Journal entry: August 15, 1995 (age 26) – Collections
The only thing worse than receiving a collections call is making collections calls for a living. For almost two years, that’s been my job at a Washington, D.C., law firm. The firm has the infectious name of Roylance, Abrams, Berdo & Goodman. The partners recently rejected my ideas for a new marketing slogan: “Roylance, Abrams, Berdo & Goodman — a wizard, a lion, a flying monkey, and a tin woodsman…of jurisprudence,” or “Roylance, Abrams, Berdo & Goodman — four good men, but only one named Berdo.”
All the lawyers at the firm specialize in patents and trademarks, which has allowed me to view such historic documents as the patent application for something called a “love swing.” Another favorite of mine is the trademark application for a character designed to foster self-esteem in children. The character consists of a smiley face drawn on a thumb, and his name is “I. M. Thumbuddy.” (Presumably, the character is intended to give an even greater boost to children with speech impediments.)
My actual job at the firm is much less entertaining. Today, I spent an inordinate amount of time on telephone hold. Around 1:45 p.m., my cerebrum briefly lit up as I puzzled over how Muzak could have already produced its own, flute-heavy version of Coolio’s new song, “Gangsta’s Paradise.” But then the person I was calling picked up, and I had to return to the business of saying, “Give us money, or I’ll call you back tomorrow and tell you to give us money.” This method usually works…eventually. If you call someone every day for two months and ask “Now do you have the money?” your invoice tends to rise to the top of their pile.
I have several binders filled with handwritten notes from each collections conversation, and my page-a-day desk calendar is filled with lists of delinquent clients who I need to contact. “Contact” isn’t quite the right word, but I can’t think of a word midway between “nudge” and “harass.”
The job would be a lot worse if I were calling individuals who had fallen on hard times. But these are corporate clients, and the people I’m calling are bureaucrats who like to pay bills late for the sake of keeping their bosses’ money in their bosses’ piggy banks for as long as possible. I don’t have to face tearful clients with crushing medical expenses or looming foreclosures. Instead, I have to face Gus in Accounting’s three-hour lunch break, and his propensity for obscuring invoice due dates with blobs of Gulden’s mustard.
My duties have forced me to take sides in the never-ending, titanic battle between the forces of Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable. As such, my mortal enemies work in the hateful domain of Accounts Payable. The very name of their department states that they are “able” to “pay” – so, what, I continually ask them, is the major hold-up?
My success in the collections field was recognized in my last employee review, in which Alfred Goodman, Esq., wrote that “Tim excels in his job because of his knack for doggedly pursuing small details.” My heart sank when I read that, and I decided to doggedly pursue a new line of work – one that would allow me to finally be thumbuddy.