Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Disturbingly Autonomous Door

Yesterday evening I received a slightly worrying phone message, from a collection agency. I think it’s not prudent to ignore that type of thing, so I called back immediately, ready to say, “No, that’s not my name, and that’s not where I live,” which I was unable to say when they asked if I was me, at my correct address.

It turned out that the phone company, my friends at AT&T, had sent my account—specifically, a bill which isn’t due for two more weeks—to collections!

It was so completely beyond the pale that it seemed quite funny, whereas when their phone tree merely failed to feature my desired option a couple of weeks ago, I was enraged. Go figure. Generally, I get angrier at things than at people, because I expect people to let me down now and then, whereas, the door? Come on, door! Just open! Or close! Why does a door get to decide how it’s going to act?

My mother often inquires on such occasions, “Don’t you meditate?” Yes, I do, and all I can say is that maybe things would be even worse if I didn’t. Think of that! And also that meditation isn’t supposed to make it so you can’t perceive or feel anything. On the contrary, but I’ll admit it would be nice to enjoy equanimity on a more frequent basis, and maybe someday I will.

What happened here is that I had received my regular monthly bill, due October 25, and it was sitting as a pending payment in my online bill pay service. Then I got an updated bill, a smaller amount, prorated because my final month of service was truncated. When the phone company wrongly disconnected my phone. And DSL.

Accordingly, I canceled the pending payment for the original amount and immediately paid the lesser amount. I have the automatic thing set up to pay the bill five days before it's due, but since I was doing this one manually and because there had been so much confusion, I just went ahead and paid it right away. That was last Thursday. By yesterday, two business days later (or one, since Columbus Day is a holiday, though I didn’t have it off work), and despite the fact that the payment hadn’t even come due yet, they had turned me over to collections.

I described all of this to the collection agency, and then—again—called AT&T and talked to a really nice fellow there. I was perfectly calm and entirely genial, and the AT&T guy said, “I must say, you’re taking this like a champ. My goodness, we wrongly disconnect your phone and your DSL, force you to buy a new modem when your old one was working fine, send your account to collections when your bill isn’t even due for two more weeks, and wreck your credit! You’re really being a good sport.”

“Did you say ‘wreck my credit’?” I’d not thought of that.

I spoke then to someone in Final Accounts, who explained that though I sent my bill payment last Thursday, AT&T hadn’t received and/or processed it yet. As long as that happens by October 25, everything is fine. She said that when they disconnect phone service, they always proceed with “pre-collection” immediately, which probably does make sense in many cases.

I knew my mother would want to hear what I hope is the final chapter in this tale, so I gave her a call, and we got to talking about their new garage door, which is trickier to open than the prior one, which broke. The first time or two she tried it, it didn’t work right away, but that might have been due to insufficient force, which she was reluctant to apply, as she can well remember her father saying, “Don’t force it! Don’t force it!”

I said, “If you did force it, and break it, your father would reach up from the grave … ”

“Right!” Pause. “Wait—what do you mean ‘up’? That’s rude. Don’t you mean ‘down’?”

I was picturing Grandpa Ernie’s hand rising out of the sod next to a headstone, but Mom thought I was suggesting he had been remanded to the underworld.

My mother also recalls that when their father arrived home from work, she and her two brothers would make sure to look busy, because that person lying on the couch reading a book was likely to get an immediate assignment to mow the lawn, but I wouldn’t think that would cause eternal damnation.
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