Breaking Bank

| Auckland, New Zealand | Working | February 11, 2013

(I was recently made redundant at the time this happened, and have had to cut back on expenses. I am paying off a cancelled credit card at about NZ$20 a week from my meagre unemployment insurance. At 9 am once a fortnight, I receive phone calls from the bank which are unhelpful but relatively pleasant. Then, this happens…)

Me: “Hello?”

Employee: “Yes, this is [name] from the credit facility of [bank]. Our records show you have been paying off the amount which you owe at a rate of $20 each Friday of each week. ”

Me: “Yes, and as I have explained, I am unable to pay any more at present.”

Employee: “I understand, but why are you not paying a greater amount?”

Me: “Because I am unable to pay any more with my current expenses and earnings.”

Employee: “I understand that. So, you’ll be paying more from this week? The more you pay, the faster you will pay off the debt, and you want to do that or else your credit rating—”

Me: “—will be adversely affected. Yes, I understand that. Thing is, I don’t earn more than $320 total each week.”

Employee: “I understand that. We would expect that you paid a relatively small amount of your earning each week, say a thousand dollars, as a minimum.”

Me: “A thousand dollars is and never has been a small amount of my earnings, even when I was working! I’d have to be running a methamphetamine lab to make enough to afford that each week!”

Employee: “That’s a good idea, sir! Would you consider such a venture?”

Me: “Pardon?”

Employee: “If that would assist you making the payments, [bank] would be happy to help you. Would you need some bridging finance to start this venture?”

Me: “You do realise what you are asking, don’t you?”

Employee: “Of course. You wish to start a small business venture and we at [bank] would happily—”

Me: “—finance a criminal enterprise?”

Employee: “I beg your pardon?”

Me: “You do understand that making methamphetamine is illegal in this country?”

(There are a few moments of silence, except for rapid typing noises.)

Employee: “…Oh, yes. I remember now. I had forgotten because I was thinking about the Rugby football match this weekend between the Blues and the Warriors, sir.”

(Note to American and foreign readers: this is like a person telling you they are in Cleveland to watch an ice hockey match between the Cavaliers and the Browns—two utterly different codes of sport between teams from the same town.)

Me: “I’ll pay you what I can when I can, okay?”

Employee: “That would be acceptable, sir.”

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