of this cool October night wearing only knit shorts and nothing else. I mumbled something about why they couldn’t do this in the daytime. His excuse–echoed by the unseen guy in the truck–was that they tried to call and leave a message. Sure they did. Sure.
I trodded out to the car and grabbed my Pizzarama Hat from the back seat and my lighter from the dash in front. Damn luxury car–the cigarette lighter never worked. I looked for my sunglasses…but shit, it was dark and I was half asleep. I’ll have to buy another pair for ten bucks.
I handed over the key and walked back in the house. I wonder if I was supposed to sign something? Oh, well. As I snuggled back into bed, I heard the truck drive off, followed by the car.
Quoth the Mercedes, “Nevermore.”

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