Empathy is something I hear coupled with bipolar disorder time and time again, but lately the idea of “empathy” has taken on a whole new level of meaning for me.
A few years ago I was on my way to have a nice birthday dinner out with my mom, my grandma, and my sister. Italian food, I was stoked. At least, I was stoked until my cell phone rang, and I unwittingly answered it.
It was a debt collector, calling to tell me to pay up.
You know, I really try to be extremely careful, especially since I have such little money, but things happen. Outside forces beyond my control (bills being sent to the wrong address, by fault of the bank, for example) really were trying to take me down for a long time, and it was as if some kind of karmaic force had been unleashed upon me. Beyond that I have the fun bipolar beast breathing down my back, which has provided me with the wonderful pastime of racking up the debt, either by way of medical bills or… no, well, just the medical bills. I don’t do the traditional “reckless spending” for the most part, but I have had several expensive emergency room visits due to the delusional belief that I might die at any moment. So it is kind of a trade-off there.
I can’t imagine really calling a birthday while being harassed by debt collectors a good one, and it is probably the closest thing to a swift kick in the balls I have experienced on a birthday.
People want their money, I understand that, but I am a firm believer that bills have a tendency to show up on the desk of a debt collector long before they ought to, or at least that there should be some middle level of understanding. I’ve harped, time and time again, that those that work in debt collection must be the scum of the earth, since they are basically paid to harass people and try and get money out of them. Many of these people on the receiving end, like me, have literally nothing to give.
So at first, when one of my previous employers forgot to give me my final paycheck, I tried to be courteous. I tried to be compliant. I tried civilized conversations and phone calls and the like.
But now, months have passed, and still no paycheck. About a month ago I was told that it was going to be deposited in my account by Friday (ha) and lo and behold, of course. It wasn’t there.
Normally I wouldn’t care so much, but this is the same company I recently left because of the astounding discrimination I was met with by a new store manager. I initially wrote off what happened with her as being a singular incident (as in, just the actions of one employee alone, not the action of the company), but as soon as I spent a WEEK attempting to contact the HR department with no return call to the 12 calls I left, this has now become a problem I have with the company, not just an individual.
What blows my mind is that I whole-heartedly and truly believe the person who keeps failing to pay me isn’t trying to retaliate against me for what happened (as I’m sure she’s oblivious to it), this is just a separate incidence of total failure on the part of this company’s top employees.
Something inside me grows, something ruthless, something fierce. I have the overwhelming urge to screw with these people, to call them several times a day and leave the same message over and over and over again, only to suddenly want to employ 15 of my friends to do the same thing so the phone rings and rings and rings for days without relief.
And that’s when the needle slipped off the record. The maniacal music, stopping abruptly, leaves only silence.
You owe a debt. I am here to collect that debt.
Am I channeling debt collectors? Is this what it’s like?
And suddenly, yes. I feel empathy. Feeling helpless until all you can do is harass someone into submission, the plight of the debt collector.
I’ve always identified with the evil villain in stories. The hero was too shiny and perfect to be able to understand. But the villain, they are evil, sure, but they’re often also misunderstood.
I wish I could call it strictly business at this point, but it isn’t. It’s personal.
It became personal the moment I was told that they wouldn’t make any kind of accommodations for me, disability or not.
So I’m contemplating what steps to take next. I don’t want to do anything outlandish, but I need to make an impact. I can’t keep doing the same thing to get zero results. I might be able to reach a “superior” of some kind directly, but it is a long shot. Until then, the thinking cap is on.