Jim had a job to do in his home town. It was a job that was absolutely necessary, but it made him very unpopular. Luckily, he was not the kind of person that would care about that. He was a repo man, responsible for recovering goods from people who couldn’t pay for them. Jim never felt guilty about the job that he did – people could cry and complain, but it was their fault for getting into a mess in the first place. In fact, he had started his own business because he was sick of his colleagues being sympathetic to debtors. But one day he met two different families at different stages in their lives, and it made him re-think his own life completely.
The Strong Reaction
Jim was the most hated man in his town. The very sight of him inspired fear in some, anger in others, and despair in all. Jim was a raven, a visit from him was a sign that something had gone wrong. He was not literally a raven, he was a man. The town’s repo man.
He tried to be fair. In his opinion, it was all very simple. You take something, you pay for it. If you can’t pay for it, it’ll get taken away. That was the law of the land. And someone had to enforce that law otherwise people would just take things without paying, and then where would we be. To Jim, his was honest work, and anyway if he didn’t do it, someone else would.
He had worked in repo business for ten years and had never felt guilty over what he did. It wouldn’t even have occurred to him to feel guilty. He knew that people did – over the years, a lot of repo men he knew dropped out of the business because they couldn’t take it anymore. That was why Jim had started his own repo company.
He didn’t have time for bleeding hearts, it was bad for business. And anyway, in his opinion, if people couldn’t pay for something, they shouldn’t have bought it in the first place. It wasn’t his job to provide charity for people who couldn’t handle their finances.
Only the day before, for example, he had fired an employee for exactly this reason. His name was Julian. They had gone out to what should have been an easy job, but the kid had almost messed it up completely. A local bank had asked them to repossess a car and provided an address. All that Jim had to do was go to the property, hook the towing cable to the bumper of the vehicle in question, and pull it away.
But Julian had got involved with the owners – now ex-owners – of the car. And they hadn’t even made any trouble. It was a young married couple.
When Jim had pulled into the driveway of the tiny house, the couple had been standing outside the front door, with their child at their side. Jim informed them of why he was there and asked them if they were willing to pay what they owed. They told him that they couldn’t. So he went back to his truck and grabbed the cable. But as he finished, he was annoyed to see his employee talking with the couple. He went over to fetch him, and overheard some of their conversation.
“How will you get to work?” he heard Julian ask, and the man told him that he didn’t know, but he’d find a way.
Jim got Julian back into the cab and they began to pull out into the road. Julian was staring at the unfortunate couple standing beside their crying son. The expression on the man’s face was one of someone trying to be strong for his family.
Jim had seen this a thousand times before, but Julian was upset. He asked why they couldn’t give the folks a chance, telling Jim how the man had been made redundant and had almost lost his house, and it wasn’t his fault. He was trying his best for his family.
Jim told his employee then and there that he had best find another line of work. You can’t accept people’s excuses if you wanted to be a repo man. That was the first thing he’d learned from John, a tough guy from Queens who had trained Jim when Jim had been a nervous newbie himself.
He still remembered his first-ever job. He sat in the cab of the truck as John drove down a bumpy country road, listening to the wisdom that John had gained from years in the business. You can’t feel sorry for people, was the first thing he’d said.
Nervous On First Job
If someone got a visit from the repo man, that meant they’d been ignored letters for a long time, said John. Their money problems were their own. It wasn’t the job of the repo man to decide to let debtors off the hook – if they did, the banks would just find other repo men.
Even so, Jim had been nervous. John turned the truck left off the road, onto a path going through an overgrown field, and up to the front lawn of a run-down farmhouse.
Seeing The Opponent
There had been an angry-looking man pacing up and down on the front porch, like a boxer getting ready for a fight. He looked tensed up and ready for action.
As Jim and John sat in their parked truck looking at the agitated homeowner through the windscreen, the veteran told Jim to remember that the guy was just posturing – if he was serious about keeping his television, he had had weeks to sort it out or return it.
The two men got out of the truck and approached the house. They were both big guys, and the angry debtor seemed to deflate when he saw them. Still, he blocked the entrance to the house.
Jim had completed a training course, and he knew that repo men must always seek payment first. He watched while John talked to the man with a polite but firm tone of voice, and soon they were carrying a flat-screen television back to their truck. It seemed like easy work to Jim.
Trip To The Hospital
Sympathy got you nowhere in the repo game. Jim had seen it before; a friend taking pity on someone and letting them off. Do that too many times, and the banks will stop using your services. Once he was at work with a guy called Jack. They were out one evening to repossess a car from a woman.
When they got there, they saw the woman in the driving seat getting ready to drive off. Jim quickly got out of his truck and knocked on her window. He could see that she was distraught. She told him that she had to take her mom to hospital because her leg was in bad shape.
Sympathy Doesn’t Pay
He looked in the back seat, and the older woman sitting there looked terrible. Jim could see that her leg was in urgent need of medical attention, but he also knew that it wasn’t his problem. He told the woman that he was going to take the car. But Jack stopped him. He wanted to let them drive to the hospital and come back next week. Jim was against that, but Jack told him that he’d take responsibility.
So they had driven away from that job – but they’d lost that a credit company as a customer.
Only The Toughest Survive
Now Jim was independent, having set up his own company. He didn’t want to have to deal with that kind of problem anymore. Because Jack wasn’t the only colleague he’d had who had flaked out on him. Even John, the tough guy that had taught him the ropes, bowed out in the end. They had gone out to repossess a Camaro from some guy. When they got there, the unfortunate owner of the car was in tears. It was pitiful.
As Jim and John hooked the car up and began to tow it away, he pleaded through their window – the car was the only thing his wife had left him in the divorce. John stopped the truck after a hundred yards. He couldn’t do it, he said to Jim, and returned the car to the owner.
Jim never had such problems, but his work did affect his personal life. When the workday ended he was just like any other guy in the town, but it could get awkward at the bar or the church when he had to mix with someone who had been yelling him earlier that same day. That had happened a lot over the years.
He had been single for a while. Once he had been on a date, and it was going great until his date found out what he did and where he worked. Turned out he had repossessed her brother’s car. Jim didn’t get a second date.
But overall, he liked his job. He met all kinds of different people. People have the impression that repo men are there to punish people for being poor, but often it’s the little guy who needs them. When people get ripped off and prove their case in court, the guilty party has to pay up.
And Jim had lost count of the number of times he’d repossessed a car that had been upgraded with all kinds of expensive accessories. He couldn’t believe that people would pay so much money to make a car look good before paying for the car itself.
Now, John was on his way to his last job of the day, at old Hemming’s Farm up by the creek. He’d never been there before. The road to the farm was scenic and peaceful. When he got to the farmhouse, he saw that it was modest but very clean.
There were flowers in pots on the porch outside, tastefully decorated with ornaments. Clearly these were people who took great pride in their home.
He could see the car in question parked outside the house. He parked alongside and took out his folder to look at the case file. He saw something strange. According to the file, there was only $100 owed on the car. Jim was used to seeing debts of thousands.
So instead of just hooking the cable to the bumper of the car to be requisitioned, he went and knocked on the front door of the house.
He was greeted by a kindly-looking elderly man. The man wished him a good afternoon and invited him inside. Now, Jim would usually be very suspicious of such an offer – it had led to trouble in the past. But the man seemed harmless, so Jim accepted.
Inside, the house was beautifully kept. In the living room he saw a woman, presumably the man’s wife, sitting in an armchair and reading a book. It seemed to be a very nice home.
Cookies And Lemonade
When she saw Jim enter, she asked him if he would like some coffee. Jim told her thanks, but he was ok. But then she got up and said that he just had to try her latest batch of lemonade.
Jim tried to say no, but before he knew it he was sitting on the sofa with a glass in one hand a plate with a cookie in the other. He cleared his throat and laid the things on the coffee table. He told them he’d come about the money they owed on their car.
The couple weren’t angry – they were apologetic. They said that they knew why he was there and began telling him their story, even though he didn’t ask. But they were so friendly that he didn’t have the heart to stop them. They told him that they had never been well-off, but had always made sure that they were never in debt.
The problem was that recently they’d had to use all of their savings to help their daughter with some personal issue. That had left them without any kind of safety net at all.
The car, which they’d purchased on finance a couple of years previously, was almost completely paid off. But for the last few months they had just been unable to find an extra $100 to spend. It all went on rent, bills and food.
So, they had requested an extension from the bank, only for a few months, but the bank wasn’t interested in helping them. So there they were. They apologized to Jim for causing him trouble. Jim wondered how they’d get around – their home was very isolated.
History Repeats Itself
Despite himself, he found himself asking them why they didn’t have much money. They told him that it had all began around 30 years earlier. When their daughter was still a child, James had been made redundant, and the bank had foreclosed on his house.
They had to sell everything they owned to avoid homelessness, but in the end, a repo man had come and taken their car. Without a car, they couldn’t get to work, so James had remained unemployed for a long time.
Tough Road With Ups And Downs
The only way to survive had been to take out several loans, and it had taken them decades to pay them off. Eventually they had succeeded, and through sheer hard work had even managed to save a considerable amount of money. But now that money was gone, spent on their daughter.
But the elderly couple were quick to tell Jim that they didn’t blame him, they knew he was just doing his job. Again, they apologized for any trouble they had caused.
What Will They Do Now?
Jim took his leave of the couple and hooked their car up to his truck. He began to pull away, and could see the couple standing by the front door waving at him. A strange feeling came over him as he drove down the path, something which he’d never felt before.
Back at the house, Jacob and Emily were talking. Emily was scared. How would they cope? They grew vegetables at the farm, but not enough to live on. How would they even get to the store?
Jacob comforted his wife, but in truth he was also scared too. Emily had medical issues and needed to get to the doctor every few days. Now he wouldn’t be able to take her. His bank account was empty, and usually he’d go out and do a few odd jobs for some spare cash.
But without a car he was stuck. He was just thinking about going to the bank to ask for another loan when he heard a noise outside. He went to the window and his jaw dropped to the floor.
Breaking The Cycle
It was their car. Jim had come back. They rushed outside and asked what was going on. Jim looked bashful – he told them that he just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t fair. He took $100 out of his own wallet and gave it to Jacob, and told them that he wished them luck.
Jim drove away, and began to think that maybe the time had come for him to look for a different job. But first he had to visit another family.