Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You Won't Believe Me, But It's All True.

I am not a hero. But today I wished for a red cape, a sword, a badge... something that would give me authority to stop the madness that was going on around me. It is unbelievable the things that happen to good people in this day and age. I would not have believed this story had it been told to me. But since I was there, I can attest that everything you are about to read is absolutely true. I have changed the names of my innocent friends, but I am naming each and every one of the evil doers in hopes that they are humiliated and humbled by their behavior today. I cannot save the world, but I can and will print the truth!

Let's begin this tale at the beginning. I have taken the liberty to edit details which are either unimportant or too lengthy to explain. I have these friends. Let's call them Donna and Steve. They are good people. Married in the last two years, they found themselves, and the beginning of their marriage, facing what many in this country have faced in the last year. Unemployment and mounting debt. Donna was married before and was raising a beautiful daughter. Steve is about 5 years out of college and just building his career. Right before their wedding, Steve lost his job and it took some time for him to find a new one. Not unusual since we reside in the local that President Obama has visited many times because of the high unemployment rate. Because of this, they found themselves in over their heads in debt, like so many around these parts. This is not a crime. This is a result of a falling economy that NONE of us has control over. They did the only logical thing they could do to keep feeding their daughter. They filed for bankruptcy.

They did it the right way. They filed Chapter 13 because they wanted to have integrity and pay the debts that they could as best they can. I was around while they made this gut-wrenching decision, and I know exactly how hard this was for them. They are choosing to give up their home, as they have an opportunity to rent a house owned by some other friends who recently moved out of the area. But they needed to keep their cars. This is where my story begins.

Under bankruptcy laws, once you file, your property is protected, at least until there is a hearing. So here we go. Hang on kiddies, the ride is about to get really bumpy. The following is not for the faint of heart.

Donna had a van that was purchased and financed through Ford Motor Credit. Write that down. Ford. Motor. Credit. Now, they called said company and informed them that they had delivered all the necessary information to their bankruptcy attorney and that the case would be filed in a few days. Said company rep responded with a "No Problem, Ms. Donna. You just let us know when it is." Because what we are all taught is that if you keep the credit companies informed of where you are at, they will work with you, right? Well, that's what we all believed once. But like Santa and the Easter Bunny, oh baby, is that not true.

August 12th, 6 pm. I receive a text message from Donna stating that both their cars, which were parked on the street in front of their house, were hit in a hit-and-run. Steve's truck is nearly totaled, while Donna's van just sustains a broken tail-light. No one hurt, but Steve's truck will require major repairs and be in the shop for possibly two weeks. The insurance company provides Steve a rental and they decide to wait until the truck is back before Donna will get her taillight fixed.

August 14th, 2 am. (2 am, people. Like, really, 2. AM.) Donna and Steve are awoken with their dog going crazy, the door bell going off, someone pounding on the door and a very frightened daughter crying. They through on clothes and answer the door to find two repo men there with Donna's van already on their truck. They were kind enough to awaken my friends and ask if there is anything they want to remove from the vehicle before they take it. Now, I don't know about you, but how many of us are really coherent and functioning on all cylinders at 2 am? Night watchmen don't count. I'd like to say that my friends were probably 100% nicer than they should have been. Even the repo men thanked them for being so nice. They took everything they could see out of the vehicle and handed over the key. They told the repo men, representing Bull Dog Repossessions, that they filed bankruptcy and that they would be calling the next day to get the car back. These two fine upstanding employees informed my friends that the car would be on the local lot and even furnished the phone number for them. Then, having done their job, they went away and left my friends to try and figure out how they were getting around the next day with a rental car that Donna is not authorized to drive.

August 14th, 7:12 am. Donna texts me and asks if I can pick her up early to take daughter to school. Since we had planned on taking another friend to the airport and then go to lunch together, this was no big deal. It was when I picked her up that I heard the entire story. Needless to say, she spent a lot of that day on the phone with her lawyer and after the airport we ran around obtaining documents needed by the lawyer to get the van back. Please note, this is a Friday. The lawyer is unable to get everything together and so the van will not be returned until next week. I tell my pal that I can help her get her daughter to and from school until it all gets worked out. (Yes, she is THAT good of a friend that this is something I don't even think twice about.)

Enter Monday, August 17th. Hold up on the paperwork. Gonna be one more day.

Enter Tuesday, August 18th. One more day. More paperwork to do.

Enter Wednesday, August 19th. Paperwork almost done. Steve gets Donna's name added to the rental so at least they can share a car.

Thursday, August 20th. Paperwork is completed. Donna calls the local office of Bull Dog Repossessing and tells them that her lawyer will be faxing a release to them first thing in the morning and they will be coming to get the van. Office girl is so nice and friendly, no problem, and we'll see you tomorrow. Isn't she sweet? Nope. Oh, and Steve's truck is fixed and they pick it up and return the rental.

So enter Friday, August 21st. Steve and Donna spend the morning signing papers at the lawyers and then Steve drops Donna off with me cuz we both have errands to run and plus, we like hanging together. Everything appears to be great. We do some banking and she tells me that they are picking the van up later that afternoon as soon as the lawyer calls and says they have faxed the release. 1 pm - Enter the bad news. After keeping the lawyer on hold for a half and hour and then talking to her for 20 minutes, the demon-spawn office girl sweetly informs the lawyer that they shipped the van to their Chicago facility that morning. That morning! After they had been called by Donna to inform them that it is being released. The van was supposed to remain on that lot for 10 days. And said van is also at this point, protected by bankruptcy laws. Very SPECIFIC laws. Something shady went on there, don't you think, kiddies? Why would a reputable company like Bull Dog Repossessing violate bankruptcy laws and ship a van that they already know is being released back to the owners that SAME day? Oh, it gets way better. Poor lawyer spends the rest of Friday calling and screaming at reps from Bull Dog Repossessing and Ford Motor Credit who right away admit the mistake and PROMISE that the van will be returned first thing on Monday. The problem is that we need an appointment to pick up the van from where it has been taken. A lovely place called Greater Chicago Auto Auction. We need an appointment. To pick up a vehicle that rightly belongs to us and has been taken illegally. I have yet to understand that one.

So instead of picking up the van on Monday, we spend it waiting for the lawyer to get us an appointment to go all the way into Chicago to pick up this van. And it takes ALL day of her and every other lawyer in her office yelling and faxing to get anyone at these three honorable and reputable companies to cooperate. Again, the names are Ford Motor Credit, Bull Dog Repossessing, and Greater Chicago Auto Auctions.

And instead of picking it up on Tuesday, we wait again for Greater Chicago Auto Auctions to agree to release the illegally held vehicle to its rightful owner without forcing said rightful owner into paying for storage and transport fees for a vehicle that was illegally transported and stored. Is your head spinning yet. Take a deep breath because now we get to the events of today.

So myself, my darling selfless husband and my friend Donna take a drive to the Chicago area. I acted as moral support, my hubby as security. We were on a mission. From God. First, we have to stop in Dyer, Indiana to pick up the license plates that were removed from the vehicle. Unlawfully removed. Want to know where? A place called Krazy Kaplan's Fireworks. Uh huh. That's what we thought too. Turns out that Bull Dog Repossessions shares a building with them. So we get there right after they open and request the plates as the lawyer had instructed us. Donna held out her id and the guy in charge of the yard, Greg (who looked like the one mustached and bearded guy from MythBusters, only dirtier and skinnier) proceeded to look for the plates. He pulled out this big black plastic milk crate full of plates. Yup, that's what I though too. Plates were not in there. Plates were not in the building, even though the main office of Bull Dog Repossession had guaranteed us that they were. After an hour and a half, it became apparent that we had to go to the nearest BMV to apply for replacement plates. At Donna's expense.

Now the nearest BMV is in the opposite direction, in Merrilville. Google sent us to the wrong place, as they had moved a few months back. A kind local woman gave us directions to the new place. Which was 5 miles further east. Once at the BMV, miraculously, there was no line. I got overly excited about this, only to be dashed 2 seconds later when the clerk told us we had to go to the police station to file a report first. Oh, and the police station? 5 miles west back where we came from. So we go to the police station and you know, they didn't even care when we told them who lost the plates. Bull Dog Repossession. Then back to the BMV we go. Plates are obtained for 10 bucks and then we are off to Greater Chicago Auto Auction, about 30 minutes away.

So we get there, and all this time Donna has been told REPEATEDLY by her lawyer that all she needs to get the vehicle is her id. Her lawyer and the bankruptcy trustee are both planning to file suit against all three of these companies. As well they should. Grand Theft Auto Is A Crime. While we are there, this very scary woman behind bullet proof glass slides a release form at us. It states that Donna releases Ford Motor Credit and Greater Chicago Auto Auction from any can all claims she may have against them. We call the lawyer. But here's the thing. If she doesn't sign it, she cannot get her car. Period. End of story. The End. Of course the lawyers don't want her to sign it, but since she signed it under duress, it's called coercion and it won't hold water in court. I was a witness and so was my husband. These people are not honest, good, and definitely NOT part of the Great American Car Company that Ford would like you to believe.

Now kiddies, if you are still with me, and not fallen on the floor in disbelief, here's what I want to say about all of this. Yes, my friends got into financial difficulties. We all do at one point or another and it is not a reflection of who they are as people. Because they are good people. They have to be to hang out with me. It's a personal requirement for all my friends. Did they deserve to be treated like this? No. They did the right things. They talked to Ford Motor Credit. Ford Motor Credit promised to work with them. Ford Motor Credit even ADMITS that the car should not have been repossessed. Do I fault Bull Dog Repossessions? Partly. They also were called and communicated to every step of the way. They should have never sent the van out of town. Especially since they knew we were coming for it. And Greater Chicago Auto Auctions? That place is scary. They move cars in, strip them and sell them before anyone gets a chance to recover their property. It's a legal chop shop. In fact, the guy who brought the van around to us even said to Donna, "You got good timing. We were just about to take it to the body shop to strip it." To strip it on the day they knew we were coming, after they CALLED us to say that we could pick it up any time after 9 am. WHAT!!!!! I imagine most people don't take the time or the effort to recover their property. I mean, after what we have been through, it wouldn't surprise me.

And that, dear children, is how you can legally steal a car.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

One Should Never Blog While Tired.....

It feels like I have done NOTHING in the last two weeks but run, run, run. I am exhausted and a bit grumpy. I have found that a certain amount of solitude is necessary for writing, and I have not had a great deal of it recently. Therefore, no new posts and no progress on the book. (To be fair, I am at a slight impasse with the book. I wrote myself into a corner and haven't figured out how to get out yet.) I love my family and have great affection for my circle of close friends, but I am finding myself in need of a break, not just during sleeping times.

I think this is the situation with most people really. We fill our time with work and try to slip in the appropriate amount of play. And when you have a family, sometimes they have legitimate claims on your free time that require you to be at certain activities not of your choosing. Just the way it is. The trap most of us fall into is not recognizing that we need time alone, and that time is just as important as the time spent working, with family and friends, and in general socialization.

I don't want to sound sexist when I say that this is a particular problem for women. It's just that being a woman myself, I am more familiar with the issues that women face. I talk to my girlfriends, and I am sure they would agree with me. (Especially Nicole. Girl, this one's for you.) We tend to be the nurturers in relationships and most of us fall readily into the wife and mother role and put of children and husbands needs above our own. This is a double-edged sword. It is good that we embrace the roles that we have chosen. We SHOULD nurture our children with love and dedication. We should support our husband and meet their needs as they meet ours as well. But we also need to give great importance to regular time alone. Time to be quiet and think. Time spent away from other people. It refreshes our soul.

Now, my husband might point out that I spent two hours at the salon this week getting beautified. That does not count. Activities like salon visits, trips to the store, and driving around running errands do not count as times of solitude because during those times, there are other people around, and your mind is preoccupied with the tasks at hand. True solitude is being completely alone, or in an environment where talking is frowned upon, like a library or prayer room. Or a coffee house or bookstore with your iPod on. (That trick works wonders to keep people from approaching you!) You can add an activity like reading or listening to music, but only if you prefer. My friend Marsha likes to write during her times of solitude. I sometimes read, sometimes write, and music is always involved. These are things that nourish us and help us process through. My friend Dana likes to have music on and sing and dance. (Something she insists to me is better done with no one around.)

My point probably could have been made 4 paragraphs ago if I wasn't so tired. I need to schedule regular times of solitude. It must be of the same importance as work, my husband, and my kids. Because solitude keeps me grounded, sane and happy. And when I am grounded, sane, and happy, so is my family. And my work gets done quicker and with a more cheerful attitude. My friends get to enjoy a girl who cracks jokes and sees the humor in ever situation, not the grumpy gus I have been today. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Nicole, Marsha and Dana would agree that this is a necessity in their lives too. I feel confident in saying that most women would agree. I think some men I know might say "Yeah, I need that too."

So your challenge for this week is to find some time of solitude and refresh your soul. If anyone disagrees with you, send them my way. This is an argument I know I can win!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

She Really Is Smart. Really.

I have been suffering lately from what I like to term "Well, Duh" moments. I'm sure that most of you have had them too. They consist of moments when you speak before you think, are unintentionally unobservant, or just aren't thinking. They are embarrassing to say the least, but often, if you possess a fairly healthy sense of humor, usually end up being funny. At least, I think so. Yes, it's humor at my expense, but really, everyone needs a dose of humility every now and then. It's good for you. So here are two examples of my recent "Well, Duh" moments for your reading pleasure. Feel free to laugh out loud. I can't hear you.

Moment #1: My husband and my son love classic cars. It's a guy thing, and since we own a 55 Chevy Bel Air, I try to keep up. I try to know the names of all the "muscle cars" and point them out if we drive by one. Recently, my husband and I were driving home from running errands. I saw a car and the first thing that popped into my mind was the word "duster". So I asked my husband, "Is that a Duster or a Charger?" (I thought Charger because that is a car I sort of know.) My husband says to me very quietly, "Well, considering it's a Chevy, that would make it a Camero, baby." And then he busted out laughing. And of course he told my son the minute we got home. Yup, haven't lived that one down yet. Now when we pass cars, I keep my mouth shut real tight.

Moment #2: Electrical appliances do not work if you do not plug them in. I have done this twice in one week. Both times I wasted effort getting frustrated and yelling at the machines, only to discover that they won't turn on when not plugged in. Yup, my food processor has been called "idiot" and "stupid machine." Think that ought to apply to the operator of said machine?

So anyway, enjoy my "Well, Duh" moments and feel free to post some of your own. Like I said, it's these moments in life that build humility and character. And we can all use a little of both.