Friday, May 25, 2012

The Wolf At The Door

Anybody else broke right now? Scraping the bottom of the barrel, coaxing the ends to meet but they're just sort of half-heartedly waving at each other from across the dance floor? An informal poll of the ten or eleven people left in the world that I can stand anymore has proven that, no, it's not just me. We're all shaking the bag for crumbs to feed the wolf at the door.

Friends, listen to me. It's only money. Don't get bummed out. It's important to remain cheerful. I would be hiding in my bed with an Angel marathon on Netflix and a pint of Ben and Jerry's Choco-Prozac-a-holic Crunch if  I hadn't learned a long time ago that happiness isn't tethered to your bank account. Not if you're able to properly sort your priorities. And, some of you need to learn that "stuff" is usually "stuff we don't really need." Ben and Jerry's included. For a number of reasons.

Warped perception of "need" is a personal source of befuddlement, actually. How many times have I lent a sympathetic ear and heartfelt, empathetic words of encouragement to an emotional person who is crying poor, only to later be informed by that same person all about how they "had to" go and get a mani-pedi. Or the latest and greatest iWhatever. Or a spiffy new guitar to put next to the other fourteen they own.


If you are telling me that you're in serious financial trouble, what am I supposed to say when you keep going to Starbucks every day to fork over nearly four whole dollars so you can suck down some sort of giant iced Fatty-Creamo-Fuckachino? By all means, have your fun and more power to you, but I'm going to need you to save the wailing and wringing of hands. Because if you're doing shit like that, then you just don't, in fact, get it. So I'll kindly request that you give me a break. 

Today I didn't go get pampered with a mani-pedi and then enjoy a nice outing to Starbucks. I trimmed my nails with a clipper I've had since the Clinton administration and then I put some Keurig coffee into the fridge for later. Then I called Comcast to cancel the cable, because, holy shit, have you looked at your bill lately? Fuck TV. It's rotting your brain anyway, chuck it.

Right now Joe and I are crossing a bit of a rough patch. It's temporary, and not horribly impossible to manage, but it's lean times here at the Hall of Justice. I count my blessings that we're only behind by hundreds, not thousands, and I'm kissing my own ass that I've set up my life so that this kind of rough patch doesn't mean massive, unrepairable damage. For example, I don't own a home, so I won't lose a home. Shit like that. My heart goes out to the single mothers, the minimum-wage earners, the people in real trouble. I count my blessings. Some bills getting paid late -- come on, that could be so much worse. They'll get paid.

One of the bills was around $400, and this tidy sum I owed to one Cubby Oil. Given the mild winter that prevented the oil industry from bending us over a bike rack on a monthly basis, instead Cubby Oil had to spike up to four bucks a gallon for the one fill-up they did. So in March I had this huge bill. But you know what? I was positive that they lied about how many gallons they delivered. When you're pinching pennies, limiting the thermostat and watchdogging that oil tank meter is one of the things you do. There is no way they delivered that many gallons, but I couldn't prove it. I tried, but there's really no way.

When you have fourteen cents, $400 may as well be four thousand dollars. Of course I will get to it. It's on the list. I pay my bills. I know it's late. Other things are ahead of it on the list, such as rent and electricity. It's really very simple -- giving Cubby Oil $400 would require that I have $400 to give Cubby Oil. As I've mentioned, I didn't have $400 to give Cubby Oil.

I had that bill hopefully earmarked to pay this week, which I told the guy on the phone, but I had to wait until pay day, which I told the guy on the phone. Didn't matter. Guy on the phone was brutal.

"You have a payment that's overdue," said Cubby Oil guy.

"I know, it sucks," I said to Cubby Oil guy

"You have to pay your bill," said Cubby Oil guy.

"I would LOVE to pay it. But I don't have any money," I said to Cubby Oil guy

"But you have to pay the bill. You have a bill that's overdue," said Cubby Oil guy.

"Yes. I know, it'd be great if I could pay it, but I really don't have any money," I said to Cubby Oil guy, again. I told the guy that I have negative $156. I would need $157 just to work UP to being merely broke. I said I'm not holding back just to fuck with you. I really have no money.

"Well when you pay this, we have to cancel out your account and you'll never get any more oil," said Cubby Oil guy.

Really? Saying this to a penniless person who is doing everything possible to remain cheerful in a fairly grim situation is equivalent to walking up to a hungry homeless child with a big cheeseburger in your hand and saying, "You could be eating this, but you're just so pathetic." It's beyond insulting, it's unprofessional. It's actually kind of sick, if I'm honest. This is a business? Shouldn''t he be asking when I expect to be able to pay it, and saying words like "payment plan" and stuff? Instead, these insults and threats?

"You know what dude? Do what you have to do. I'm trying to tell you that I don't have any money at all, I am in a very tough place right now. I don't know what else to tell you," I said to Cubby Oil guy. I hung up laughing at the pure ridiculousness of the situation.

A coworker overheard this whole thing. When I told him that the Cubby Oil guy threatened that after I pay the balance he's going to kill the entire account, my coworker said "Well why did he say THAT? That just moved Cubby Oil to the bottom of the list." Cubby Oil must have assumed so too, because five days later I looked at my bank balance online to make sure that my direct deposit paycheck had gone through, so that I could pay some bills. Well, the day of that phone call, Cubby Oil had debited my card. Without my authorization. NOW I had negative a-fucking-lot. In order to keep treading water I'd been doing everything possible to avoid letting my account get any worse, then boom, Cubby Oil decided to waltz in, squeeze blood from a stone, and skyrocket my overdraft fees. Out-fucking-standing. Thanks, Cubby Oil, for the assist into the abyss.

You can only laugh. (Update October 2016: you can also Yelp. Cubby Oil is a terrible, awful company.)