I WAS PAINTING in my second-floor art studio, trying to decide between yellow and pink, when I heard—and then saw—a huge flatbed truck rumbling down our quiet little country lane. He must be lost, I thought. But then to my surprise, the truck backed into our driveway. My husband was downstairs, and I heard him go outside and say to the guy, “Are you looking for something?” He replied, “I’m here for the Audi.” And so began our descent into either The Twilight Zone or Hell—take your pick.Turns out they come for your car after 90 days with no payment. At least that’s what the Repo Man said; I had no idea since I have never had a car repossessed. Hey, I never even saw the movie. What this had to do with us was a mystery, as Mitch and I looked at one another and then back at the guy, shrugging and saying, “What the heck are you talking about?”
“The 2018 Audi A4, this one right here,” Repo Man said, standing a foot away from the vehicle under discussion. “I’ve got to take it.”
Suddenly I realized that I had not received even one bill for the car since we leased it last April. As the family bookkeeper I saw them all and paid them all, always on time or certainly within a reasonable grace period. But one thing I did not do was ever write a check for a bill I didn’t get, and I hadn’t gotten any for my beautiful new Hunter Green 4-door sedan with the luscious Chocolate Brown leather interior. Sure, we wrote a check at the dealership when we leased the car, but since then, nothing.
“So, you just show up without warning?” I asked Repo Man. “Pretty much,” he mumbled, head down and avoiding eye contact. “I just get my list in the morning and go out and get the cars.”
“This is ridiculous!” Mitch said. “We pay our bills. Don’t we?” He looked to me for assurance. “If we get them,” I said.
Eventually, after 35 minutes of listening to VW Leasing in Liberty Heights, Illinois tell me dozens of times how important my call was to them and that a customer service representative would help me as soon as possible, a woman named Jenny asked in a chirpy voice how she could help. All of a sudden nauseous and a bit faint, I handed the phone over to Mitch and poured myself a glass of tomato juice, straight.
Jenny insisted they had been billing us. “Then you must have the wrong address,” Mitch said. They didn’t. “So where are the bills?” Mitch asked. “You tell me,” Jenny answered. Meanwhile, all this time the poor Repo Man was standing outside in the driveway.
I went out and asked him if he wanted anything—a glass of water, or coffee, or maybe some tomato juice? My offer of tomato juice made him burst out laughing, and suddenly he changed from a threatening, bearded, tattooed, scary biker-looking dude with big biceps into a nice young man with no upper teeth. “It’s just my job,” he explained. “Don’t take it personal.”
Back inside, Mitch was finally making progress with Jenny. He had convinced her we were not deadbeats and she agreed to take our car payments for the last three months over the phone. (Mitch threw in a fourth just for good measure.) Jenny said to tell Repo Man he was free to leave, but he hung around for awhile, answering my questions about his job: Did he like it? “You meet a lot of different types—some nice, some not so nice.” Did anyone ever come after him with a gun? “That’s what you hear, but not around these parts.” Had he ever had any trouble at all? “If they give me attitude, I just take the car and leave.”
After a while we shook hands and Repo Man got into his truck and drove away, leaving my Audi in the driveway. In retrospect, I was glad we hadn’t given him any attitude.
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.