My name is NOT Carol Hamilton.
Really. It’s not.
Carol Hamilton is having a problem with her bills right now, and the collection agencies are calling. Since they’re on the east coast, they’re calling pretty daggone early, too.
Problem is, they’re not calling Carol. They’re calling me.
Verizon has given Derrick-the-Droidphone a temporary number while I compare iPhone and DroidX mobile superphones. Apparently the temp number used to be Carol’s, so while I’m learning about Droids I’m also learning a lot about collection calls.
And I’m learning that collection agents are a cynical lot. “I’m sorry, there’s no one here by that name,” I said on the first call.
“Uh-hmmm. Well, could you go get her, please?” said the man on the phone.
I patiently repeated that message to the second caller. “Are you sure?” she asked dubiously. I assured her that I had never given shelter to anyone, real or imagined, named Carol Hamilton.
“OK, well, I’ll call back tomorrow, then.”
The sixth caller was more aggressive. “Ma’am, I can’t just take your word for it. I need you to get out your credit cards and read the numbers back to me. Now.”
“How will that prove I’m not Carol Hamilton?” I asked, exasperated, “And how would you know I’m not lying?”
“Oh, Carol, I’d know,” he said ominously, “I’d know.”
And so it goes. Some callers believe me and promise to take that phone number off their call lists. Most call again. I’ve thought about asking Verizon for a new temporary number but that seems silly.
And my writer’s brain can’t resist telling the story of Carol. Some days I picture a struggling single mother, out of work and desperately trying to feed her kids with credit cards.
On others she’s a lonely grandma, done out of her life savings by greedy bankers. She can’t call her kids for help because I’ve got her phone number.
Lately, especially after a wee-hours collection call, she’s become a cold-hearted thief, callously bankrupting mom-and-pop shops across America. I picture her running up bills for Jimmy Choos and big hairy coats made from endangered species, bills she knows she’ll never have to pay because she’s moved to Paris and dumped her phone number on me. And I just want to strangle her.
In these days we know better than to assume that only the shiftless have unpaid bills. Things happen. Unemployment is flying higher than a stealth bomber, and far too many faces wear the desperate, pinched look of joblessness.
But please, if you work for a collection agency and Carol Hamilton’s name pops up on your call list today, just send her a letter.