Thursday September 24, 2020
Jul-21-2011 21:42TweetFollow @OregonNews
My Collection Agency CareerBy Daniel Johnson, Associate Editor, Salem-News.com
The first day the boss upbraided me for sitting at my desk too much. You have to get up and walk around he said. And you have to yell and be louder.
(CALGARY, Alberta) - Once upon a time, a long time ago, I worked at a collection agency. I lasted three days. By the end of the third day I realized I couldn’t do it anymore.
It was the Acme Collection Agency (real name) here in Calgary and here’s what happened:
There were four or five of us at desks in an open area, each with a pile of 8x11 cards with the names of the “deadbeats”, the amount they owed, to whom at the top and a running register of calls made and their results. It was there I learned a few telephone abbreviations like—lmtc (left message to call). This was in the 1970s, a couple of decades before computers became ubiquitous in offices.
The manager’s name was Brian Soare, and he lived down to his name (Sore, not soar)
The first day he upbraided me for sitting at my desk too much. You have to get up and walk around he said. And you have to yell and be louder.
We were also given a list of threats to use: court papers are being prepared as we speak but I can stop them if you pay something; the sheriff will be at your door tomorrow to seize your TV/stereo/first born but I can stop it, yadda yadda.
No one thought very far ahead because if such a threat was voiced and the person didn’t pay some or all of the debt and nothing happened, they knew the threat was just that and they could and did ignore it.
It was an Enuresis Clinic that did me in.
Enuresis? Wha?? That’s bed wetting and I was supposed to collect a debt from an adult man who had this problem and couldn’t pay part or all of the bill. I don’t recall his name, but he lived in Midnapore, a village on the edge of Calgary (long since absorbed and overrun) where my wife had grown up and lived all her life until I arrived to take her away from all that.
When I got home after that first day I asked her if she knew the man. Yes, she did, and he was a sad case. Not overly bright, he lived by himself and made his way by doing odd jobs around the village.
The next day or two when, I got to his name again, I didn’t even bother to call but wrote the date and time on the card and lmtc. I started doing that more and more.
But I did earn at least part, if not all, of my salary. I remember a man at the front counter who, responding to my threats, had come in to pay.
All this reminds me of a scene from the classic cult movie Repo Man starring Emilio Estevez (Otto) and Harry Dean Stanton (Bud) as repo men. The two are driving down the street in a poor section of downtown. There are men lying on sidewalks and benches, others leaning in doorways and others just shuffling aimlessly along the sidewalk.
Bud, a bitter repo man, says: “If there was only some way of finding out how much they owe and making ‘em pay.”
Otto replies: They don’t have any money. That’s why they’re bums.
So, after three days I realized that my future did not lie in the direction of abusing people for a living. I am a human being.
There’s a quote by Hal Holbrook from the first Wall Street movie. He’s speaking to Charlie Sheen (Bud) and says: “Remember, Bud, the thing about money is it makes you do things you don’t want to do.” I’ve resisted that pressure my whole life, which explains why I’ve often been poor. But I’ve more often been happy.
_________________________________Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place
Articles for July 20, 2011 | Articles for July 21, 2011 | Articles for July 22, 2011