Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Phone Conversation With a Woman Who Has a Funny Verbal Tic

“Good afternoon, sir. How may I help you?”

“I received a notification that we still owe something. I thought we’d paid in full.”

She asked me for my personal details. I provided them.

“Thank you, sir. Let me check on that for you, sir. Would you mind holding for a moment, sir?”

“No, that’s fine.”

“Sir, you pretty much still have an outstanding balance—hold on a minute, sir. Please. Just another minute.”


“All right, sir. I’m seeing that you pretty much owe eight dollars and eighty-three cents.”

“Really? Why is that? We paid in full the amount in the last notice.”

“Interest, sir. You pretty much still have to pay the interest. It continues to, um, accrue, pretty much.”

“We were told we had an extension until late November to pay the full amount!” I declared. I heard myself put on, with some effort, a suitable tone of mild indignation. “We paid that full amount. In full!”

“I’m sorry, sir,” she replied, just as perfunctorily. “I’m sorry about what you may or may not have been told.”

I fabricated a sigh. “The interest continues to—”

“That’s correct sir. The interest pretty much continues to accrue.”

“So you’re telling me that if I pay eight dollars and eighty-three cents right now, we won’t owe anything further?”

“That’s pretty much what I’m seeing right now, sir.”

I considered calling her out on it. I decided no. Still I pressed on pointlessly, asking dumb, repetitive questions, like a jilted lover.

“You mean if today, I write a check for eight dollars and eighty-three cents. I put it in the mail. Then what happens to interest?”

“All I can pretty much tell you is what you owe, sir.”

“With no more interest accruing?”

She paused, disconcertingly. But then: “That’s what you owe, sir. That’s pretty much all I can tell you.”

“We want to put this matter behind us. Never have to worry about it again. Interest, penalties.”

“I understand, sir. Of course.”

“You’re telling me that will be the case? I pay what we owe, we’re done?”

“Pretty much.”

“I think I’ll do that then. Thank you for your help.”

“You’re welcome, sir! Thank you for calling the Internal Revenue Service. Have a great day now.”