There was a time when I jumped and ran to a door when someone knocked. It was the same time of my life when I always answered the phone. It was a thrill to know someone wanted to visit me or talk. Life was good; I was happy.
Those were good years.
The bad years came. I was out of work. Payments on loans and credit cards were missed. My debt climbed and the phone rang. Each time it did, I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. No friends were calling to talk. It was the bill collectors. “Mr. Smith, you’re two months behind in your car payment.” If not the car, it was the cell phone, power, credit-card, or other company. Other times it was my landlord.
We couldn’t take it. Ginny and I started to screen our calls. If it was an 800 or unknown number, we swallowed the lump in our throats and walked away. We already told them, “I’m sorry, we don’t have the money now. We promise to make a payment next week, when we receive our unemployment payment.” Some of them did get a payment, but most didn’t. We greased the wheels that squeaked the loudest.
We became paranoid of a knock on the door and began looking out the window to see who it was. If it was someone we knew, we answered. If it was a stranger, we let them knock until they grew tired and went away.
One night, around 10:30 p.m., there was a loud hammering on the door. My heart skipped a beat. Only bad news knocks on the door at that hour. Ginny was already in bed. I was alone to face the unknown. My son wasn’t home yet. I feared something happened to him, so I opened the door. In the doorway stood a six-foot, burly man in workman’s clothes. Two days of growth darkened his face. Before I could say a word, he said in a tone that meant business, “Mr. Smith, your car is being repossessed. I already have it hooked to my tow truck. I’ll need your keys.”
I stood staring at him. The shock knocked the words from my mind. “Mr. Smith,” he repeated. “The keys? It will be easier for everyone if I have them. We don’t want to damage your car.”
I had no choice. I had to give him the keys. “Okay!” I stammered when my mind began to function. “I’ll get them.” As I went into the kitchen for the keys, I felt bile rise in my throat and swallowed it back. How was I going to get to work in the morning? How will Ginny and I do anything? The questions tumbled through my head. The fear of the phone ringing now seemed like a minor annoyance. Our worse fears came to haunt us.
I handed him the keys and asked, “Do you mind if I remove my personal belongings from the car first?”
He softened his demeanor now that he had the keys. “Sure Mr. Smith. You get
what you need and I’ll be on my way.”
I walked to our—the—car. He unlocked it just as Ginny, woken by our talking, came out the door. “Michael, what’s going on?”
“Hun, he’s here for our car.”
“Oh no!” she cried and fell into my arms.
The man looked at us. We could tell it wasn’t personal. “I’m really sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. If you call your bank in the morning and make the payments, you should be able to get your car back in no time.”
“I understand!” I said. “I know it’s your job. It’s a job I don’t envy you for having.”
He nodded. “It’s tough.”
Ginny and I held each other and watched the tow truck go down the street. It turned the corner. The front of our car going backward disappeared behind a house. We hugged and went inside.
We slept little that night. The next day we scrambled and came up with the money—at the expense of other bills. I needed the car to get to work and make the wages needed to get us out of the mess we were in. I’d just got the job. It paid well, but was just a little too late in coming.
Times got better, but the fear of the phone and a knock on the door remain. One thing I learned, don’t ignore those calls and knocks. It is best to face the trouble head-on. If you don’t, they will still get you.
You can’t hide.