There is only one thing worse than a current roommate... the ex-roommate.
Last Wednesday I had almost $200 sitting in my checking account, money saving up to either buy myself a new car or get my dead car resurrected from the dead. I knew I had enough cash to get the parts necessary for fixing my car, but I was lacking the Internet access required to order the parts. Wireless networking cards are not easy to come by and the one my friend had loaned me was apparently on the blink- we were in the throes of trying to fix that when, wouldn't ya know it, we ended up causing more troubles with his laptop instead. Turns out the problem was with the transmitter here at the cafe and not his wireless card. Oh, well. Live and learn. Anyway... I was expecting to have 'net access within the week, so that money was sitting in my account at the ready.
I worked that day, which was entirely expected and reasonable- I mean, what else was I going to do with my time? So I left work for my 30-minute lunch break, a quick bite to eat at a Tex-Mex place just around the corner from the movie theater I work at. I phoned in my order, not a penny in my pocket, but plenty of cash in the bank, right? Well, my check card got declined... twice. Fuming (because I knew I wouldn't have time to find out what was wrong with my account and get lunch), I headed straight for my bank. Threw my card into the ATM, not discounting the possibility that I might be at the most $20/$40 in the hole for some unforseen reason. Imagine my fury with I saw: $-681.37
I stalked into the bank with a look on my face that might have scared small children, had any been present. I looked like I wanted to rip the place apart, brick by miserable brick, which is fitting because I felt like it. I'm one of those guys who, when you look at them, doesn't usually give much away when it comes to his emotions, on a physical level. But when I'm pissed, oh man, that comes across like a gunshot- facially, that is. The receptionist was on the phone with someone else when I walked in and she wasn't really looking at me, so she just waved to me that it'd be just a moment. I stood there like a statue, in front of her with a glowering, wrathful gaze in my eyes. She glanced up at me and it looked like she'd been struck by lightening. She was a little more sincere about signaling that she would be just a moment, that I was at the top of her list of people to address next. She hung up the phone some 30 seconds later.
"How can I help you?" she asked timidly.
"I woke up this morning with a well-over-positive balance in my account. It now reads that I'm missing more than $850, my former balance calculated in. Who can tell me what gives?"
She glanced over her shoulder at the bank manager, gave him some unseen signal that I needed help- pronto. It was such a subtle gesture that I almost didn't catch it, like a body-language way of saying, "Code red! Code red! We've got a pissed customer here and he has a legit gripe! Help!"
The bank manager launched his middle-aged carcass through his office door, waving me in. "Right this way, sir. How can I be of assistance?" I explained the situation to him, that I wanted answers- quickly- and identified myself by name and account number (I have that sorta stuff memorized... you never know when your name will come in handy and it's a good thing to memorize). "Certainly, sir. Let's check the computer real quick." He asked me to repeat my account number, fed it into his idiot box and when the screen with my info popped up, he started going, "Hmm... um-hm... oh..."
He turned the monitor to face me, so I could clearly see the screen. They must go through months of training to do that in a non-annoying way, those bank managers. "Well, you see these codes here next to the transactions? C-K means 'check', C-C means 'check card' and so on. See that G-A?"
"Yeah." In a short burst of pure idiocy I was wondering who had made transactions in Georgia with my account.
"Well, it went through this morning. It means 'garnishment.' Someone's garnished your account for a grand total of... $866."
I didn't dispense with how or why or anything so mundane. I got straight to the point: "Who?"
"Who took my money?" I asked with clipped tones. "Find out. Now."
"Well, that could take a few minutes...."
"Listen, sir, I'm on my break. I am also missing almost a grand. I have no problem with telling my employers to wait a bit longer than expected over this shit. Find out who it is. Supply me with that and leave it up to me as to the why. Okay? For a thousand dollars of money that I never had, I'm willing to wait as long as it takes. One thing is certain: I haven't gotten any notices about a garnishment. This is news, bad news, to me. I want to know whose doorstep I should bring this to, should it prove wrong."
The bank manager eyed me for a second, saw that I was serious as a heart attack and nodded. "Okay..." and he picked up the phone. Two phone calls and five minutes later, he looked up at me. "Does the name 'EB Raskin Company' ring any bells? 'Cause they're the ones who pushed the garnishment. Apparently, they've sued you for $791 and we tacked on a $75 processing fee which brought it up to $866."
By the time he'd coughed up the name, I knew what was up. Raskin was an old apartment company I used to rent from. Many, many moons ago I had a roommate who was a starving artist type. Eventually he couldn't afford the rent, and I couldn't pay all of it on my own, so we'd been evicted. They sued us for the remainder of the lease agreement, two months' worth of money, and got us into court. Correction: my name was on the lease, so they took me to court. I paid my half of what was owed on the court date with the understanding that my roommate would come up with the money shortly thereafter. That was three years ago. I guess they got tired of waiting for his share of the debt, so they took the only legal action available and sued the only person on the lease- me.
"So, is the garnishment legitimate? Are you responsible?" the bank manager asked me.
"Legally?" I asked. "Yeah. Morally? No. But I know who is. Thank you for your help in this. I'll see what I can do to get the money ASAP." The short story is that my bank basically bought my debt to Raskin. The garnishment would go through on the 26th of this month, which is far too soon for me to come up with the money. My goose is cooked.
I called my former roommate and gave him the news.
"Aw, man! I am so sorry about that! I completely forgot about it. How can I make it up to you?"
"I appreciate your apology, thank you. As for how you can make it up to me... I know you are not that dense, my friend. This is a thousand-dollar fix and we both know it."
I expected him to give me some song and dance about that being impossible, but he surprised me. "I don't have the money, I'll be honest with you. But I will do everything in my power to get it as quickly as I can. Come by the cafe tonight and I'll give you everything I have on hand. I'll keep making payments to you until it's paid."
I didn't ask how he was going to come up with the money. I simply told him that I would meet him and hung up. I had to get back to work. My stomach lurched in hunger and I silently cursed the fact that I didn't have any money with which to buy even a Big Mac.
One of my co-workers was nice enough to buy me lunch that day, which is terribly kind of him and he has earned my eternal gratitude for that selfless gesture. My ex-roommate coughed up $80 that night, 1/10 of what's needed, and I had a client pay me another $100 on the web design he hired me for. Payday is this coming Wednesday and I am praying that they didn't garnish my wages as well. For now, it is all I can do to keep calm and not throttle the neck of the one person who put me in this horrible predicament- simply because if I choke him to death, I'll never get that money back.
When life gives you lemons, turn it into lemonade, give the person(s) responsible 1,000 tiny paper cuts, throw the lemonade all over them and demand some fucking apple juice. Then ask for a refund.