Do You Hear the People Sing?

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.  The weather is peculiar here today in Salt Lake.  It’s not like previous Autumns I remember since we’ve moved here.  As I mentioned a few days ago, usually the first snow is the first snow.  It will be a dry mostly sunny but cool afternoon and then the beautiful fluffy flakes will start to fall.  I’ll never forget my first Utah snow.  It was about a month after we moved here three years ago.  I was knocking around in REI wishing I could buy half the store when I looked out the huge windows at the front of the store and saw the most incredible snow flurries ever.  I ran outside and started dancing around like a little boy.  I guess people probably thought I was an avid skier and just happy to see the fresh new powder coming down.  Who cares what they thought.

But today’s snow wasn’t like that snow.  Today’s snow was rain/sleet/snow/rain.  So the kids at “Westside” Elementary had to stay inside for recess and the kickballs and Frisbees had to stay parked.  Since the teachers are required to take a few minutes lunch break away from the kids, after lunch the kids went back to their teacher-less classrooms to play with board games, work on the computers, and to try to put glue in one another’s hair.  Instead of supervising their play on the playground during recess, the other “paraprofessionals” (as we are called) and I were asked to simply look in on them and try to make sure that they didn’t kill one another.  Between the cafeteria monitoring and the classroom monitoring, I actually had a couple of minutes so I decided to step into the faculty lounge to wash up.  My cell phone vibrates.  I look to see who’s calling me. 876 number.  That means it’s Chase calling to harass me for being so behind in my credit card bill.  There’s a reason this company’s called “Chase.”  I’ve asked them nicely not to call me.  I’ve asked several times.  I’ve explained my situation to them and explained that calling me is not getting them any closer to getting any money from me.  Still they call.  Usually from India.  But today, for whatever reason, I decided to answer.  First, it’s a recording.  I hate that.  I guess since caller ID is standard on most cell phones now, they’re pretty used to not getting a real human on the other side. So they’re out to return the favor and have a non-human call to talk to my voicemail.  Most people probably see the unfamiliar (or my case I’ve become familiar with the Chase Harassment Line number)… but most people probably see the unfamiliar number and hit the “ignore” button which is what I usually do but today I decided to take the call.

“Please hold for an important call from Chase Card Services.”

I hold.  (I’ve always thought it odd that they call it “services,” given what they want.)

Finally the lady comes on.



“Jeff Key?” [She seems genuinely surprised that it’s actually me.  Or maybe using only my first name at first is a trick to try to make me think that it’s actually someone who knows me and therefore keeping me (and the other 150,000 they’ll badger today) from hanging up on them.]

“Hello, this is Kathy from Chase Card Services. How are you doing today?”

Me: Not so good.

Kathy: That’s nice, I’m calling because it seems that your Chase Credit Platinum Visa has an outstanding balance of $2,079.02 and you’ve not made a payment since April of this year so I’m calling to allow you to make a payment over the phone today of $554.00 to bring your account up to date.  How would you like to make that payment?

Me: Oh, no thank you.

Kathy:  Beg your pardon?

Me:  I said no thank you.  I’ve decided not to pay it.

Kathy: What do you mean you’ve decided not to pay it?

Me: I’ve decided not to pay it.

Kathy:  Well, you made the charges on the card.  You have to pay it.

Me:  No I don’t.  Like I said, I’ve decided not to pay it.

Kathy:  Well you signed a contract.  You can’t break a contract.

Me:  Beg your pardon?

Kathy: (she’s getting pissed now) I said you can’t break a contract.

Me:  Oh sure I can.  You didn’t know that?  People break contracts all the time. Businesses do it too.  I never have.  Until now.  And I’m breaking this one.

(Kathy hates that I’m not scared of her.  She hates my belligerence.  Kathy is going to shame me into giving her money.)

Kathy:  Well may I ask why you’ve decided not to pay your debt?

Me: Sure.

(long pause)

Kathy: Are you there?!

Me:  I’m here Kathy.

Kathy: I said may I ask why you’ve decided not to pay your debt?

Me: And I said, yes you may ask.

Kathy: (about to come unglued) WHY HAVE YOU DEDICED NOT TO PAY YOUR DEBT?!

Me:  Well, Kathy, thanks for asking.  I’ve decided not to pay my debt because I can’t.  And rather than make up some bullshit lie and tell you that I have any intention of paying it, I’ve decided just to be honest and tell you the truth which is that I’m not going to pay it.  I made a mistake for sure by taking the card in the first place.  I’ll be the first to admit it.  Credit cards are the shackles that keep the American working class enslaved.  But I finally succumbed to your siren song  incessantly imploring me to take the goddamn card and did what most every other stupid American does, I went and bought about $500 worth of shit I can’t even remember and with your (increased without my knowledge or consent) 30% interest rates and endless fees that has now multiplied into over two grand and I’ve simply decided not to pay it.  The CEO of your company has made over $300 million dollars in the last three years and that’s during the time that such poor decisions were made that you showed up with your hands out and took $25 BILLION dollars from the tax payers and…

Kathy:  We paid that back.

Me:  What did you say?

Kathy:  We paid that back.

(She actually thinks this is an acceptable thing to say)

Me:  Well I tell you what Kathy.  You loan me $25 billion dollars and I’ll pay it back in half the time it took Chase to do so and you’ll never hear from me again.  Sound fair? Plus if you add USCIS benefits and TARP funds, the amount of moulah that your company has sucked from the public teet sours to about a hundred billion!  And Jamie Dimn’s salary is just the one salary of the man at the top.  That doesn’t begin to include all the other executive level salaries JP Morgan Chase pays while trying to beat the money out of people like me and when you can’t get it you simple go to the tax coffers that we, the working class are expected to fill.

Kathy: Sir, now you are just being unreasonable.

Me:  No Kathy, I’ll tell you what’s unreasonable.  It’s unreasonable for you to even begin to believe that I’m going to pay you this pound of fleash.  You know what, when I (stupidly) took this card, I could pay the balance off each month but when the economy went South… or should I say “East” because you’re company is part of the destruction of America by its outsourcing of tens of thousands of jobs to India where the average minimum wage is 80 cents (USD), yes, I could pay my bills not to mention that I made my living working for the non-profit that I founded to help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and innocent civilians in those two countries and like most non-profits now were struggling to stay afloat and my salary is frozen and I’m trying to make ends meet by teaching kids to read which is wildly rewarding in spiritual benefit but not very rewarded financially since I make $10.50 and hour and am capped at 19.5 hours per week so that means I’m making (after the taxes I have to pay so we can keep sending corporate welfare your way) about $360 every two weeks which almost, but not quite pays for our groceries and our gas to get to work and I am doing my dead-level best here so if you think for one second that I’m going to choose paying you over groceries, you’ve been smoking crack, I’M NOT PAYING it.  I don’t care if it fucks up my credit.  I don’t care if it goes don’t on my permanent record and I don’t care what you think of me.  And if you try to garnish my wages to get the money, I’ll simply stop working at all. I don’t care if I fucking starve to death and if you try come to my house and take my shit, well, to quote that crazy bitch from Nevada, “There’s a second amendment solution to that!” Because teabaggers aren’t the only motherfuckers who know how to fire a weapon…

(But thankfully Kathy had already hung up too soon to hear my asinine comment, a comment that may have had the authorities knocking at my door for real.)

I was already two minutes late to start the hall/classroom monitoring part of my job so I splashed some water on my face, took a deep breath and walked down the hall.

The part of me (deeply ingrained by my conservative upbringing) that good people always pay their debts, felt a little sick.  But the rest of me actually felt pretty good! As I walked toward the open door of the first classroom I was awash with the realization that, yes, like Jean Valjean I have stolen the fucking bread but I have also turned over the first table to build my barricade and I will never yield to tyranny.  It’s just not in my nature.

(to be continued)

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