We are here to announce the recent posting of chapter nine of theDark Rambler saga at its regular site, but we would also like to tell a cautionary tale, based on a true story, that we believe has some relevance to these days of loss of decent jobs, inflation lurking on the horizon, employers flush with cash but unwilling to pay living wages, and credit companies who have attempted to make bankruptcy an artifact of the past (how long will it be before the government reinstitutes poorhouses and debtors' prisons? we ask.) We hope that some who might find themselves in dire straits are able to take something away from this story and apply what they learn as need be.
As we have stated, this tale is based on a true story. The facts occurred. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty.)
THEATTACK OF THE LEECHES
Once upon a time, there lived a happy couple named (oh, why the hell not) Biff and Muffy. Biff and Muffy worked at good jobs, earned comfortable paychecks and put money away in a savings account. They lacked for little, and enjoyed a pleasant life - until Muffy fell ill and was hospitalized. Her insurance paid for most of the bills, but, to her dismay, she soon discovered that the company for which she worked took a dim view of employees becoming seriously ill and consuming many thousands of insurance dollars. She became the focus of much pressure, so much so that she finally and inevitably committed technical insubordination and was fired. In the interim, Biff had also suffered misfortune and did not at that time have a job either. The couple searched for work as their finances began to dwindle. They both found other employment, but at salaries much lower than those to which they had been accustomed, and their account soon faded, as smoke dissipates in the wind. As Biff and Muffy struggled to pay off their debts, they joined the ranks of those who are forced to live from paycheck to paycheck. Their life was not unpleasant, they were getting along all right ...
and then ...
Biff fell ill.
Biff and Muffy had been working at their jobs for just over five months and were not yet eligible for paid leave or health insurance. Nevertheless, Biff had woken one weekend morning to discover that he was suffering from a perforated ulcer. As men will, he delayed treatment as long as he could, attempting to deny reality, but in late afternoon he agreed that Muffy should call the ambulance. By the time he had gone through the emergency procedures, he was on the point of lapsing into shock, and, except for one incident of coming out of anesthesia and attempting to tear the unfamiliar tubes from his nose and throat like a wild animal, he spent a week in the hospital recovering quietly and fairly quickly, considering that he had been split from breastbone to belly-button and pierced by four tubes of various functions, and stapled shut after the operation. All this, you may imagine, cost a substantial sum of money, a sum that Biff and Muffy could ill afford.
When they had received the bill and recovered from their shock (the total came to north of $8600), Muffy phoned the hospital's patient relations department, determined to organize a payment schedule that would not unduly damage the state of their precarious finances. She hoped to set up a number of $50 payments over a quantity of years, as that amount was all they could easily afford. Muffy explained the circumstances to the representative, who seemed singularly unsympathetic and became rather short with Muffy. Muffy eventually terminated the unsatisfactory call, and considered the question of payment to have been resolved.
Shortly after the conversation with the rep, Biff and Muffy began receiving messages on their answering machine from mysterious strangers, who would leave their name and intone, "You need to contact me at this telephone number." As Biff and Muffy were unfamiliar with these strangers, and suspected some sort of scam, they ignored the calls, as a matter of general principle.
After they had made three $50 payments to the hospital, Biff and Muffy received a letter in the mail. The return address was unfamiliar to them, but seemed to suggest that the firm was in some way involved with commerce. When they had opened the envelope and perused the enclosure, they stared at each other in astonishment, both marveling over the words "This is an attempt to collect a debt." The couple quickly realized that, without bothering to inform them beforehand, the hospital had turned Biff's account over to a collection agency (hereinafter referred to as "leeches".) Biff and Muffy were rendered nonplussed and considered that they had been treated with an appalling lack of courtesy by the patient relations department. Nonetheless, they decided that their best course of action was to place a call to the agency and explain their situation. Surely the people at the agency would be kindly disposed toward Biff and Muffy and treat them with sympathy and understanding, wouldn't they? Wouldn't they?
Foolish Biff! Silly Muffy! NO.
(To be continued ...)