Fresh out of college with a Biology degree, I was eager to put my “science” to practical experience. However, pickings were slim and I soon reached the acceptance that ANY employer willing to pay me would be greatly appreciated. I accepted employment for a large Pacific Northwest Bank. As it turns out, as a scientist, I was in good company; virtually none of my fellow bank employees had degrees in finance or business – mostly Liberal Arts majors; there was even a guy in the commercial lending department who graduated from seminary. But I digress…
This bank wanted its future loan officers to understand implicitly what a “bad” loan was. Therefore budding young loan officers began their tenure collecting bad debts in “the field”. My entry level position was, therefore, as a “Repo Man”.
This was going to prove to be a tough gig for a shy, 5’ – 6” 145 pound middle class white boy. I was already fairly shy; so much so that I would avoid calling the movie theater to check show times unless I was fairly SURE I would get a recording. My first trial was making it through the interview, which I thought I had blown as the old codger interviewing me never gave me the opportunity to say anything. Miraculously I was hired and soon found myself in “training”. My training constituted riding along for two weeks with another experienced “Outside Collectors”. Once fully trained, I was issued my own vehicle, credit card, assorted Portland road maps and a briefcase full of delinquent accounts.
Here was the game: If the bank (me) could get the collateral back to the car dealership before the delinquency passed the 90-day mark, the car dealer would have to make the delinquent loan good for the Bank. We usually were assigned cases at the point where they were about 60 delays delinquent; previous collection efforts having failed to this point.
So here I am someplace in rural Oregon out on my own my first week on my own. I pull up to the delinquent customer’s house (referred to in repo jargon as “the Flake”). Step one; position your car (door unlocked) facing toward the street in the event one should need to make a hasty escape. There on the front lawn I positively identify “The Collateral”; a bright red Toyota Land Cruiser. Of course this house happens to be situated by itself in the middle of a field, visible for miles in any direction. My reconnaissance reveals that this location is NOT going to be an easy target to sneak up on should I have to return later in the dead of night. Noted.
I knock on the door; a HUGE man steps out the screen door and onto the porch. He’s wearing torn red and black plaid shirt and bib overalls. The stereotype generator in my mind suggests his name might be either “Tiny” or “Bubba”. I am dressed in a sky blue leisure suit.
I launch into my spiel – “…you are two months delinquent on your account, blah blah…ignored notices, blah blah blah.” Then I wrap it all up with my demand “… and if you do not bring this account current, I will be required to take yon vehicle into my possession.”
At the close of my speech – total silence… except for the annoying dog at our feet barking incessantly throughout my entire dialog. Bubba, not wanting his response depreciated by the interrupting dog, draws his leg back then punts the dog into the air and clean off the porch. While the dog is still in flight, he then turns to me and says: “So a little guy like you is going to drive my car away?” Summoning Herculean effort in retaining my composure, I respond: “Yes, sir… I’ll just move the seat forward and drive it off.”
I think the disparity in our body builds mutually suggested that physical combat, at this point, was not warranted. To my relief, he agreed to arrangements whereby he would come into the local branch office the following day and pay up his arrears. I believe I have pulled off a coup.
However, a few days later the branch informs me that Bubba never showed and his account is still delinquent; the guy just blew me off.
By now it’s a Friday afternoon. Having the “key code”, a local locksmith has cut a key for the Toyota. I am at “the Flake’s” place of employment, a manufacturer of railroad freight cars where he is a welder. I cruise up and down the employee parking lot until… there it is, the red Toyota Land Cruiser. I gain access to the vehicle; It is full of fishing gear. He apparently has a big weekend planned.
The engine fires and I slowly drive this guy’s car out of the employee parking lot. Damn, he’s going to be pissed when he gets off work and finds his car gone! I’ve just repossessed my first car. Oddly, my right foot is trembling... it will tremble like that with every car I repo over the next two years.