Friday, September 15, 2006


No, I'm not referring to the movie. I'm referring to myself. To further accomodate past requests for more information about me, here you go.

I moved out of my parents house in March, 1997. I had finally gotten my first post-college job. I worked in Milwaukee, at a place called Remco. I think my official title was "account representative." That's just a fancy term for bill collector/repo man.

Remco was owned by the same folks who owned Rent-A-Center. We were all one big happy family. In fact, in 1999, my store was actually renamed as a Rent-A-Center.

Remco was located at 2300 W. North Avenue in Milwaukee. For those of you unfamiliar with the city, that address is smack dab in the middle of the inner city. Yes, I was working in the hood. When I told Meff I was interviewing for a job there, his eyes widened and he shouted, "Where???" I should have known what I was in for when I pulled up for the interview and saw bars on all the store's windows. The hood is a scary place. Although it's not nearly as bad as Hollywood portrays it to be.

I worked there for almost two years. By the time I left, I was the assistant manager. Had I stayed on, I would have been a store manager in no time. But I really didn't want to make a career out of that job. I much prefer the law firm where I am now. It's a lot safer too. I have yet to hear any gunshots here. At Remco I heard them.

My job was pretty simple. Each Monday we were given a list of people who hadn't made their most recent payment. Remco was a rent-to-own store in which our customers paid a certain amount of money each month or each week, for a period of time. When their contract was up, the item was theirs. Our weekly customers were to pay on Saturday. On Monday morning we got our list of past-due people. At the time, there were two collectors in our office. I was one. The other guy was someone I dubbed "Grumpy Dave." Dave was an absolute hothead who would yell and scream. I was the polar opposite. But both of us were great at our job. Despite being in the #1 worst neighborhood in Milwaukee, our collection numbers were the best in the state - that included all the other stores in Milwaukee, as well as stores in Appleton, Green Bay and even Manitowoc.

Our first way to attack our list was to try and call the customers. Of course you have to realize. Our customer base consisted of people who have bad credit or no credit. Most of our customers weren't model citizens. Quite often we had no working phone number. So we then had to go to our next step, which was driving out to the customer's home, and knocking on the door. Our goal was to collect the money. However, if the customer refused to pay, our goal would be to repossess the items. That included stereos, TV's, living room sets, tables, bedroom sets, appliances... Needless to say, we wanted the money. Repossessing was no fun. I once took a refrigerator down a flight of stairs - by myself, with no dolly. It was tricky. But I was proud of myself! I've often said that you haven't lived until you've pushed your way into a crackhouse and repossessed the stereo there.

Anyway, I had a customer named Nicole. She lived in a real dingy apartment complex about a mile south of our store. There was no way to get in, unless someone buzzed the door. However, quite often the door was open. So I would go in, find her apartment, and knock on the door. Her building was really creepy. Once inside, there were no windows whatsoever. The apartments had windows. But the building itself didn't. Some of the lights were burned out. So there was just a real uneasy feeling in there. I often thought to myself that if I were to ever get killed on this job, this is where it would happen.

No matter how many times I went by Nicole's apartment, she was never there. I would leave a tag on the door. But she never got in touch with us. Nicole had a living room set - sofa, loveseat, coffee tables and lamps.

One day Grumpy Dave decided to go with me. By this time, Nicole was about 40 days past due. On the way there, Dave showed me his new toy - a small can of pepper spray. Knowing Dave's personality, I knew full well he was itching for a chance to use it. It had been awhile since Dave and I had gone out in the van together. I really couldn't stand him. And his constant attitude problem was too much for me to stomach. He scared me. It wasn't him actually. It was what he would do or say to the customers we encountered on the road. I thought that he might piss someone off so much that the guy would retaliate. I wanted no part of that. But for whatever reason, we were together this day.

We got to Nicole's. We got inside the building. Three young women actually opened the door. Nicole wasn't there. We told them that we were there to pick up the living room set. They of course refused to let us in. We tried all our tricks to get a foot in the door. Note: from a legal standpoint, if we get inside someone's house or apartment, we do not have to leave without our merchandise. So the trick was to actually get inside her apartment. But they refused. So we left. As we got to the end of the hall, one of the women shouted something at us. Dave then yelled, "ho, ho ho." No, it wasn't his Santa Claus impression. He was referring to each of these women as whores. Well they would have none of that!

We had gotten outside. But we heard them streaking down the long hallway. As we got to the van, the three of them charged out of the building and began yelling at us from the small porch outside the apartment building door. One woman threw a beer can at our van. One woman started to wave a broom towards us. Dave and I were laughing at this point. So were they. It was all a game. But the game was about to turn ugly.

Seeing the woman with the broom, Dave shouted out, "Why don't you come over here and do that." The woman took the bait. I knew what was coming. Dave grabbed his pepper spray. As she approached the passenger door, Dave pulled it out and nailed her right in the face with a steady stream. The woman clutched her face and dropped to the ground. Then Dave yells at me to "Get the fuck out of here!" So I pulled off. I was sort of shocked. I couldn't believe he had done that. As I looked back, I could see that a small crowd had started to form around this fallen woman.

About an hour later, the police showed up at the store. They were pissed off. They informed Dave that it is illegal to use pepper spray on someone and then not inform the police. Despite that, Dave got mouthy with the cops. He came very close to actually getting arrested. That would have been funny. But the cops let him off the hook. But before the left, they gave us a very stern warning. They said that the victim was back at her apartment, with about 25 angry relatives who were "out for blood."

Dave decided to go home for the rest of the day. Great! He pulls a stunt like this, then leaves me and the rest of us in the store to handle any potential retribution. Despite the job, despite the location of our store, despite the gunshots we occasionally heard, and despite everything else I experienced in the hood, that day was the one and only day I ever felt scared down there.

After another hour passed, a big guy came into the store. As it turned out, it was Mike - an ex-coworker of ours, who had quit about six months earlier. But Mike was pissed. As it turned out, Mike was a relative of not only Nicole, but the pepper-sprayed victim as well. He burst in screaming, "Where's Dave!" Well, Dave was gone - lucky for him. But our store manager was there, and sat Mike in his office and talked to him for about 15 minutes. Thankfully he defused the situation. We were assured that nothing more would come of it. By the time Mike left the store, he was laughing and joking.

As a follow-up to that story, our home office actually sued Nicole and gained a replevin against her - which allowed the police to repossess the furniture. And about six months later, they actually got into her apartment and got the entire living room set back. As my soon-to-be fiance was about to move into her first apartment, my boss offered to sell the sofa and loveseat to her as a cash-and-carry item. So after the payment of $100.00, I helped deliver that notorious furniture into the apartment of the woman I eventually married. If that furniture could talk, I'm sure it would have a ton of stories - both before and after the pepper spray incident.


At Fri Sep 15, 10:58:00 AM PDT, Blogger the_meff said...

Let's not forget the roach infested sofa you sold my roommate and I...

If Grafton has la cucarachas running amock to this day, it's our fault!!!

As you say, you haven't really lived until you've watched roaches reproduce in your kitchen sink. It's kinda' like that scene in the movie Aliens, with the Alien Queen dropping eggs, only nastier.

At Fri Sep 15, 11:00:00 AM PDT, Blogger the_meff said...

Of course, "amuck" is a far better word... thought I'd chime in before Mister Dehne and the grammer cops busted me.

At Fri Sep 15, 11:06:00 AM PDT, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

That wasn't my fault! I thought that the couch had been "bombed" already.

We used the term "bomb" to describe the act of putting a repossessed piece of furniture into our moving van, and setting off one of those "bug-be-gone" sprays that fills the entire vehicle. Then we locked the van up tight. Anything inside would ultimately die. Your couch didn't go through that process. Thankfully cockroaches breed on filth. So you got the little bugger before they had a chance to populate.

Let's not forget that you guys kept the couch. And all was fine.

At Fri Sep 15, 08:24:00 PM PDT, Blogger MarkC said...

Damn Burt, a repoed couch for your fiancee out of an apt like that?? I hope you kept the plastic moving tarp on it!!

At Fri Sep 15, 08:30:00 PM PDT, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

She and her mom THOROUGHLY cleaned it. Believe me, it needed it.

At Sat May 23, 06:44:00 PM PDT, Blogger A. said...

I graduated from the same high school as you - not the same year. I am glad it wasn't the same year.
I have skimmed a couple random entries on this blog. You really graduated in 1989? That makes you nearly 40 years old, right? And you are maintaining a website which obsesses about some classmates and trashes others - from high school?
Do you realize that this behavior is common among 14 year old girls, not 40 year old boys?
I am curious whether you were popular in high school and have not received an adequate amount of attention since graduating or if you were a loser and this blog is a was of asserting dominance over the people who made fun of you?
Either way - it is clear that you need to seek help.

At Sat May 23, 06:53:00 PM PDT, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

Yes maam, I really graduated in 1989.

I'm 37.

I did maintain a blog for awhile, correct. But there was no obsessing or trashing.

Blogs about classmates is common with 14-year-old girls? Do you have some examples of such? I know of none.

I was popular in my circle of friends. But my clique (if you can call it that) was small. No one really made fun of me.

Why do I need to seek help exactly?


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