Category Archives: Materialism

A Heart Two Sizes Too Small

I think it’s safe to say that I don’t “do” Christmas. My lack of participation has nothing to do with religion or any anti-corporate political sentiment. Christmas just never seems to work out for me, but I have no hard feelings. I don’t have any children to disappoint, and traditional Christmas activities don’t hold my interest, so I prefer to just take the day and relax and do what I want. I don’t even know why I should care or feel guilty about it. Most Americans (myself included) have too much stuff anyway, so I’m less inclined to feel guilty about not shopping. Our attics, garages, landfills, and thrift stores are full of crap no one needs. Why contribute? My mother and I used to hit the Indian casino on Christmas –before she was injured, I mean. She was blind in one eye and almost blind in the other, but she could still kind of manage certain electronic slot machines. Me? I’m a blackjack girl.

I actually love shopping. I love buying gifts. I get quite a rush when I find something interesting that reminds me of someone I love. I wouldn’t say that I have expensive taste, but my taste is at least a solid middle-class. At the moment, I am not middle class. I was thankful that I was able to give (and sell) my BFF some things that she enjoys, so I could at least give her something even if I can’t really afford to buy anything. I have mentioned this before, but I was almost certainly a compulsive shopper for many years before I experienced the events that led to my poverty. That’s really the only reason why I’ve been living like this so long and I still had so many things to sell and give away. I am still making sales online. I found a designer purse at a local Goodwill, and if it’s still there this weekend, I may buy it with sale proceeds and try to make a profit. At least I’m considering it.

Christmas was set aside this year because with my current jobless state combined with preparations for an overseas move. Last year I was unemployed and stressed. The year before that my whole team was laid off 11 days before Christmas when our jobs were outsourced. The year before that I spent a large part of Christmas in the hospital after major surgery. The year before that, I had a low-wage receptionist job and I had spent every penny and maxed every line of credit in moving expenses to get my last apartment and away from the apartment with gross people and no hot water.

Being estranged from my family makes any major holiday complicated. I’m completely okay with being estranged from them. In fact, I wish there were more distance. Estrangement –at least in my case– is a very good thing, but being “the orphan” has its downsides. It’s awkward when acquaintances ask me if I’ll be visiting my “parents” for the holiday. It’s even more awkward when acquaintances invite me to visit their parents. I went to my drunk cokehead roommate’s family Christmas celebration in 2004. Her family was very nice to me, but I was out of place. I’d never met them, but they bought me presents. I appreciated it (and still have and use many of the gifts I received) but I felt so guilty. I was stunned by how unappreciative my ex-roommate was of her parents. I had gone to her parents’ house expecting no more than a family dinner and I nearly wept when I saw that they prepared a stocking for me. They filled the stocking  with cute novelty socks, scented lotions, lip balms, and a bottle of wine. My ex-roommate received the same stocking stuffer gifts that I received and all she did was complain about them not being to her taste.

I’m uncomfortable when anyone puts out any effort for my sake, especially if they don’t even know me. Especially if I can’t reciprocate.

My current roommate invited me to spend Christmas with her family but I declined. The last time I spent a holiday with her and family members, there was hitting, slapping, and ultimately police intervention. Oh, and the phone used to call police was smashed to bits. And there was dog poop thrown at my roommate’s car — and this was all after an argument about how often to feed a cat! My family is crazy, but they aren’t that kind of crazy. I thought that things like that only happened in sitcoms. Having the house to myself for a couple of days is far better than any gathering with someone else’s family. Tomorrow or the next day, I will spend time with another friend who hates her family. That’s really the best way to spend Christmas, in my opinion.

Now that I live in a house with cable, I will watch A Christmas Story, which I don’t believe I’ve seen in full since I was maybe nine years old. Such a shame that Flick ended up a porn star.

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Filed under Home Life, jerks, Materialism

Lamster

I am officially out of my old apartment, which is a great relief. I moved out four years to the date that I moved in. I managed to do it without getting an official eviction notice, which I’ll never understand. A bit over a week ago, I received a second pay or vacate notice demanding only half of the rent that I owe. It was either a big mistake in my favor or a passive, half-assed way of trying to make a deal with me. I bailed.

I got everything I need (and many things I don’t) out of the apartment, and I cleaned a bit. I was able to sell, donate, throw away, or give away a lot. I didn’t clean as well as I normally would have liked, but I did a better job than most people would have in such a hurry. I did abandon my bed (the frame broke three  moves ago and the mattress was in bad shape) and a desk. These things were too big for me to carry, dismantle, or transport by myself, and not in good enough condition to sell. I feel a little guilty. I also left a lot of stuff on my porch for Salvation Army home pickup. At least I vacuumed and cleaned the bathroom and kitchen. I did not leave a forwarding address. I haven’t returned my car yet, and so I was trying to move discreetly to avoid repo man detection. The neighbors can be pretty nosy, but mostly left me alone. One actually yelled to me through her window when I couldn’t even see who was talking to me. “Are you moving? Where are you going?” I just named a random neighborhood and left her with no further details.

My cat and I are still in Seattle and staying with a friend. I’m in a much nicer neighborhood and a much smaller living space. I still have some things I’m selling online. I’ve actually done quite well with selling things. Perhaps I should rethink my career.

I am giving my friend some money for me the use of her basement and sofa, and I’ll buy her some food with my food stamps. This place costs more than twice what I was paying in rent and it’s so much smaller. Living in the ghetto has its advantages, I guess. I don’t see how she can afford to live here.

She actually offered to let me stay here a long time ago, long before my problems got too serious. I could barely afford my first rent hike, and I think that’s around the time she first offered. I’m very thankful, but I really need to get back on my feet. My bank account was charged for my UK passport, so I’m assuming it went through. At least I hope they wouldn’t charge me for it if I’m not getting it! I still have too many things to take overseas. I wish it weren’t so psychologically difficult for me to part with things.

My cat is not happy. My friend has a cat of her own, and for reasons I don’t entirely understand, she’s worried about the cats interacting. She’s worried that neighbors will complain if they fight, which I think is rather silly. We don’t even share walls. The cats will certainly fight, but that seems like a bad reason to keep my little girl locked in the freezing basement. I put a little space heater down there, and I will get some kind of sleeping mat and sleep in the basement with the cat. I’ll have more privacy that way, anyway. Poor kitty. Her meows sound so despondent. She only stops crying when I go down to the basement with her.

I think this will work out for the time being. I really hope that my friend and I don’t have any major personality clashes. We’re both neurotic in our own ways. If it works out better than planned, I can maybe wait a little longer to move to the UK so I can take better care of the cat situation. This month marks 14 years I’ve had her.

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Destination Unknown

At the urging of a dear friend (you know who you are), I broke down and called my “second mother.” I can’t think of what else to call her, but she was my mother’s closest friend and I have known her since I was about three years old. She is the woman who gave me the $500 graduation present which I used on my overdue electric bill. I was afraid to tell her about what was going on in my life, mostly because I knew she wouldn’t hesitate to help me out. Part of it is that I don’t want help– or (more accurately) I don’t want to need help. I don’t want to need anything I can’t get myself. She has lent me money before, and I remember every penny. When I was living in a disgusting mold-ridden apartment, my roommate moved out and I couldn’t afford the rent by myself. I didn’t want to bring a new roommate into an apartment where even the light bulbs got moldy, so I needed to get out, too. Even though I was working two part-time temp jobs on top of my job at the phone sex line (where my pay was unpredictable), I was barely getting by and did not have enough money for deposits and a truck rental. My second mother covered my rent for the month until I moved out and got my next place (which wasn’t much better than the Mold Hole and my new roommate was an angry cokehead). She has told me not to worry about paying her back. She has told me over and over again to come to her if I have a problem and that my mother would have done the same for any of her kids. But I didn’t want to because I was worried that I would never be able to make it up to her.

I called her and just blurted it all out. I told her just about everything. And then she offered to let me live with her.

She made me a similar offer once before when one of my temp jobs ended, but I didn’t take her up on it. I would have felt guilty and I was worried I would get stuck there. She lives in a small town 2,500 miles away, and very near a place that has some awful, awful memories and some very toxic people. While not set in stone, it’s more likely than not that I am going. Unlike my local friends, she has a large home where I won’t be constantly underfoot. I feel this is a giant step backwards, but it isn’t. She has also offered to help me leave the country to be closer to my non-psycho living relatives. While I stay with her, I can get my immigration paperwork in order while I temp (or something) and help her around the house. My acceptance of her offer doesn’t mean that I’m any more comfortable with it than I was before. I hope this doesn’t sound overly mopey, but I’ve never been treated with unconditional kindness and it feels weird. It’s a pretty amazing thing to screw up, get angry with yourself, but to know that someone cares about you anyway. I certainly wasn’t raised like that.

Shortly after my last post, my actual landlord (not the owners of the condo) showed up unannounced. I’m surprised that he had never called me at any time during this mess, not even to return my call. I didn’t answer the door. I generally don’t when someone shows up unannounced. Why should I? Besides, I was in my pajamas and on the phone with a friend of mine who is currently in the hospital. Mr. Scary Landlord should have called first. I have become a terrible tenant, but I still have rights and he hasn’t taken charge of anything.

Mr. Landlord called me and left me a message saying that he had wanted to work things out without the court system, but that it was most likely not going to happen.

And I got scared. It took me over a day to get up the nerve to return his call. But I did it. I called the number he left me, and he didn’t answer and his voice mailbox was full. I called his office, and once again no answer. I left a message asking him what his plans were, and I told him I would be out soon. I just want to know. Once again, he has not returned my call. I called a third time. Nothing.

Between worrying about repo men and worrying about my landlord, I spend a lot of time hiding indoors. Until I called the local tenant’s union.

The tenant’s union has the worst hours ever. Their hotline is not so hot. You can only call from 3pm to 6pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and you have to call over and over to get through. After two days of calling, I finally got through on Wednesday and got some of my questions answered. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get booted out any minute or what was going to happen if they chose to go through the court system. So now I understand a bit more. I have at least a week. Nothing has been filed yet.

I have been living on my own since I was 17, and over time I’ve accumulated quite a lot of stuff. Back in the day, I had money, which is a bad thing to have when you have hoarding tendencies. For the most part, I stopped accumulating stuff years ago, but I have not yet done away with every remnant of the old me. Now I have to fit it all into my car. I can’t just toss everything in boxes and go, and since I’m broke, I would like to get money for whatever I can. I’m using Craigslist and Amazon, and I am carting things around to local stores. When it gets closer to the time I absolutely have to get out, then I’ll be less careful, but I’ll need some money for the road at least. And I can catch up on car payments. U-Hauls aren’t really an option because they are prohibitively expensive for long-distance travel. Also, if I’m heading overseas in the semi-near future, I can’t really take a whole lot with me.

I hope to be rid of all my furniture by Tuesday, and by then I will also have sold most of what I’ll be able to and will begin giving things away. A friend has offered to haul my stuff away for me, which is a great help. This process is mentally and physically exhausting.

My goals at this point are to stay with Mom 2, find any old job, and get myself to a place where I’m not killing myself with immense pressure. I will also get bankruptcy underway while I  prepare to move again. I am fortunate to have dual nationality, so it’s really a matter of waiting for my new ID, saving money, and sorting out temporary living situations. I’ll probably be taking my cat with me as well, and that’s another complication, but gives me more time to save money. I will look for a job while I’m here, but given that I can’t even find a job in the next state, I’m not too optimistic about finding a job across the pond.

 

P.S. I know I haven’t finished the awful repo story. One day, one day.

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Filed under "In this economy", Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles, Work

Commence Freakout

There was more knocking at my door. I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. Then there was knocking at my neighbor’s door. They did answer.

There was a lot of talking, and I didn’t hear it all. I hid in the darkness and crept to my door to listen. I spend most of my time in my living room which is at the back of the condo, so I don’t think they could see the lights on or any signs of life when they looked in from the parking lot.

I just heard bits and pieces, but enough to get an idea of what was going on.

“Well, we don’t really see her or talk to her. I saw her not too long ago, though.”

“When?”

“I think it was Monday. I used to see her in the mornings sometimes, but not so much lately.”

“<garble garble>, so the rental agency told us to come out and see what was going on. We just wanted to know if she’s still here. <garble garble> and we didn’t know if something happened to her or what.”

I’m actually glad my neighbor said he had seen me (which is true, I did see him a few days ago). Otherwise the landlords may have called the police or broken in. The last thing I want is for them to think I’ve been murdered or injured. Now they just know I’m an accidental deadbeat. As much as that sucks, it’s better than some alternatives. No one wants to be the bad landlord with a dead tenant that no one noticed. No one wants their tenant’s corpse to get eaten by a cat.

I thought I heard them mentioning a note, but I just went out there and there was nothing. Really, people? Why don’t you mail me a letter or leave me a voicemail? The last time I called them didn’t go so well, and I’m too anxious to do it again.

I know that I’m wrong for not calling them. It’s the right thing to do but I can’t do it. It’s painful for me to be like this. I hate it. I have spent my whole life putting my needs second, walking on eggshells for everyone else, living in fear of inconveniencing other people, and here I am being a huge inconvenience. I’m causing a lot of problems, not just with myself but with my landlord and rental agency.

When I was sure they were gone, I made the rounds calling transitional housing facilities again. I was calling them regularly and I’d had no luck, and calling them again today proved to be no different. They’re always either overflowing or they don’t answer their phones and they never call me back. I’ve called several. Once I get kicked out, then I am out of a home, probably for good. I will never have a home again without a lot of help that doesn’t seem to be available. Of all of the transitional places, only one sounds desirable, like I’d be able to get the help I need and get on my feet. One has truly bizarre requirements: they don’t take in anyone who has an open bankruptcy, owes a landlord money, has already received help from Housing Services, or has been evicted. What the hell kind of homeless people are they taking in?

Most of the transitional housing centers have a religious focus, which makes me a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t get here because of a lack of religion, and religion isn’t going to fix anything.

Anyone reading this blog probably has the same questions I do. I don’t know why I haven’t been evicted yet. I don’t know why no one has sent a deputy. I don’t know why I haven’t received an official eviction notice. I received a 3-day pay or vacate notice, but I didn’t pay and I didn’t vacate. So here I am. Friends keep telling me not to worry, that they have to notify me and that there must be documentation and court papers and certified letters and all kinds of crap that I haven’t received. But as we all know, nothing in my life goes the way it should. So yes, I am worried. And I feel inept. I haven’t worked towards paring down my belongings in a while. Off I go.

 

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Filed under Depression, fml, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles

I went to grad school and all I got were these awesome food stamps.

I'm so glad that they use a card now.

This week, most of my former classmates got their master’s diplomas in the mail. I got food stamps.

I have yet to receive my actual diploma, and I don’t know when or if I ever will. My last three terms, I had to take out short-term emergency loans because my regular loans just weren’t enough. They were expecting me to live on about $300 a month, so once my unemployment ran out, I started taking out emergency loans that upped my monthly “income” to $1100 or $1300. My situation was at its most dire my last term because that was when my car got repossessed and my electricity cut off. The problem with short-term loans is that you have to pay them back the following term. As the name implies, they are short-term loans. But if you run out of money and have to take out a short-term loan, chances are you are going to spend the short-term loan and then not have any more money once you pay back the loan after the quarter is over. So then you take out another short-term loan to pay off the last short-term loan. The cycle continues until graduation. You aren’t allowed to take out a short-term loan the quarter you graduate. I was desperate, so I lied. I took out my short-term loan as early as possible and I applied for graduation as late as possible. I finally got a job during my last term, but it just wasn’t enough.

Unfortunately, because of my bad loan habit and my medical bills (and maybe because of an incomplete I got in a class unrelated to my degree), they have a hold on my diploma, so I won’t be getting it until I pay them tons and tons of money. It’s okay. If anyone wants to call the university, they can confirm that I really did graduate. Though there is no foreseeable reason for anyone to call.

I am more excited about food stamps than I am about the degree. Because they took so long to approve my application, I got $108 to spend before October 31. It was quite a task, but I managed.

I have genetic insulin resistance. What that means is that for reasons unknown my body does not respond to normal amounts of insulin, so my pancreas overcompensates by secreting abnormally high levels of insulin nearly all the time. I have checked my blood sugar many times, and I have never once had a high reading. In fact, I am somewhat hypoglycemic (possibly because of the high insulin). My mother was the same, and she ended up with diabetes that ruined her life and killed her. My maternal grandmother was also the same. She, too, ended up with diabetes that ruined her life and killed her. The first time I got my insulin tested at age 24, my fasting level was 51 uU/ml. It should have been around 5. Insulin resistance is associated with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. My mother had type 1 diabetes, and I’m not sure how that relates to IR.

My doctor strongly advised me to go on a low-carbohydrate diet. I was doing well with that for a while, but when you live on food bank food, it’s difficult to stick to it. Carbs are cheap. My local food bank has four kinds of food: meaty, starchy, beany, and sweet. Meaty makes me vomit, starchy is kind of bad for me, sugary is really bad for me, and beany is just inadequate. I end up eating lots and lots of salted spaghetti. I haven’t been taking my medication, and I’ve been eating food that spikes my already-spiked insulin, so I’m gaining weight despite being hungry all the time and not having much to eat. I’m sure my insulin is through the roof again.

Nom nom nom.When I got food stamps before, I actually lost 20 lbs in about four months even though my caloric intake increased significantly. I was still eating too many starchy things, but I was eating a lot of vegetables, eggs, nuts, and tofu. I felt well and was getting plenty of exercise, which I haven’t been doing lately. I hope that my new food stamps will be a catalyst for me to get back on track and to a point where I care about myself again and can take steps towards regaining my health. I might even cook. It’s a bit sad that when I was working I did not have enough money for healthy food, but I do on food stamps. I get more with food stamps than I ever spent on food when I worked. I don’t buy cheap junk either. Sorry, Republicans. I guess this makes me a socialist bum. Go ahead and heckle. At my last job, I made less money than I was required to spend on rent and bills. I technically had no money for food unless I stopped paying for something else. That’s how I ended up with no phone and no electricity.

I became very sad at Trader Joe’s because every item I put in my cart made me wonder “Will I pack this when I move?”I still don’t know when I have to go. Or where to go.

 

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Impasse

The Impasse by Stephen Adams

A friend asked me “What would you be doing if you could get any job you wanted, right now?” To my surprise, my mind went blank. Two months ago, two years ago, six years ago, even ten years ago, he could have asked me that question and I would have described my career goals in striking detail. I was asked that question all through high school, college, graduate school, and even while I was working at crappy low-level jobs and I always had an answer. Now I don’t. I can only guess that something in me snapped during my most recent of many awkward interviews.

I’m still not looking for a job. I don’t think most people understand why. I’m not even sure that I do. I only finished my master’s degree in June, so it may seem like I am giving up on my job search early. Master’s degree or not, this has been a fruitless search since 2003. My last two jobs (crappy as they were) ended abruptly and in the same fashion. Those weren’t the only times either. I have simply lost the ability to handle certain types of tasks. I also struggle without proper healthcare. Without my medication, my ability to function in the workplace is limited, and without decent pay, my access to my prescribed medication is also limited. And I am far beyond frustrated with working at low-level, low-pay jobs outside of my skill set. If I hadn’t had one job in my career at a well-known and reputable company, I would probably just think I was a moron. But no, once upon a time, I was given a chance, and I did a good job and I was well-liked. And then my job was outsourced. That was the only brief glimmer of success in one very long and dark period. It wasn’t a great success, anyway. I was still low-income and stressed about money, but at least I felt accomplished.

I have been battling a rather bad respiratory infection for a while now. I’ve complained about it, I know. When I lie in bed I can hear my chest creak like an old staircase. Sometimes it sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies. Sometimes it makes both of those noises at the same time. I cough and choke until I see stars. It’s difficult to laugh. This may be difficult to believe, but I really do laugh a lot.

My landlord has still not taken action against me. It’s confusing, but it’s a relief. It’s also a source of much anxiety. I have not made much progress in packing or purging my belongings. I’m sick and exhausted.

I am currently working with the Department of Social and Health Services to find out if I can get some medical attention and possibly a case worker. It’s all downhill from here. I have also re-opened my food stamps application, and I hope I can get something on that end within the next few days.

I’m getting a bit frustrated because I am lacking some basic items that most people (including myself) often take for granted. I need dish soap. I need pants that both fit and don’t have holes. I want fresh food and a new toothbrush. I have decided to sell my car once I move into transitional housing. Unfortunately, my car insurance got canceled and my car is likely to be repossessed for the second time this year. I can’t do anything about that right now, but I can maybe find some clothes. There is a community clothing closet in the next town over, and I may try to stop by and see if I can find something. I also have some clothes that don’t fit me anymore, and I would be glad to donate. I don’t need much, unless I get a job. I really just want something that isn’t falling apart. The soles of my shoes are halfway off, and every time I walk outside I have to stop periodically to shake out the gravel and other debris. I was able to buy toilet paper after selling some things online. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to sell online because I do not get paid until the items ship (at least when I sell on Amazon.com). If I have no money, it’s a bit difficult to ship things.

I was able to get cat food during my last trip to the food bank, so my little feline friend will be well-fed for the time being. She’s not a terribly picky eater as long as I give her dry food.

I can only hope that my situation is temporary, and I will find my hope and drive again. It’s not like me to be a leech, and I’ve lost the energy to be a good scavenger.

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Stop This Rain (or Poverty-Induced Nightmares, Part 2

The repo incident, continued from here.

I don’t know how I fell asleep after that, but I did. Sleep is my escape. On the morning of April 6, I woke up earlier than usual because I had to take the bus all the way to work without using the Park & Ride like normal. Not having my car added an extra 30 minutes to my commute each way. I was already a partial bus commuter, so I didn’t have to make too big a change, but I still spent well over three hours each day on buses. Ghetto buses. I used my breaks at work to call the car loan company to figure out what to do.

When I first called, they told me that I would have to pay off the entire remaining balance on the car in order to get it back. That’s on top of about $400 in repossession fees and more in late fees. There was no way for me to get that kind of money in the time they allotted me. I reminded them that I had told them at least twice in advance that I would pay them in full on or before April 7. I also told them that I had tried to pay on April 3, both online and over the phone. I had tried to contact them at a reasonable hour, but I was thwarted by their business hours and my time zone. I reminded them that I had been unemployed for 15 months and that I had still managed to pay them on time every month for more than a year, but I’d had some additional difficulties and I fell behind after a long struggle.

The representative was sympathetic, and said she would see if they would make an exception for me. She was unable to tell me immediately the exact amount I needed to pay to get my car back.

I called back day after day. The silliest thing about it was that if they had actually listened to me, they would have already had their money, but because of their own haste, I was just sitting on it. Towards the end of the week, the representative at the car loan company told me that I could have my car back if I paid $1500. I was initially about $700 behind, and my third car payment had been due on April 12. They wanted the three full car payments and $450 in late fees and repossession fees. I hadn’t spent much money from my student loans, and I was working, so I was able to come up with $1500 on my next payday (during the week of April 13). I would have had to ignore other bills, but I could do it. I was also unable to buy books for school, which is what a large portion of that money was for. Technically, it was illegal to use a federal student loan to pay for something completely unrelated to school. I just wanted the car back so I could put the ugly mess behind me, and that was the only money I had.

After a repossession, they will not allow you to pay with a check or credit card, and the representative told me that the fastest way to pay would be through Western Union. There was a Western Union kiosk at a grocery store that was a ten-minute walk from my office, so I went there during my lunch break.

Prior to wiring the money at the main counter, I had to call Western Union on a phone at the customer service desk. When a customer picks it up, the phone calls Western Union automatically. It’s like the Bat-Phone only it connects you to the depths of customer service hell.

As soon as I picked up the phone, I was given a long list of automated warnings and instructions. I was told not to send money to any Nigerian princes or to anyone who may have informed me that I won a foreign lottery I had never entered. The message went on a long time, describing various ways that I could be scammed and warning me not to send money if I was in a situation that resembled any of their examples. After all of that, I finally got to speak to a customer service representative.

I asked the representative if I could give her my bank account information and wire the money that way. She said that there was no problem with that. She asked all of her questions (which took about 15-20 minutes), and then she gave me some kind of confirmation number. I went to the main desk with my confirmation number, and they told me that they only take cash. I did not have $1500 plus fees in cash. I couldn’t withdraw that much from my account in one day. I wanted to have the money wired directly from my account. I called back on the Bat-Phone. I’m not sure why. I guess I wanted to plead.

I listened to the automated warning about Nigerian princes again. I answered all the ridiculous questions again. I told the customer service representative what I wanted, and she said that she had to transfer me to a different department. She did –and I had to answer all of the questions and listen to the stupid message a third time. I had been doing this for about an hour at this point, I was supposed to be at work, and I had initially predicted it would take no more than twenty minutes.

I gave the next representative all of my bank account information, but then the bank refused to authorize the transaction. I realized that $1500 (actually $1564 with the fees) was an uncharacteristically large amount for me to withdraw at once. I begged the representative to stay on the line just a few minutes until I could call my bank on my cell phone because I was really pressed for time and I simply did not have 20 more minutes to call back and answer all those questions again. She agreed.

I called my bank and they verified my identity and lifted the hold. I was free to spend $1564. I spoke again to the Western Union representative and said “Okay, the bank lifted the hold! Can you run it again?” She said “no.”

“What?!”

“I’m sorry, your transaction declined, please call back another time.”

“But there was just a simple hold because it’s a large amount of money! It’s fine now!”

Again, she refused to process my transaction. I was pissed. I told her that I had just spoken with my bank. In fact, she probably heard me on the phone with my bank because she was just sitting there while I was talking on my cell phone. She continued to refuse to request the wire. I got very angry at this point and demanded to talk to her supervisor. Her supervisor came on the line and immediately started asking me the same questions I had already answered multiple times. Once she got to the Nigerian prince stuff, I just hung up.

I picked up the phone again and once the automated message started again I just hit zero zero zero zero zero zero zero until the zero button just stuck. I slammed the phone down so hard I think I broke it.

I stormed out of the store and walked towards my office. I glanced at my cell phone to see what time it was, and I saw that I had missed a call and had a voice mail. The voice mail message was from a man at Western Union. He asked me to return his call in regards to some money I had just transferred. I called back at the number he gave me, and I got through to someone right away. I gave them some basic information, and they told me to disregard the call because no money had gone through.

There was a payday loan establishment close to my office, and they had a sign out front that said that they would send money. I figured it was worth a shot. I was already late in returning from my lunch break and probably going to get in trouble at my brand new job. Might as well be shot for a sheep as a lamb, as my mother would always say.

I was a bit dismayed that the payday loan office also used Western Union, but I really just wanted to send the money off. I never knew it would be so difficult to give money away.

The process at the payday loan place was simpler, but once again the transaction was denied — this time for insufficient funds. I knew the money was there. It had been there when I had the other representative on the phone, and I had just lifted the hold, so what now?

I called the bank again. My bank gives account balance once you enter in your account number, before you ask to speak to a representative. There was over $1500 missing from my account.

I called Western Union customer service to tell them that they had somehow wired my money after telling me that they hadn’t, and I wanted a confirmation number so that I could give it to the car loan company. They asked me some questions and went through their records, and told me that they had not sent any money on my behalf. I even gave them the original confirmation number I was given the first time I called. They said that my original transaction had been canceled and that they absolutely had not wired any money from my bank account.

“But clearly you have. My money has vanished.

They told me over and over again that they had not sent my money. I called the bank again. They verified that Western Union had definitely sent my money, and they gave me a transaction number. The number did not help me deal with Western Union, but was good for my own verification. I called Western Union again and told them that my bank had verified the transaction and gave me a transaction number. This may be obvious, but my bank’s transaction number did nothing to prove or disprove any of Western Union’s claims. The bank’s transaction number could not double as Western Union’s confirmation number, and was no good to my car loan company.

I called the car loan company. They told me that they had not received any money from me, and actually could not claim the money from Western Union until I provided them with a Western Union confirmation number. I called Western Union again. And again. And again. A few times, I got disconnected. A few times I hung up to call either the bank or the car loan company again. Several times, Western Union would transfer me to an automated system that would ask me to enter my confirmation number — which was what I was calling to get from them. If I pressed zero, the call would be disconnected. If I just waited and didn’t enter anything, the call would be disconnected. I was then forced to start over. Every single time I had to start over, I would have to answer the same set of questions and tell them my name, the spelling of my name, my address, my phone number, the name of my bank, and my account number. I did this over and over and over for three hours.

I wanted to die. Or kill someone. Or both. I had been trying to send money (or at least find the money I may or may not have sent) for three hours, all the while missing work and (possibly worse) missing pay and annoying my new boss.

I called Western Union one last time. I don’t know what the problem had been the other many times I had called, but the woman I spoke to was finally able to give me the confirmation number to give to the car loan office. I asked her why it was such a huge ordeal to get such a simple thing, and she had no idea. Before I got in touch with her, I had spoken to at least 13 different Western Union employees who had no clue about anything.

I called the car loan office to give them the number –and once again it was after 5pm their time, and they were closed.

That night when I got home, I checked my e-mail with my stolen wi-fi to find out that my job had cut benefits for temporary employees.


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