Category Archives: Obstacles

Oh, the Guilt

I knew that I was entering a toxic living situation, but did not know what to do about it. I was in a similar situation last time I had a roommate. I had two part-time temp jobs and had to get out of my mold-ridden apartment. A woman I used to hang out with was losing the house that she rented because the owner was putting it up for sale, so we both needed a place to live at the same time. I knew better, but I had very little income, a lot of bills, and nowhere to go. I used to hang out with this woman a few times a week, but I’m reluctant to call her a friend. She was very bossy about where we would go and what we would do and she had a very obvious drinking problem. We would make plans to go to a concert or a movie, and she would invariably say “Let’s have a couple of drinks first.” Then once she had “a couple of drinks” she wouldn’t feel like doing what we had originally planned, and she would sit and have at least eight more drinks (no exaggeration) and argue with people or act like an idiot. I have no idea why I put up with that nearly every weekend for almost two years. We had been friends back in college, but then lost touch for several years then started hanging out again. She had a steady (but low-income) job, and with our incomes combined we could afford a 2-bedroom apartment in the small town we lived in at the time. We rented the top floor of a small house that had been divided into three apartments. I knew it was a bad idea, but I really did not know what to do. The roommate I had before that had moved to Seattle and I was stuck in a small town with no steady income.

We made a deal before we looked at the new apartment — we didn’t have to make a decision right away. If we liked it, then we’d take it, and if we didn’t like it, we had other places to look at. Unfortunately, she liked it and I hated it. I can look back on many times in my life where I needed to be more assertive, and this was one of those times. I thought the apartment was too small for the price and just weird. It was painted strangely and the staircase that led up to our unit was obviously thrown together as an afterthought once the house had been turned into apartments. The staircase was tall, steep, visibly lopsided, and it looked dangerous. Once I saw the place, I was fully prepared to just make some noncommittal comments like “Oh, we’ll get back to you, we have some more places to look at” but the ex-roomie liked it and wanted to take it right away. And because that’s what she wanted, that’s what we did. She was always more willing to fight, and I was always more willing to step back to avoid a fight.

I lived there for six months, and in that time we had exactly one day that the hot water worked. It wasn’t even the whole day, but I was able to enjoy a warmish shower for maybe 10 minutes. I complained about the lack of hot water to the landlord a lot, but nothing was done. The basement of the house served as a laundry room, and often it was flooded at least ankle-high. The landlord wouldn’t do anything about that either. The basement was always trashed, but it wasn’t clear who was supposed to maintain it. We had messy neighbors who would just throw trash in there and no one cleaned it up. Garbage would float in the floodwater. I avoided bathing as much as possible because the shower water was ice-cold. We had to use a landromat because of the flooding. Sometimes, when it wasn’t flooded that badly, I would just do my laundry in the basement, anyway.

My drunk roommate lost her job very shortly after we moved in together. That’s when it got really bad. Around the same time, I got a full-time job just outside Seattle. It didn’t pay much, and I had to drive over 50 miles one way to get there. It was the worst job I have ever had (which is saying a lot) and I was under extreme stress every day. Every day I would just get into my car and scream. If I was lucky, my roommate wouldn’t stagger home drunk and coked-up until I was just leaving for work (or after I had gone for the day). When I was less lucky, she would stagger home drunk and coked-up with several other drunk, coked-up people while I was trying to sleep or just relax by myself in the living room after being yelled at and publicly humiliated all day. There were often creepy strangers milling around our place when I got up in the morning. After dealing with an extremely hostile work environment, living like that wore on my sanity. I still hung out with the roommate on occasion, but she got me into a couple of dangerous situations and I moved out and never spoke to her again. I’ve seen her a couple of times randomly. She looks sick and awful and I don’t feel sorry for her. She’s 32 but could pass for almost 50.

While my current situation isn’t nearly that bad, there are some big problems. I was very nervous about staying with this particular friend because she is such a negative person. She has an ability to take everyday situations and turn them info full-on disasters. Even completely neutral situations that have nothing to do with her somehow become huge crises in her world. I’m beyond thankful that she’s offered to let me stay here, but I just knew I’d spend the whole time walking on broken eggshells.

Weeks ago she asked me where I wanted to sleep when I stay with her. I told her that I just wanted to sleep wherever it was convenient for her and I wouldn’t interfere with her daily routine.

“Oh, it’s your house. I’ll sleep anywhere! Feel free to just boss me around tell me where to put my stuff. I’m not picky.” I laughed, and said it in the tone I use when I’m telling a funny story or making a joke.

Two hours later she called me sobbing because she thought that when I said “boss me around” that I had been calling her bossy.

“Is that what you really think of me?!”

I had said it so casually that I didn’t even remember that I had used those words, and I would have used the same words with anyone else I considered a friend. This is the level of sensitivity I’m dealing with.

I thought that perhaps things might change a bit because a week or two ago, one of her best friends “broke up” with her because of her negative attitude. She asked me to give her honest feedback about her personality and actions. I did, though reluctantly. I named a few occasions where she has shot herself in the foot by being so negative. I also reminded her of another incident –when I lost my keys last June and was stranded and freaked out at 4am, she was angry that I did not call her. She yelled at me over the phone and said “Obviously you don’t think of me as a good enough friend.” I was the one who had had the bad experience, but she was the one who got personally offended. It is textbook emotional manipulation. If I had called her, she would have moaned and groaned all week about how I threw off her sleep schedule. Also, I didn’t call anyone, so it’s not like I called everyone except her. It was a very strange argument, and she actually cried and turned it into her own problem when it didn’t affect her at all. The goal of all of this is to inspire guilt or possibly pity.

I don’t respond well to such theatrics, if I respond at all. The new roomie keeps starting drama, in particular with my cat. She already has a cat, so I don’t understand it. I don’t even want to write about it because it is so incredibly stupid that it hurts to think about. She has said things to me that no sane person would ever say ever. She locks my cat in the freezing basement, then gets mad at me when my cat meows at the door. The obvious solution would be to not lock my cat in the freezing basement, which only became a factor long after she offered me a place here. I don’t even want to get into what she says will happen if she doesn’t lock the cat in the basement, or worse –what she says will happen if the cat doesn’t quit meowing. It’s too stupid to document. I said in my last post that she was worried about the neighbors complaining if the cats fought. That is a true but much less dramatic account of what she actually said. She thinks the letting my cat in will trigger an apocalypse and her life and livelihood will be in danger. I wish I were kidding.

My mother used to do similar things, but only after she had brain damage. That’s probably part of why this makes me so angry at her irrational behavior. My mother’s brain-damaged guilt trips wore me down physically and mentally. I was young and trying to establish my own life, but I got sucked into my mother’s illnesses and divorce on top of her excessive dramatics and manipulative behavior. My new roomie is paranoid about things that will never happen and every day some new drama comes into being. I can’t stand illogical behavior. I found another place to stay, but they don’t take cats. Dogs, yes; cats, no. Every dog I’ve ever known has caused way more damage to their home than my cat, so I don’t get it. Heck, I cause more damage to my home than my cat is likely to. Also, she’s declawed (not my choice, my parents declawed her as soon as I went away to college and wasn’t around to protest). I’ve started the Pet Travel Scheme for my cat and don’t want to leave her anywhere else for a while because I need access to her so I can get her to her vet appointments at the appropriate times.

My cat has actually broken out of the basement a few times, and the results were as uneventful as any sane person would expect. The two cats saw each other, but didn’t fight. Because I’m (generally) respectful, I put my cat back in the freezing basement. She sleeps on top of me every night, and I think it was upsetting to her that I was upstairs sleeping on the sofa. I got a little air mattress from someone on Craigslist so I’ll sleep on that. It’s still very cold down there, even with the space heater.

I’ve given up my car, so I’m going to be stuck here a lot. Also, it’s very likely that I have gout, which would explain my freaky joint pain. The doctor ordered blood tests and X-rays because something was visibly (and painfully) affecting the joint on one of my toes. More news about that on Monday.

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Filed under fml, health, Home Life, jerks, Obstacles

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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Filed under Depression, Food, health, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles

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

I Blame Society (or Poverty-Induced Nightmares, Part 1)

I hope they send Emilio Estevez next time.

I hope they send Emilio Estevez next time.

Even though my troubles have persisted for several years now, I remained generally positive about it all until last April. I have often been told that I’m “upbeat” and that I can “see the humor in anything.” That all changed when I had my car repossessed. I can’t even think about it without clenching every muscle in my upper body.

The repossession was worse than I imagine my impending eviction will be…not because of the loss involved, but because of the way I was treated throughout the repossession process. For years, my bad luck has been somewhat of a running joke in my social circle, but in an instant it just stopped being funny. The repossession was the single most degrading, humiliating, terrifying, and frustrating injustice I have experienced. It was the first time through all of this that I felt like I could never, ever win.

I’d been unemployed for 15 months, and my unemployment benefits had run out about nine months prior. I’d been applying for at least three jobs a week, but to no avail. I was still in grad school and living on student loans, and I had $1100-$1300 a month to live on. My rent was $700 a month (hiked up from $550 — the average for a 1-bedroom apartment in my county is $812 per month), my car payment was $350 (go ahead and groan, I could afford it when I bought the car), my car insurance was about $70 a month, my cell phone about $50-60 a month and I spent over $60 a month on prescription drugs –after about $150 a month for health insurance. I also had one credit card bill, a debt consolidation plan, and numerous medical bills that I had to pay the University Medical Center lest I get kicked out of school. I also needed a car because there were no buses that would have taken me home from campus late at night when my classes got out. I had to pay for gas and sometimes parking, too. Do that math and you can guess how well I was “getting by.” At least I had food stamps for a few months. I couldn’t find a cheaper place to live, at least not much cheaper. Even if I had moved, I couldn’t afford moving expenses and deposits, so I was stuck. I have my reasons for not having a roommate at the moment. After some childhood trauma irrelevant to this blog entry, having a roommate is strictly a last resort.

Because of my medical bills and my determination to finish graduate school, I fell behind on my car payments. I was a little over two months behind. I had not stopped answering the phone at this point, and I actually spoke to the vehicle loan people when they called me. I was offered my last job at the beginning of March. Unfortunately, the job did not start until the last week of March. I told them every time they called that I was about to begin a new job, and that my student loans for the next quarter would be coming in the first week of April. I was not sure what day in April, but no later than April 7 for sure. I told them that I could pay them off with my student loans, and would be able to continue paying them with the income from my new job. They would be paid in full on or before April 7.

We didn’t have anything in writing, but they were well aware of the situation. I was late in my payments, yes, but I had been reliable in my payments (even when unemployed) until those last two months. I had been reliable for over two years, and all I wanted was a chance to catch up and make good on my word.

My student loan money came in on April 3. I hadn’t been thinking about it that day, and I did not check my bank balance until my afternoon break. Once I saw the money was there, I went online to make a payment. I received a notice that said that I would have to call their customer service line to discuss my payment with a representative because my payment was so late. I called the phone number they gave me, but it was after 3pm Pacific time, and the office (which is located in Chicago) had already closed for the day. They were closed all weekend, too. I was annoyed but I wasn’t worried. Monday was April 6, and I had told them I would pay in full by April 7.

I went to bed at 10:30 Sunday night. I’d set reminders on my Google calendar to remind me to call them as soon as I got up. I never had the chance. At 1am I was awakened by knocking at my door. Not regular knocking, oh no. The knocking shook my walls and woke my neighbors. I don’t know what he was hitting my door with, but my doorknocker does not make a sound like this. And I have a doorbell. I ignored it at first, but it went on and on and didn’t stop. A couple of years ago, a man who lives on my street got shot on his doorstep after he answered the door in the middle of the night. This isn’t a good neighborhood. I thought that if I ignored it, it would go away. Minutes passed, and the knocking continued.

I was furious. I have an intercom and I yelled through it. I was groggy, but I believe my exact words were “It’s 1 in the morning! What the hell are you doing?!” It was too dark to see well through my peephole, but there was a man out there and he told me he was there to take my car.  My car was already chained up and attached to the tow truck. I was stunned. I told the man that I had already talked to the bank and told them I would pay by April 7, that I actually had the money, that I’d already tried to pay but the bank had been closed and that they had been closed since Friday evening. That got me nowhere, which I understand. I’m sure he hears that every day. I probably would have said something similar even if it weren’t true. But it was true.

I have a friend who is an attorney, and I had talked to him about repossession a month or so before. I told my friend that I was worried about finding a job and that if I didn’t find a job quickly, I would lose my car. He told me that if I caught the repo man in the act that I could legally stop them by protesting. I didn’t believe him, so I did some research. In most states, and certainly Washington, if the owner protests, they legally can’t take whatever it is they’re repossessing. This information is available through the office of the Attorney General. I thought it was worth a try. The man asked me through the intercom if I wanted to take anything out of my car, and I told him I would be out in a minute. I grabbed my cell phone and my purse. My brilliant plan was to stall them until about 6am so I could call the loan office as soon as it opened. I was willing to sit in my car for a few hours if I could get this mess straightened out. When I went outside I saw that there wasn’t just one repo man but three repo men. I am 5’1″ in shoes if I stand up as straight as possible. These were three tall, large, muscular, rough-around-the-edges men. The kind of dudes who wear backwards baseball caps, only talk to hot girls, and still listen to Limp Bizkit. I was a bit unnerved that there were three men banging on the door of a single woman at 1:00 in the morning. I told them that they couldn’t take my car, I wouldn’t let them. They said they were taking it no matter what. “Well,” I said. “I guess I’m sleeping in it.” I walked towards the car and unlocked the door with the remote on my keychain. The next thing I saw was the inside of the man’s elbow as he reached around my neck.

I hadn’t seen him coming until it was too late. He wrapped his right arm across my chest and then my neck while he grabbed at my keys with his left hand. I screamed and tried to shove him away from me.  He said “You just threatened my life.” For about half a second, I didn’t know what he meant, but then I realized that in my panic I had yelled “Get your hands off me, I swear I’ll fucking kill you.” I didn’t even realize that I had said that. I yelled “Who cares? You assaulted me! You grabbed me! What the hell is wrong with you?!” I backed away from him, got in my car and sat in the driver’s seat. The guy who grabbed me ran up and grabbed the car door before I could shut it. He stood between me and the car door to make sure I couldn’t close it. I don’t know why he bothered. My car was blocked in and chained up. I cried and trembled and called 911 while Repo Man leaned on my car and lit a cigarette. While I was on the phone with 911 he said “We’re going to cause a lot of damage to your car, you know,” and he blew smoke at me. Smug bastard.

Three police officers arrived and the repo men stepped away from my car. The first officer came up and asked me if I was okay. I was probably incoherent. He asked me to get out of the car and I did. My knees were knocking together and I was shaking from head to toe. It was cold, I was in my pajamas, and I had just been grabbed at 1 in the morning by this slimy bastard when I had already discussed my situation with the loan company and had already made two attempts to pay my debt. I was shaking so much I could barely stand. I have never felt such an intense physical reaction to my emotions. Once when I was in sixth grade, a bully and his friend beat me and pulled a knife on me. The repo men scared me more.

The officer asked me what had happened and I said that one of the men put me in a chokehold. Of course I meant headlock, but I was frazzled and I mis-spoke. I corrected myself after a minute or so once I realized I had said the wrong thing. I learned something about myself — I babble when I’m terrified. I sat in the car again and they questioned the three men. Of course the three repo men stuck together. It was them against me.

The repo man who grabbed me told the cops that we “just accidentally ran into each other” when he reached for my keys. The officer believed him, even though we “ran into each other” while my back was to him and I was walking away from him. One of the officers (I’ll call him Officer Asshat) asked me if I had lost consciousness. I told him that I hadn’t. He asked if I’d had any bruising. I said that none was visible at that point. He said, “Then there’s nothing to complain about.”

Officer Asshat spoke to the repo men some more, and I walked towards him because I wanted to ask him a question. “Get over there!” he barked at me. I didn’t know where he was telling me to go, or why he was telling me to go there. I just looked at him and said “What?” He yelled at me again to “Get over there!” I asked him why he wanted me to move. He said “I’m talking to this guy over here. Jeez, if you’re this annoying now, I can only imagine how bad you were when they were trying to take your car!” He laughed. Yes, Officer Asshat laughed at me and called me “annoying.”

The cops looked at me and saw a girl in the ghetto who didn’t pay her bills and was just being pouty when forced to face the consequences. I told them that the man had grabbed me, and they made it clear that they didn’t believe me. Officer Asshat interrogated me about why I had been sitting in my car. I actually lied to him, because he tried to make it sound like I was doing something illegal even though I had every right to defend my car at that point. He also asked really patronizing questions such as “Now, do you really think that these young gentlemen would come out here to hurt you?” I was wearing a sweatshirt for my university, and he actually tried to make small talk and ask what classes I was taking. I do not grant small-talk privileges to someone who calls me annoying, yells at me, or tells me that I have nothing to complain about because I wasn’t knocked unconscious when a huge guy grabbed me around the neck.

The officers ordered me to empty my car and hand over my keys. One of the repo men drove off in my car, while the other two took off in the tow truck. I saw my neighbors had turned lights on, but no one came out.

For weeks –maybe even months– I was afraid to stand in a position where someone could walk up behind me. I rode the bus a lot (for obvious reasons) and I always made sure that my back was against the wall of the bus stop shelter. I have never been a police basher, but twice in my life I have called the police when I’ve been faced with a violent situation, and both times I have been belittled, laughed at, and ignored. Strangely, I’ve twice been treated like a criminal when I wasn’t doing anything illegal.

The repo men could have taken my car and towed it away, but they felt it necessary to confront me. I still don’t understand why. I understand that actually driving the car is easier than towing, but is it worth the hassle of a late-night confrontation?

I have reason to believe that this is the same company I had my ordeal with. I’m dividing this into three posts because it’s such a long, long story. It gets worse before it gets better. Then it gets worse again. Stay tuned for Part 2.

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Filed under "In this economy", Depression, fml, jerks, Materialism, Obstacles