Tuesday, November 9, 2010
All things atrocious and shameless
Some of you may be under the impression that Golden Manor sits in the middle of Nowheresville. You've developed that impression by reading this pack of lies and subterfuges, of course, but I'm not interested in blame at the moment. Especially when blame rests with me.
Middle of Nowhere or not, we can travel to Rome by car.
There are no Spanish Steps or Fountain of Trevi, no Pantheon or Colosseum. There is, however, a Forum. The Bankruptcy Court of Northwest Georgia convenes in The Forum. Sadly, it's not the formal affair you'd expect. There's no robed judge (oh, how I would love a dour faced, robed judge with one of these barrister wigs!). There's no jury box full of disgruntled creditors gnashing their staplers or waving manila folders menacingly. There's no witness stand, no bible to swear upon, no bailiff.
There's just the friendly, but harried looking Trustee, a woman taking notes, your attorney, some cheap breakroom style tables and four or five short rows of hotel chairs upon which the people seeking debt relief sit fidgeting, worried and a little bit defeated.
People don't make much eye contact in that setting, if you know what I mean.
I didn't even bother to change out of my blue jeans this time. When we went through this life-affirming event two years ago, I dressed professionally. This time I didn't bother. If dress slacks and a blouse seemed appropriate for a Chapter 13 hearing then a pair of jeans and a decent sweater would work for a Chapter 7.
It's probably an indication of where my head is.
MathMan and I were the first on the docket for 2pm, but because we're equally compulsive about never being late, we arrived at 1:10 to the great relief of our attorney. He ushered us into the room, made sure we had our drivers' licenses and Social Security cards and told us to take a seat. We'd be up at two. In the meantime, we would watch the proceedings beginning at 1:30.
First up were a couple who seemed a bit younger than MathMan and me. He worked two jobs and she was self-employed. Their house had lost about $30,000 in value since they'd purchased it so they were underwater. They'd gone through a nightmare of a refinance to get out of an Adjustable Rate Mortgage. Nevertheless, they were going to try to hold on to the house, even with the upside down mortgage. They were also going to try to keep both their vehicles.
They nervously answered the Trustee's questions, looking at each other to decide who would answer each query. The room was quiet, but we all became more still as the couple answered questions about the value of her wedding ring. Was it insured? the Trustee had to ask. Yes.
Insurance doesn't buy the peace of mind each of us sitting in that room crave.
A creditor showed up to seek the repossession of some items - an Xbox console and a lawn mower. Were they still in good working order? The creditor wanted to know. Yes. My heart sank as the couple exchanged a look conveying anger and shame. I know that look.
One of the questions the Trustee asks each petitioner is how they got into financial trouble. For this couple the answer was that the man's work hours with a large freight shipping company had been cut. The woman's home-based business - a personal service - was suffering, too. People with reduced disposable income and insecurity about the future stop spending money on things like haircuts, manicures and massages.
I chewed the inside of my cheek, a nasty nervous habit, and wondered why that freight shipping company is advertising for holiday help while cutting hours for its long-time employees. I just applied for a job with them to help sort boxes and make deliveries. No, they haven't called.
Next on the docket was a man who didn't speak much English. The Trustee called a translation service that performs the service via speaker phone. It was really quite interesting. Mr. Rodriguez had already had his car and house trailer repossessed. I wondered where he was living. He was lean, compact. The time he'd spent in the sun had etched a map across his face. He sat hunched over the table, his jacket seemed to swallow him up.
What had been the cause of his financial difficulty, the Trustee wanted to know.
No hay trabajo.
My background in French made that easy for me to understand. Il n'y a pas de travail.
There is no work.
The Trustee called the names of other petitioners - the no shows, the unexplained. I tried to imagine just not showing up, but I couldn't do it.
Finally, it was our turn. We raised our right hands and swore to tell the truth and all that. We answered the questions like the others who'd sat perspiring and trying to keep their nervous legs from jiggling before us. Since we were moving from a Chapter 13 to a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, our questions weren't so extensive. We'd already surrendered our house and a car two years ago. Our assets are nothing, as ordered by the court in 2008.
And what had caused us to no longer be able to pay back our debt per the Chapter 13 agreement? the Trustee wanted to know.
No hay trabajo.
Il n'y a pas de travail.
There is no work.