Fighting Minions

I had an argument with a cellphone today.

More accurately, I had an argument with a lady via my cellphone. I’ve tried shouting at my phone before. It doesn’t make much difference.

The lady in question worked for some organization to which I owe money . Having only recently found some semblance of the idea of financial security, I was finally repaying some debts. This was quite a nerve-wracking experience.

As I’ve explained before, money makes me twitchy. I decided to try a new tactic for dealing with it: Acting.

Scene one: The minion answers and takes my details, opening my account.

“Thank you sir, I see you owe -” Ha. Not so fast minion…the best line of defense is attack, so:

“$82 and 68 cents, which I have here in my account and I’d like to pay but first I’d like to talk to you about your actions over the last two weeks.” See, I’m taking control! I’m in charge! Silly minion.

“Sure Sir, but I’d like to say you owe $92.68 when you include the interest.” Excuse me? Liar. That’s not going to work.

“No, I owe $82.68 and you’re charging $10 for sending a letter.” $10. For a fucking letter. I’ll send you nine letters and include a free one if you’re not careful. My words are mightier than yours.

“Yes Gareth, that’s company policy.” What a hideous byword for “not my problem”, minion.

“I don’t care. I’m not paying it. I spoke to you last week and blah blah blah…”

At this point, the acting became pure anger (scene two) and my voice went all whiny and high. I figured this was good. I used a tactic I’m hopeless against and began talking in circles, repeating myself and adding in new and impressive points. It works wonderfully. She became quite flustered.

“Now look Gareth! Let me say this, please stop talking, You’re not listening.” Obviously, when do people in charge ever listen?

“Speak, I shall listen.” The fuck? I swear she snorted when I said that. Less acting, perhaps.

“Uh, you’re saying you can pay the $82 today and I thank you for that, but I’m telling you that your account will still be overdue by $10.” Ha. That’s where you’re wrong! Logic and derision ensue

“Is that all? You’ve said that three times and I definitely heard you the first time. To repeat myself: If that’s the case, then I won’t be paying you. I have saved up this money specifically to pay you rather than some of my other debts, and if you’re going to try take more money off me than I’d rather pay them. I’ve never missed a payment to you, I’ve had a bad few months and I’m sure you can waive the fee.” Hmm…is it too late to appeal to the minion’s nice side? A surprise attack?

“No Sir,  I can’t waive it and your account will still be -” What nice side? there’s no weakness here.

“Then put me on to someone higher.” Right. I can’t beat the minion, so let’s go for the boss: in real life, the bosses are easier to beat than the minions…right?

“Please hold.” Is that the sound of success?

I was very uptight by this point, but oddly excited. This was almost…fun…Scene 3:

“Hello Gareth, my name is [Anna]!” Well fuck. Aren’t you friendly. I guess that means….

“Hello [Anna] I’m Ga…ah, you already know that. Do you have my account details?” I have to be friendly too. It’s unsettling. I’m on the back-foot.

“Yes.” Ok. Uhm. Guess I have to talk now

“Cool, well, this is my situation blah blah blah bla-“ My summary is surprisingly succinct and polite – a careful attack.

“Gareth, I don’t want to waste your time or mine…” Oh fuck. That didn’t go so well. Putmebackontotheminionpleasepleasepleaseple…

“…so I’m going to waive the fee for the letter.” asepleaspleaseplea….what? She….what? Yay!

“Thank you Anna. That is wonderful of you.”

We talk – pleasantries and genuine conversation with someone super friendly. We complain about IT. I ask her to apologize to the minion because I felt bad. I hang up, $82.68 poorer and infinitely happier.

The first step really is the hardest.

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Infinite Sums

I get all jittery and distractible when I deal with money. Apparently, this is common. It’s classified as a phobia – chrometophobia.

I’d rather go and clean the toil –

Damn. It’s been done. Guess I’ll have to write this.

I try to psyche myself up for it.

“Ok Gareth, you can do it. All you gotta do is phone them and say – hey look, is that a hawk? In St Heliers? Better find a camera!”

Doesn’t work.

I try to trick myself.

“Look, you don’t have to phone them, just get the number and put it into your phone. Then we can see what it feels like you know. There we go that was easy! Now what happens if you press the green button?”

That works quite well.

Visiting banks is a bit easier. I walk to them. On the way there, I tell myself awesomely stupid and deeply personal stories (normally involving a Porsche, sexy people and saving the world through maths/writing/a hitherto-undiscovered form of ninjitsu) so that by the time I arrive it’s too late to stop myself.

That works beautifully.

Hiding behind a computer doesn’t work. I can email people all fucking day about money. They don’t respond. I think the email comes through as “This person is avoiding talking to you because he blah blah hates blah blah blah you.” So they click “spam” or “delete” or “ignore” or “What email?” or “How to get a long penis” and I sit here. Waiting. For fuck all.

Unfortunately, ignoring the problem doesn’t work either. It brings me lots of letters and phone calls – which is nice – but it’s best if I just say “oh look, someone sent me a letter/called me! They must love me” and then ignore call/throw letter into deepest burning pit of hell – followed quickly by every aspiration to say “This is mine and it belongs to me and I am its.”

So I have to deal with it. I have to put aside my doubts and anxiety and fear and racing heart and  take the little steps.

It’s so easy to say “Fuck it, I don’t even care.” I’ve done that for many years. At school, I used to be quite happy saying “I don’t like money, and it shall never be mine and I won’t miss it no not ever!” but that’s the same as saying “AHHH! IT’S BIG AND SCARY AND HAS TEETH ON IT’S HAIRS TAKEITAWAYTAKEITAWAY please.”

So I take the little steps. Break each of these monstrous tasks down to a series of barely noticeable reactions, take the first step and boom!

There’s only 79 to go.

But that’s ok. Because 79 is smaller than 100 and a lot more acceptable than the whole.

Proud Debt

I finally worked up the courage to have a look at where I sit financially.

“In debt” is the simplest answer. $9528.57 of it.

It’s made up of a beyond-the-limit overdraft and credit card, two years of unpaid taxes, four fines, unpaid bills, personal loans, ACC levies and one hire-purchase. What is really scary is this has all materialised in the last two years.

To be fair to myself, this last year has been…overwhelmingly unproductive financially. Fortunately, there are more things to life than money, so I don’t even begin to consider it wasted.

That being said, money does play a vital component to life. There are few things you feel you can do when you can’t afford to do many things, and every cent is watched carefully. Little pleasures – those idiotic things that cause the most instant happiness – now evoke guilt if purchased and tense jaws if not. And when there’s no money coming in but there is money going out, things become even worse.

That’s where I sit right now. And I hate it. I hate owing money, I hate that any money I get in can’t be used – it simply gets pushed straight out to things that have no relevance. And that hatred, that anger, that worry is useless. It still sits there. I have a $10 note – compliments of a t-shirt a stranger bought off Trademe – and I don’t want to use it. Because I’ll feel guilty for spending it on something “frivolous”. And guilt won’t help anything.

A job may sound like the ideal solution: suddenly, there’ll be money coming in. But, once the money is coming in, it’s easier to ignore it. The debts are being paid back slowly, I can buy the frivolous things without concern. The money acts as a barrier between me and the debt. I don’t need to worry about it anymore.

Unfortunately, debt has a habit of growing. Constantly. And, until I do something about it, it’s going to keep sneaking up on me.

I have therefore decided to head into my bank tomorrow and talk to them about a debt consolidation loan. It seems silly to obtain a loan to sort out loans, but it keeps it simpler. It gives me longer to pay it all off, it gives me a way of dealing with my debt that doesn’t involve “turn your head and walk away.”

And, ultimately, it removes a stress I don’t need from my life. If you’ve looked at my goals and dreams for 2014, you’ll see that sorting out my debt is one of the things I want to do this year.

It’s important to sort out the little things in life. To take the little steps that count towards the bigger goal. That’s one of the things my writing has taught me: it’s so easy to have a big goal, start working toward it, and then give up because it seems your goal is not getting smaller.

In all honesty, goals suck. When I finished writing Porsching, I didn’t feel elated – I felt stressed that I’d rushed it. When I finished editing Porsching, I didn’t feel successful – I felt relieved. They were both big goals for me – the editing in particular seemed monstrous. And I had to step back and look at what was going on.

By setting goals, I’d missed out on the little steps. I didn’t celebrate that I wrote 1700 words in the first hour. I didn’t celebrate the day I wrote 8000 words. I didn’t celebrate editing 10 000 words in one day, nor did I celebrate the little changes in one sentence that changed the way the story flowed. I kept aiming for that one point in time, and, when I reached it, all the energy I’d put in felt wasted.

Because the day I finished was a day like any other. I’d achieved this goal that had always seemed huge, but the day felt no different. There was no reason for it to be different. I’d done less work than any other day, I’d put less energy in.

In truth, it felt more like failure.

And so it is scary to think that when my debt is paid off, I’ll be 32. But I know that my last payment will dawn and I’ll pay it off and there’ll be a sense of complete emptiness because it’ll feel no different. Because I’ll forget how I felt today when my heart hammered as I typed in my banking password, because I’ll forget how I’ll feel when I sign the document for the loan. Because those are the days that matter – the days you start, the days you don’t give up, the days you do more than your aim – those are the days to be proud of.

Sex Tails

I can’t have sex.

This is due to two fantastically unavoidable circumstances. Firstly, in place of a coccyx, I now have a fiery ball of pain. I’m uncertain where it came from.  All I know is it makes everything difficult.

Secondly, we’re down to Our Last Condom.

Obviously, a pair of solutions would be to visit a doctor and a pharmacy – some doctors may be able to help with both! However, doctors cost money.

I don’t have any of that. Not one bit.

I owe some of it. This isn’t entirely my fault: most of the owings are due to income-reducing requirements which I’d saved for and then had to spend on living when my last company closed down. That was last year. Money earned this year has simply been used to begin paying off those debts and topping up the living account.

I also owe a mechanic some money for some noise-reduction he did on our Mercedes. To be fair, he did do a bit more than that. I think he converted the noise to power, because that thing is unbelievably fast. So fast, I owe the police money too!

And it all just builds up. All those “stresses” as we call them. They’re not really stresses: they’re pRoblems with a capital are. Because there’s no job. There’s no knowing where money is coming from. There’s no guarantee that lunches will appear between breakfast and dinner on the same day. There’s no knowing whether estate agents will request we move, no knowing when debt collectors will come for what little we have.

And yes, all they can take are our material things. Just things. Just things I use on a daily basis to get through.

It’s horrible. I want to lie down and let life simply pass on until things get that little bit better. Because we always say “things will get better”.

But they won’t. We have to make them better.

And I don’t know if I can anymore.

One thing I do know. Just a little thing.

If things are the very worst they can be, then the only way forward is up. The only path available is better than where I stand now.

And, if things aren’t the very worst they can be, then there is still something for me to be thankful for.

That doesn’t make it any better. I still can’t have sex.I still have a sore tailbone. I still have no money. I still have no stability.

But I have hugs. I have kisses. I have a pillow. I have massages. I have TradeMe. I have experience. I have words. I have Killer Queen. And I know that things will always change.