Sunday, December 16, 2018

Why payday lenders hate me . . .

Payday lenders are the scourge of the earth. Just totally pissed one off: he called my 'creditor line' (phone number for creditors of people I've been appointed guardian for), and I called back the number left. My conversation with the collection agent:
CA: Mr. Puffuffnick, to verify you identity, your social security number ends in 1234, correct?
ME: That's close enough.
CA: We're getting ready to send out to the court papers to collect on a pay-day loan.
ME: (loud, obnoxious laughter)
CA: What's so funny?
ME: (in between laughs) You really think I'm gonna pay that?
CA: We'll get a judgment.
ME: (chuckling) so what?
CA: Don't you want to pay it?
ME: (with a helluva smile in my voice) Why would I?
CA: Because you got the money
ME: And had a memorable drunk with it. May even have gotten laid, too!
CA: Don't you want to pay it?
ME: Hell No. Good luck trying!
CA: Have a nice holiday.
ME: I will with the money I'm not sending you.
(end of conversation)

Why collection agents hate me . . .

Since I serve as guardian for a number of people, their creditors try to make me pay them. Most of the time the creditors have bought the account.  See my earlier discussion here:
There is one very memorable call with a CA (CollectionAgent) – and probably my favorite war story.  The individual I was guardian was 94 years old at that time (he’s still alive at 102!).  the call went like this:
CA:  I’m looking for Irving Puffuffnick
ME:  Yeah
CA:  Irving, to verify your identity, does your social security number end in 1234?
ME:  That’s close enough.
CA:  Irving, Sleazo, Inc. has bought your Wells Fargo credit Card Account. You owe $7492.11
ME:  “Cool!”
CA:  We need you to make payments.
ME:  I can send $1.00 per month.
CA:  That’s not enough. Remember you used that money.
ME:  And I had a damn good time with it too.
CA:  Why won’t you pay more?
ME:  I don’t feel like it.  What are you going to do about it?
CA:  We’ll have to sue you
ME:  Hell, son, look at my age.  I could be dead by the time it gets to court!
CA:  (after looking up ‘my’ age)  Wow. You’re really up there! But you sound younger than your age.
ME:  It’s that Viagra, sonny, it’s good for more than humpin’.
CA:  (click) 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Snake story


As part of my mis-spent youth I did radio and a little bit of television before I got an honest (?) job.  At age 16 I had my own radio show – naturally it was ‘The Ross Hart Show’ on WPXI radio 910 AM dial in Roanoke. I also worked other stations.

But this story isn’t about radio.  It’s about the 3 months in the Summer of ’72 when I worked at a Roanoke TV station. The TV was WRFT channel 27, in Roanoke.  It was put together on a shoestring, which kept fraying as it struggled to survive. All the equipment was ‘used’ when we got it.  Well used. And our studio cameras were black and white, not color – that’s a shoestring.

My job was primarily as ‘switcher’ meaning I was responsible for pushing the buttons to get what you were supposed to see on the air at the right second. Secondary was to point a camera at the ‘talent’ when we actually taped or broadcast something from our studio.  And the studio was on the top of “Little Brushy Mountain” west of Salem.  The good news is there were a lot of berry bushes to snack on; the bad news is that snakes liked the berries also. 

One FCC requirement to keep a broadcast license in those days was to broadcast ‘public affairs’ stuff ‘to inform the public’. So our version of public affairs was an incarnation of an old Roanoke Area show called the “Eb and Andy” show.  The original show was bluegrass; ours wasn’t. 

What we did was have a host and his sidekick discuss stuff, have guests to discuss stuff, and when all else failed they’d introduce some public service film and then discuss it. The host/straight man was a great guy named Jeff Hunt (I also worked with Jeff at a radio station).  The sidekick was Tom Hughes who dressed up as a hillbilly named ‘Uncle Looney” – red beard, confederate cap, overalls, sat in a rocking chair and affected a hillbilly drawl.

Our air conditioning system in the studio was broken and the station couldn’t afford to repair it. But we still had to produce the Eb and Andy show every day. In July.  A hot July.  

One day it was real nice outside – a little cooler, blue skies, gentle breeze.  So the show producer decided to set up the show in the parking lot next to the studio doors.  Everything was set up.  Microphones were connected and tested; the cameras were ready and adjusted to the lighting. The show just before our live broadcast was ending so it was maybe 2 minutes before air time.  Davis and I are chatting with the ‘talent’ and Davis mentioned that he killed a copperhead that Looney had seen a week earlier.  Looney was already in character and expressed his appreciation about killing that ‘nasty ole' snake’ when another snake came out from under the studio building, slithered between Jeff and Looney and on down the side of the mountain.  

There wasn’t time to move the set. So we had to open the show as is.  Except Jeff and Looney had their feet on the table – soles of their shoes facing the cameras. Their introduction included comments about their mothers teaching them to keep their feet off the table, but they had a good excuse:  the snake. 

Then into the show. 

After 10 minutes a loud round of laughter came over the headsets from the control room.  Apparently, that very day a member of the crew had gone to Woolworth’s department store and bought their novelty of the summer:  the rubber snake.  The kind of rubber that jiggles when you touch it.  Woolworths sold two sizes:  the $1.95 (18 inch) size and the $3.95 (3 foot) size.  Yep, he went whole hawg and got the big one.  The director told him to ‘do it’ so I saw him sneak into the studio and toss the rubber snake smack dab in the middle of the table where it jiggled as if alive. 

The Talent moved quickly. Very quickly.  Would you believe instantaneously? Jeff was at the end of his microphone cord off one side of the set.  And Uncle Looney?  That’s the only time in my life I’ve seen anyone do a back flip out of a rocking chair. And he ended up at the end of his microphone cord off the other side of the set. 

The amazing thing is that they – especially Looney - kept in character and nothing had to be bleeped (not that we could given the shoestring). Imagine an excited hillbilly drawl “Goodness gracious, what in Tarnation were Dat Thang?"

We went to commercial, came back live and the rest of the show was pretty much watching two guys laugh.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Lawyers Pro-Bono obligation.

I just had a discussion that reminded me of an award I earned ten years ago, and my thoughts when I received it.  This is a slightly modified version of my letter to the Virginia State Bar magazine about the award. It's even more relevant with the current attacks by the party-in-power on anything to help the less fortunate.  I'm pleased that more and more lawyers are stepping up to take on a case or two (Legal Aid won't flood anyone with cases, they try to hold it to one or two a year per lawyer)


I was honored to receive one of the “Pro Bono” awards given by the Virginia State Bar for volunteering my time and expertise to those who could not afford a lawyer.  It was a total surprise – at the time I didn’t even know the award existed. I appreciate the recognition and receiving the award.

When I learned of the award, I thought, “What’s the big deal?  I was just doing my job”.  My guess is my three colleagues who also won the award feel the same way. We’re just doing our job.

And that’s it.  That’s the Key:  “Doing my – OUR – job.”

I am a third generation lawyer – my grandfather, his brother (at one time a Roanoke Hustings—now Circuit—Court judge), my father, my uncle, and now my cousin and I, were and are all lawyers. Our family has always worked to help others with their legal problems even if they couldn’t afford the fee.

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I remember my father talking about getting a Legal Aid service started in the Roanoke area.  Trying for funding, trying to get other lawyers to take on cases “pro bono” and the frustration of not enough money or lawyers to meet the demand. Through this, my father, Col. James P. Hart, Jr., taught me that it’s the duty of all lawyers to take pro bono cases in areas where we have the knowledge and skills to help.

So when legal aid makes a referral, and it’s an area I can handle competently, I’m going to take it. Given my upbringing, my job – my duty – is to accept it. Most of the time the cases aren’t hard and I know I’ve helped someone, which is a good feeling. Occasionally one gets a little wild, but that’s life as a lawyer whether or not there’s a fee.

My plea is to all lawyers: call your local legal aid office and tell them you want to help.  Talk to them about the areas you can handle or are willing to learn.  Agree to take two cases a year; Agree to do “Hotline” telephone advice for an hour every other month. Many legal aid agencies have “how to do it” guides for the routine matters such as a no-fault divorce.  Their staff attorneys will answer questions and help if you get an unfamiliar rough spot.

Poor people usually don’t have complicated problems – they just have problems that need a little bit of a lawyer’s time. Give that bit of time.

It’s our job.