Sunday, October 17, 2010


If hatred is caused by fear, then I have an abnormal fear of telephones. When a telephone rings the hairs on the back of my head stand up and my stomach tightens up into a knot. The irritating, grating sound of ringtones and bells and digital alerts causes me no small amount of stress.

A telephone conversation with me is most usually one-sided. I issue a lot of "Yups" and "Uh-uhs" and "Hmmms" with not much else to say, despite being a good people-person when face-to-face. I am, however, a great third-party conversationalist. If somebody else in the room with me is on the phone I can carry on a lively conversation with the caller through an intermediary. "Who's that?" "Tell them I say hi!" "What are they up to tomorrow?" etc etc.

With this fear of talking on the telephone I rather surprised myself when my sister's phone rang and I answered it. Call display showed an unknown number and the phone was conveniently located near me as I drank a beer and watched the Toronto Maple Leafs on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada. It was about 8 in the evening.

"Hello?" I enquired upon answering.
"Yes. Can I speak to Mr. AteThePaint [not my real name]?"
"This is Beth at National Credit Centre. You have an oustanding OSAP loan."

OSAP stands for Ontario Student Assistance Program. In short the Government of the Province of Ontario issues low-interest guaranteed loans to students for post-secondary education. I enjoyed four years of living it up on what I viewed at the time as buttloads of free money.

My first year I spent a lot of time at The Keg, sampling different cocktails and scallop-bacon-garlic butter dishes with a variety of interesting college girls. In my second year I appropriated a black leather Lay-Z-Boy and a TV. In my third year I enjoyed Toronto's nightlife quite a bit and in my fourth year...actually, I don't remember my fourth year all that much. There was 9/11. And a house with six guys renting rooms. And a foozball table that saw the invention of "Flaming Foozball" (plastic balls and lighter I barely remember some more college girls, and a lot of whiskey and marijuana.

After I finished school I ignored my OSAP loans with all good intentions (my intentions basically being "If I can scam a free education, I will"...I'm also notorious for cheating at Monopoly). Thankfully I managed to pay it down some with the occasional large cheque, most often at tax-return time.

Then I spent a few years in South Korea and Russia. I've been staying at my sister's place for a month while I await a new visa to Russia. I haven't used my credit card or bank card or opened a mobile phone account or anything, really. Basically I've been laying low and might as well not even be in the damn country. Not only that, but my sister just recently moved to Ottawa from North Bay, so her phone number has only been in existence for a couple of months.

So when credit collectors somehow tracked me down to this very number I was utterly speechless. I said the only thing that came to mind. "Wow. You're good!" The woman on the other end (Beth) actually laughed. "So, about your debt."
" much do I owe? I forget."
"You owe [X amount]. You need to pay it all now or we'll take legal action."
"Oh. Okay. I'll send a cheque tomorrow."
"That's good."
"Thank you. Have a good evening."
"Wait! Don't you want our address?"

No wonder I hate the phone.


  1. hahaha Rhea just directed me over to your post with a comment that it must be a Canadiann thing to leave the country and skip out on bills - I did the same thing!! Only with my Visa bill...and they ended up tracking down my parents :S I was going to do the same thing with my speeding tickets but I decided to pay those a few hours before I left for pearson...

  2. Great post. Phone conversation was funny.