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dialogues from the grand salon
sideways in the light





(irritated grumbling)

"Damn automated phone calls…"








(frustrated groan)





(interrupted sigh of relief)

falsely friendly bill collecting corporate whore: "Hello, can I speak to Joseph Wall?"

me: "Speaking."

(pathetic sigh)

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Hello, sir, this is Beneficial/Household Finance calling in—"

me: "The whole corporation is calling?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon me, sir?"

me: "The entire Beneficial/Household Finance Corporation is calling?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I'm sorry, sir, I don't understand what you're saying."

me: "You said 'this is Beneficial/Household Finance calling.' I wasn't aware that entire corporations were able to make phone calls. Are you a gestalt being?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I'm sorry, sir, I'm a little confused."

me: "Apparently. Are you, in fact, an account representative for the Beneficial/Household Finance Corporation?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Ah, okay. Yes, sir, I am."

me: "Do you have a name?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I'm calling in reference to your account, which is currently showing a late balance of…"

me: "I'm sorry, do you have a name?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I'm calling in reference to your account."

me: "So you don't have a name?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "That's not important, sir."

me: "Someone thought so."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon me, sir?"

me: "That you were worth having a name."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I'm calling in reference to your account with Beneficial/Household Finance, which is currently showing a late balance, and I'd like to schedule a payment this morning."

(mental cogs turning)

* reaches over to answering machine *


me: "This call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Umm…pardon, sir?"

me: "This call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I'm calling in regards to your account with Beneficial/Household Finance, which is currently showing a balance of—"

me: "Okay, as long as you understand that this call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I'm not sure I understand you, sir."

me: "This call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Okay, sir, but that is not important at this time."

me: "So you consent to said monitoring or recording?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, may I schedule a payment to your account at this time?"

me: "You may, I guess."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "When would you like to schedule a payment, Mr. Wall?"

me: "I wouldn't."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon?"

me: "I wouldn't like to schedule a payment. You asked if you could, and I said 'you may,' which is true. You may schedule a payment."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Okay, sir, when would you like to schedule a payment?"

me: "I wouldn't."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I'm asking you when I can schedule a payment."

me: "I haven't the slightest clue as to when."

(long pause)

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, your account with Beneficial/Household Finance is currently showing a late payment amount."

me: "I would imagine so, yes."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Well, sir, I need to get a date from you on which I can schedule a payment."

me: "You need to get a date from me?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Yes, sir."

me: "But you're a woman. It wouldn't work out."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon?"

me: "I don't date women just yet."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, what I am asking is for a date when you would like me to schedule a payment."

me: "Ah, clarity at last."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon?"

me: "Just sayin'. Sorry, but I can't schedule a payment."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Umm, why not, sir?"

me: "I have no money."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Well, sir, I can schedule a payment for a future date."

me: "Can you see into the future?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon me, sir, I did not understand your statement."

me: "That was a question, actually."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I'm having a hard time following you."

me: "You're following me?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I need to schedule a payment. Your account with Beneficial/Household Finance is showing an overdue amount."

me: "That's all well and good, ma'am, but you will be unable to schedule a payment until I have money to pay said payment."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "And when will that be, sir?"

me: "I have no idea."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I'm confused, sir. Why are you unable to make a payment at this time?"

me: "I have no money."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Then can I schedule a time when you will know when you will have funds available?"

me: "That depends."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "It depends on what, sir?"

me: "On whether you can see into the future."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I don't understand what you're saying, sir."

me: "What I'm saying is that I have no money, or to put it another way, no money is what I have."

(long pause)

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, would you like me to schedule a time when Beneficial/Household Finance can call to schedule a payment?"

me: "The whole corporation will call?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon?"

me: "Only if you know when I'll know when I have money so I can schedule a payment."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, is there a reason why you cannot schedule a payment at this time?"

me: "Yes."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "What is the reason, sir?"

me: "I have no money."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Can we schedule a payment on a future date?"

me: "Only if you can see into the future."

(sound of sighing in the phone receiver)

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, is there a reason why you have no funds at this time?"

me: "Yes."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "What is the reason?"

me: "I'm unemployed."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Can we schedule a payment for a time when you will be employed?"

me: "That depends."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "It depends on what, sir?"

me: "On if you know when I'll be employed again."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Is there a reason why you are not currently employed?"

me: "Karma, I guess."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon?"

me: "Can't find work, and I've been writing a book."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Well, sir, that's nice that you've been keeping busy, but you're currently overdue on your account with Beneficial/Household Finance and I need to schedule a payment."

me: "But I have no money, ma'am. What part of that is not working for you?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, are you currently disabled or otherwise unable to work?"

me: "No, ma'am, but no one in my field wants to hire me. Well, the fact is that my field doesn't really exist anymore. I learned my family business and am one of the best in my field, but the field itself has disappeared."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Why's that, sir?"

me: "Damn computers."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Is there no work outside your field?"

me: "I'm writing a book."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon?"

me: "It's called Scaggsville. It's about my life, you know—essays about my childhood and a friend whose life went sorta wrong."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Umm, sir, what I mean is 'why can't you work outside your field?'"

me: "For what?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "For income, sir, so you can pay your debts."

me: "But then I couldn't work on my book."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "You could, in your spare time."

me: "But I never had any spare time when I had a full-time job."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Well, get a part-time job, then."

me: "But I can't pay my bills on a part-time job."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, you can't pay them when you're not working, either."

me: "Well, then it really doesn't matter, does it?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, your account with Beneficial/Household Finance is currently showing an overdue amount and I need to schedule a payment."

me: "Well, have you, meaning the Beneficial/Household Finance Corporation, charged me a late fee for my overdue balance?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I'm afraid so, sir."

me: "And you can't waive that fee?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I'm afraid not, sir."

me: "Well, I guess I'm not going to worry about my overdue balance until the next due date, then."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Why is that, sir?"

me: "Because you've already charged me for being late. I've paid a price for being late and until I'm late again, I have the moral high ground to hold out on you."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I'm confused."

me: "Why should I rush to get up to date when I've already, in effect, paid a penalty for being late?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "What are you saying, sir?"

me: "I've already been penalized for being late. Are you going to raise my interest rate AGAIN or charge me another late fee or report me as late AGAIN?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Umm, sir, you've already been charged and—"

me: "—so I have no incentive to find money I don't have to rush to make a payment that won't make any substantial difference at this point."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I'm trying to collect an overdue balance on your account at Beneficial/Household Finance."

me: "I understand that, but I have no money."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "And you have no money because…"

me: "Because I'm unemployed."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "And you refuse to find employment to pay a debt that you incurred voluntarily?"

me: "We've already explored that subject."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "And you cannot get a job in a grocery store or retail outlet to keep you going until you find work in your field?"

me: "My field doesn't exist anymore, alas."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Well, then, until you find work in a field of your choosing."

me: "Not really."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "But-but-but you are currently in default on several loans."

(sound of keyboard on the other end of the line)

me: "Yep."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "But, sir, you made a payment on your account with MBNA last month."

me: "I made some money doing handyman work."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Well, then, why did you pay your payment with MBNA and not Beneficial/Household Finance?"

me: "It's a smaller payment, and they're nicer to me."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon?"

me: "And besides, my mom cosigned that loan, so I don't want to screw up her credit."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "What about your credit, sir?"

me: "I'm sure you can see the status of my credit on your computer."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "You're going to damage your credit if you refuse to pay your obligations, Mr. Wall."

Ugh, "Mr. Wall." Elementary school all over again.

me: "As you can see, I have no credit."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "But you may need credit in the future, sir."

me: "For what?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "To buy a house or a car."

me: "I have a car, and I'll never be able to afford a house."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "But your car won't last forever, and you may eventually be able to afford a house."

me: "Not the way I'm going."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Eventually, though, sir."

me: "I tend to doubt that, but by the time I'm in that position, my credit rating will have recovered."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "But you can't get credit right now, sir."

me: "Are you kidding me?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "You can't get credit with your current credit rating."

me: "You think I need more credit? Are you insane?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "A good credit rating is important, Mr. Wall."

me: "Why? So I can get more in debt with cards and accounts that jump to 31% the second I'm a minute late with a payment and have my phone ringing from exactly eight o'clock every damn morning to ten at night, with insane people telling me how important credit is to me?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "A good credit rating is important in society, sir, and it's the right thing to do."

me: "The right thing? What on earth do you mean?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "It's irresponsible to take on a debt that you are not prepared to pay, sir."

me: "I was prepared to pay the debt when I took it, ma'am. Then I lost my job. Are you saying I'm immoral?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "That's not my place to say, sir, but you are refusing to make good on the terms of your loan."

me: "Because I have no money."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "But you could have money if you wanted to, sir."

me: "Umm, okay. Could you please tell me how, so I can make this amazing transition to a happy, credit-filled life of joy and fun?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, there's no cause for abusive language."

me: "'Joy' and 'fun' are abusive language?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "No, sir, but your tone is aggressive."

me: "My tone is aggressive? I have an aggressive tone? I'd say my tone was more incredulous than aggressive."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "At any rate, sir, your account with Beneficial/Household Finance is currently showing a late amount, and I need to schedule a payment."

me: "Fine, schedule one."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "When, sir?"

me: "Whenever."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I need a date, sir."

me: "Don't we all."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "No, sir, I need a date for your payment."

me: "That sounds complicated."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, can you please give me a date?"

me: "That's between you and fate, I think."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir."

me: "Tomorrow, then."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, will funds be available to make that payment?"

me: "Probably not."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Then why are you scheduling it for tomorrow?"

me: "To make you happy."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "My feelings on the matter are not important."

me: "Well, then it's to give you a date to stick in the little box on your computer that says you scheduled a date."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "But a payment won't be made on that date."

me: "I don't think so."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Well, then, sir, when can I schedule a payment?"

me: "I have no idea."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "You have no idea when you can make a payment."

me: "Correct."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "When will you know when you can make a payment?"

me: "If I knew that, I could probably schedule a payment."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, your account is overdue, and you need to make a payment."

me: "Well, I think I've pretty clearly demonstrated that I don't need to make a payment, and am unable to make one whether I need to or want to, so why don't you just schedule a call to ask me the question again a little later?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I'm not prepared to do that, sir."

me: "So I'm the first person you've ever talked to who won't schedule a payment?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "That's neither here nor there, sir."

me: "But it makes me kinda special, doesn't it?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir?"

me: "We all need to feel special sometimes, ma'am."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I don't understand what you're saying."

me: "What I'm saying is this, ma'am: I'm thirty-seven, I have a college degree and twenty years experience in a business that no longer exists, I'm seventy pounds overweight, getting a hairy back and sore knees, and I've got a book I can't seem to finish, more unpaid work than I have time for, and I'm hopelessly in love with a man who is unavailable to me. I've been single for almost a decade, have been rejected by my own dog, for god's sake, and am such a pain-in-the-ass that my friends and family can hardly stand me most of the time, and the rest of the time, I'm like a hermit, hiding in my apartment. Some days, I just get up, shower, sit in front of the computer for a while, then just give up and sit on the couch, staring at the wall, waiting for the day to end. When things get really bad, sometimes, I end up in the kitchen in my underwear, which is full of holes because I can't afford new drawers that fit right, sitting on the floor compulsively eating half-frozen Food Lion store brand nondairy whipped topping right out of the container because it's about the only thing left in the fridge and I'm just so damn depressed that I can't be bothered to even get up and go outside to even buy some damn ramen for ten to a dollar, and all day long the phone's just ringing endlessly with people like you telling me what a big fat stupid loser I am, and that's all there is. Sometimes, you just need to feel like it's all adding up to something, you know, even when it's not. Sometimes you just need to feel like you're special. Is that wrong?"

(long, long pause)

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I just need to schedule a payment."

me: "Schedule it for Friday, then."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "And you'll be able to pay it by then?"

me: "Probably not."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Then can we schedule it for a time when you will?"

me: "Sure. Schedule it for May 16th, 2010."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I can't schedule that far, sir."

me: "Friday, then."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "But you've already said you won't be making a payment then."

me: "I won't, but some other account representative will be on duty then, so it'll be their problem."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, you're being very difficult."

me: "Yeah, my mom says that's how I am."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "I've scheduled your payment for Friday, August 26th."

me: "Fine."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "If you don't make a payment then, you will be flagged as overdue."

me: "I'm already flagged."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, that is not the point."

me: "Sounds to me like it sorta is, really."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "No, sir, it is not."

me: "Ma'am, can I tell you something?"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "What's that, sir?"

me: "You're on my hidden camera show!"

(long pause)

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir?"

me: "You're on my hidden camera show! Look behind you!"

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Are you kidding me?"

(sound of nervous laughter on the other end)

me: "Yeah."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Pardon?"

me: "Yeah, I'm kidding. If I had a hidden camera show, I could probably pay my bill on time."

f.f.b.c.c.w.: "Sir, I've scheduled a date for you. Have a good morning."

me: "Wait, wait, how will I recognize him?"


me: "Hello? Hello?"









"Good morning, sir. This is Beneficial/Household Finance and I need to speak with you about your account."

me: "Ummm, I just got off the phone with someone."

"Someone from Beneficial/Household Finance?"

me: "Yep, but she wouldn't give me her name."

"You've just spoken with a representative?"

me: "Yeah, like thirty seconds ago. She got me a date!"

"Umm…okay, yeah, I'm showing that a date was scheduled for Friday."

me: "Is he cute? Does he like husky guys?"

"Pardon, sir?"

me: "Look behind you! You're on my hidden camera show!"

(long pause)

"Thank you, sir. Thank you for doing business with Beneficial/Household Finance. Good day."

me: "You're always welcome, and—"






Something's gotta give, and soon.

I'm so tired of this.

At least I've got a funny recording for a future podcast—aww, crap, the stupid digital answering machine only records for a minute or so. Goddammit. Damn computers.

If you see me shoplifting underwear at Target, say "hi," will you?

oh my - how I wish I could do that to people. Going to link this from my own LJ, if you don't mind.

Damn it. Is there anything I could do to make you feel better? Anything?

I usually end up screaming at bill collectors when I'm sad and tell them I hate America.

I just go all Dada on their asses.

You are special: You made something beautiful out of a tiresome, irritating nuisance; Thanks for sharing the pearl.

Thanks for sayin' so, hon.

(Deleted comment)
Thankya kindly, and welcome aboard.

I am linking to this from my LJ as well, because this is just brilliant. Not only did it make me snort my morning tea into my sinus cavity, I've got some pointers for my next bill collector interactions!

*hangs one of those 'Hang In There!' kitten posters on you*

you are my hero, joe wall! They always make me feel like shit, and they control every second of the conversation.

I'm only getting good because I've had the same conversation so many times, alas. It used to be that I'd end up in tears, but I'm getting more cavalier, it seems.

I love you! That was fantastic!

Thankya, hon, and you're fantastic for sayin' so.

Wow. That caller was tenacious. She just wasn't going to let go was she? Bizarre that she couldn't comprehend that you weren't going to pay. I'm sure you can't be the only one. I guess most people who are in debt don't bother answering their phones. You handled it wonderfully!

It's amazing how long some of those people will hang on, using the same lines over and over and over. It gets surreal after a while, just insane and endless.

Are you the date she scheduled? It's on account of I'm hoping for a bouquet of Black-Eyed Susans, just so you know. I'm partial as hell to 'em, you see.

(Deleted comment)
Thanks, hon. I wasn't so much controlling it as going on a caffeine-fueled Dadaist rampage, but it's all the same, I guess.

Joe, I think I love you.. *chuckle* Do you mind if I link to this to spread the enjoyment?

Link away, my lovely little press agent!

Did I tell you you're on my hidden camera show? Look behind you!

You're my hero. You should be able to re-enact that dialogue, record it and perform with it. It's hilarious.

Now Joe (who doesn't return MY phonecalls) you know perfectly well that I have PLENTY of PAID work for you-- IF YOU WANT IT! so you kind of lied to that lady from f.f.b.c.c.w.

Will be calling you soon, hon—have just been in sort of a blue funk I just couldn't break, but I'm spending this week getting back up to speed again, and I'll be available toot sweet.

Thanks for putting up with me, Sally. I'm difficult, I know.

I applaud your improvisational skills and understand your financial woes. Next time pretend you have Tourette's and when they tell you that language is inappropriate, make them feel really really bad about not understanding your disorder. Then close the conversation very politely with a British accent.

Oh and finish your book so you can be a star and have someone else worry about making sure those bills are paid.

Sadly, the conversation is less a product of lightning-fast improv and more a collection of responses I've been accumulating in my head after twenty years of such conversations—I'm almost as scripted as my adversary, alas.

I've always secretly wished for a mild and sporadic case of Tourette's, just for the license.

The book'll be done one of these days. Editing's just harder than I expected.

Thankya, sir.

WOW!!! Thank you for sharing - that was fantastic. I'm just sorry it had to stem from such a crappy situation.

I really like the way you express yourself. Is it alright if I add you to my f-list? I always ask before adding.

I hope things get better and your project(s) get up and running sooner than later.

Thankya ever so much, hon, and friend me if you like (just have a high tolerance for bearing witness to my humiliation, okay?).

Things'll get better, I think. I just can't schedule a date just yet.