Bootstraps--as in pull yourself up by your--
Ryder is a home moving and storage company.
Merry Maids is a home cleaning service with many levels of service available.
Harris Bank is a reputable old-school bank.
Two Guys and a Truck seems to be everywhere.
Camp-Inn of Necedah Wisconsin makes metal-skinned, lightweight "teardrop" camping trailers.
AmVets is a low budget Salvation Army (kinda. I know of no religious overtones)
B&N = Barnes and Noble-- a big U.S. bookstore chain, like Borders. (damn. Superstores took over bookstores too. Damn them for vanilla coffeehouse sameness.)
Back in the day, a pregnancy test consisted of injecting a female rabbit with a woman's blood serum. If she's pregnant the rabbit goes into anaphylactic shock and dies. So we have the phrase: "The rabbit died."
Simms is the name-- Pete Simms. Even though I've got 007 buried in my Social Security Number it doesn't mean I've got a license to kill. It just means that I've got a license to screw up. That's what got me here from Madison Wisconsin--the mother of all, well, life's been kind of rough. It's August. I'm sitting here on the broken rocky shoreline of Black's Beach in far Northern California watching the breakers roll in and get my ass wet.
I can still hear the ticking from my trike as the engine continues to cool down. Being reduced to a ride and a bit after a high-tech, high-pressure job is a scary place but I feel free--liberated. All I'm responsible for is food in my belly and gas in the tank. How'd I get here? I'd like to know that myself. It was like being blind-sided by a news truck. You remember news trucks? No? How about a Pakistani taxi driver? Umm, OK.
Last December I was anticipating Christmas, wondering how much of my savings I should spend on my Dearest Wife of nearly seven years on my way into work. Work? What's that? That's a place where you sit down in a
cubicle farm with buzzing florescent lights intimidating you from clock in to clock out.
You answer the phone and watch your email to the tune of "You're gonna catch hell if my database query doesn't work faster than possible" and
"If you don't pay attention to me RIGHT NOW you're fired". You know, quaint little tunes like that. Sigh. Not that I miss it, I just miss the paychecks. I sure don't miss the cell phone contractually affixed to my hip 24X7.
Here's how it all started...
As I swiped my card against the reader and pushed into the door I almost flattened my nose. The card didn't work. What the hell? I picked up the phone next to the door and dialed security--8911.
"Hi. This is Pete Simms at the West entrance. My card won't swipe."
I hear rustling papers. "Sorry, Mr. Simms. You've been let go as of midnight."
"What the fuck? What about my stuff? COBRA insurance? Vacation remuneration? What about all that shit?"
"Sorry, sir. I just do what they tell me to."
"Dude, you know that the Nazis tried that excuse, too. Look where it got THEM."
I hung up and turned around. I fired up my old Ford and headed for the courthouse. There had to be some sort of employee advocacy office there. It took me until early that afternoon being passed from office to office to find where I wanted to be. The little bald guy on the other side of the desk helped me file one local, three state and five federal grievances against the corporation from hell.
"How long do these things usually take?"
"The local matter of theft of goods will probably be resolved this week.
Since that company incorporated in-state any wages withheld should come in within a month or two--there's a state-level department that deals with that on a daily basis. The employment violations and vacation renumeration are federal and that can take years."
"Can we do something to light a fire under them so that they voluntarily comply? Can we lock down their HR department, or request a state income audit for suspected withholding fraud?"
He sat back and looked through me with a hint of a smile. "I like how you think. I know someone in the State's Attorney's office over at the capitol that works on corporate fraud. Let me give him a call."
I only heard half of the conversation but it sounded like I was one of many. I heard the words 'class action suit' and smiled myself. I had a feeling that this was going to put the manure spreader into overdrive.
My diminutive friend hung up the phone with a wider smile.
"It's days like this that make it all worthwhile. He's got the full twenty names now of people scalded by that company that he needs to initiate a class action suit. The first particular will be to request a corporate audit of payroll funds and deductions, then a freeze on all payroll working capital unless authorized by an auditor from the state comptroller's office." He wrote an address on the back of a card and handed it to me. "Keep these people informed as to your phone number and mailing address. It's the only way that you can stay a signatory and get anything out of this. Drop by their office soon to sign paperwork to include you in the suit." We stood and shook hands. "Good luck."
"Thanks. You've been a real help. It's nice to be able to use bureaucracy instead of it using me."
I headed over to the federal complex in Madison and caught the state's attorney before he left the office. He called in the guy on corporate fraud and confirmed what had been talked over. I signed papers and
headed home, back to Milwaukee during rush hour traffic.
It was 8:40 before I parked in my driveway. The house was dark. Crap. Jean's car was gone. We'd hit a rough patch lately. I thought we'd hammered most of it out and was hoping a nice Christmas gift would smooth things over the rest of the way.
I opened the kitchen door to a disaster. The drawers and cabinets were pulled open and the counters were a mess. I slowly walked through the room closing the doors, noticing that most of the china and pans were missing.
I continued on into the living room. Gone. The furniture was gone. The phone was ripped out of the wall. I stopped cold. Shit. Things were looking grim.
I continued on. The master bedroom was stripped. She left my clothes on the floor.
The guest bedroom was intact so I had a place to sleep.
I had a nasty thought. Joint account. Savings account. I ran out to the car to get my laptop. There was a small desk in the guest bedroom. I plugged in and dialed up the bank. Well, our joint account was stripped. I saw a log of 22 failed attempts to access the savings account.
The money was still there--all the bucks I'd slaved to put away for retirement. She'd stripped the 8,200 or so out of our joint account but the savings of 160,000 plus was golden.
I changed the password to something weapons-grade and signed out.
I'd go down and change banks tomorrow. For now, I'd order a pizza for dinner and clean up my clothes. There was a small chest of drawers full of crap in the guest bedroom--photo albums and memorabilia.
It went into the garbage can and I put my clothes away.
When the pizza came I didn't even have a table to eat it off of. Fuck it. I used my kitchen counter and a stool from my garage work bench. The pizza wasn't bad. The lack of nagging made it the best I'd had in quite a while.
Before turning in for the night I took a good look around me and weighed my choices. At 37 I'd put in fifteen long years in a high pressure environment. I'd gotten married six years ago hoping that someone to come home to would keep me from burning out. Instead the hours and pressure had soured her on me to the point that she wasn't helping the situation--she was actively harming it. In return I spoke to her infrequently. We'd tried to patch things up like adults. Now I was confronted with scorched earth, dammit. I'd think more about it in the morning. I went to bed.
After coffee I decided to cut my losses and move. Maybe I'd take a vacation first! I had the guts of a pet project in a rental garage that would take a few months to complete--a new ride.
I needed to put everything in storage that I wanted to keep and hire a cleaning crew to give the place a lick or two. Then, it was on to a listing service.
I wanted to document what she'd done in case it ever came to court. I logged back into the bank and saved the screens reporting the account histories to a few files. These I burned to a CD. That was going into a lock box at my new bank.
I wandered out to the garage to see if she'd raped any of my stuff in storage. Nope, it was all there. Several years ago I'd gotten into camping to detox and had bought some fairly nice gear. The little digital Coolpix camera I'd stashed in my pack needed batteries, but worked fine. I turned on the date logging feature and started documenting what was left. I burned those pictures to another CD.
A trip to a Canadian-based bank--Harris Bank--gained me a new savings and checking account. With the routing numbers in hand I took a trip to TCF and wire transferred everything to my Harris accounts, then closed the TCF accounts.
Returning to Harris I split the funds a bit, got an instant debit card, initial book of paper checks and received 5000 dollars in 100-dollar Traveler's Checks (They come in booklets of 10).
A trip to the local newspaper office netted an add running for a week disclaiming me of any debt connected with the person named Jean Simms previously of xxxxxxxxxxx lane, Milwaukee Wisconsin as of the current date. There.
.... There is more of this story ...