Saturday, March 12, 2011


I don’t know about anyone else, but whenever I have taken out a loan or made any kind of major purchase, I have been required to provide name, rank, and serial number; thirty-two forms of identification; references from priests, pastors, rabbis, and a Scoutmaster; a pint of blood; and copies of my income-tax returns dating back to three years before I was born. All of which have left me with the distinct impression that any attempt on my part to skip out on payments will decidedly fall under the category You Can Run but You Can’t Hide. They have more than enough information to track me down no matter where I may flee.

But I wonder if I haven’t been giving The Establishment too much credit.

Off and on for the past two or three years, I have received letters and phone calls from various sources—collection agencies, mostly, several of whom work awfully hard to appear to be anything but a collection agency—looking for a Wendy J. Reynolds. It’s pretty apparent from the letters, many of which are conveying the “good” news that this or that creditor is willing to settle for a lesser amount if she steps up immediately, that Wendy owes a lot of people a lot of money.

And they’ve lost her.

Cast your memory back to my first paragraph, where I express all of the various hoops one traditionally must leap through in order to qualify for car loans, mortgages, etc. At the very least, every loan application I have ever made requires my Social Security Number, and triggers a credit check. You would think that between those two, no one could long elude The Establishment as it seeks repayment.

But you would, apparently, be mistaken.

Not only does it seem that this Wendy person has skipped, it also seems that her creditors and their minions have no idea at all where she’s gone to...nor where she’s come from. As I have explained multiple times (as recently as 20 minutes ago: read on), there is no such person at my address or phone number. Nor has there ever been. There is no member of my family named Wendy, and outside of my nuclear family there is no other Reynolds in town—or indeed the entire state—to whom I am related.

Leaving us with the question: Why are they bothering me?

And the answer: They’re guessing.

Having completely lost track of their quarry, they have in effect picked up the phone book and stuck a pin in the R section.

“Hey, Murray, this guy has the same initials as that dame we’re looking for!”

“Great Scott, Clarence, you’re right! Why, this has to be her hiding place!”

And so on.

And obviously as soon as one bright bulb came up with that idea, my address went into The System and—presto!—became Wendy’s address, an error that perpetuates itself ad infinitum.

For a brief interval, after a long run of letters and phone calls for Wendy, I thought I had perhaps made my case. I spoke with a nice woman who claimed that her company helped people locate missing money or some silliness, and implied that they were looking for Wendy in order to reunite her with long-lost funds. (It was, no doubt, a fun-house mirror version of the actual story. They undoubtedly do help people locate missing money, viz., they help their clients find debtors who’ve skipped. And they wanted to find Wendy in oder to reunite her with her creditors.) Anyhow, I explained the whole business to this nice woman, after which it seemed we were getting no more mail or calls for Wendy. I allowed myself to think that maybe the word had gone out on collection agencies’ network that my tree was not the right one to be barking up.


The other day as I left the house, I noted a small bit of yellow paper in a puddle on the sidewalk. Picked it up and read that some unnamed someone had “an URGENT delivery”—yes, that’s right, so urgent that “urgent“ was rendered in caps and boldface and was underscored—“for ___________________”—on which line was written a name that was scratched out and “Wendy Reynolds” inserted. It asked that one “please call” a number “as soon as possible for prompt delivery.” Yep, I thought, prompt delivery of a summons, and shoved the paper in my pocket, muttering a mild curse.

Well, another one appeared on the doorstep this afternoon, so I spent a couple of minutes with Google and to my complete lack of surprise discovered that the number belongs to a local process server.

So I called, and in what I hope was a polite but firm voice explained—yet again!—that there is no such person at my address, in my family, or anywhere at all in my orbit, and that I have grown mighty tired of constantly being harassed by the various entities looking for this woman. She is gone, friends, gone; she has eluded you completely; somehow she has gone so far off the grid that not even having her Social Security Number is of any use to you. It is as if she never existed at all. Time to admit defeat and stop hassling innocent bystanders.

Or maybe it’s time to call my own lawyer. Certainly that’s looking like the next step.