A half-dozen miserable bastards flanked me on both sides at the Boulder County Courthouse one Friday afternoon. We watched with mild bemusement the woman screaming at her child’s father as they waited for family court.
I thought I’d break the ice.
“Do you think they will chain us all together and put us to work in the fields?” I asked a 30ish woman to the left.
She told me she recently gave birth and had to move from her home because of the debt.
“So, did you bums have the audacity to go to the emergency room, too?” I asked the 50ish couple to my right.
“I ended up getting surgery, twice,” the woman said. “We were going to pay these bills, but life got in the way.”
Another man said he penned a college thesis about ER prices. Next to him stood his mother, a woman of about 80 whose milky cataracts did little to conceal the righteous indignation burning red in her eyes like the flames of hell.
“This just makes no sense to me,” she growled.
“It’s weird,” I chimed in. “I have every right to a high-powered semi-automatic rifle, but god forbid I need medical care. I get dragged into court like a car thief.”
All of us were being sued for unpaid medical bills, because that’s legal in the United States. Everyone gets a piece. The smug process server who woke me up at home got $28. The bill collector suing me has magically turned a $400 bill into a $600 bill after interest and fees for the extraneous lawsuit they insisted still be filed even after we worked out a payment plan.
The ER doctor who sent the original $400 bill spoke to me for 30 seconds and did absolutely nothing aside from offer me a valium (which I declined). Whatever he got when he sold the debt was too much.
Two of the bill collector’s lawyers looked like they have to register with the sheriff’s office every time they move and stay 2,000 yards away from schools and playgrounds at all times.
I had penned a speech I planned on reciting to the judge. It would undoubtedly be an Oscar-caliber performance. But alas, there was no judge. An attorney for the bill collector said my name, and I followed her into not a courtroom but a small conference room.
“We aren’t seeing a judge?,” I asked the attorney, who to her credit didn’t give off the registered-sex-offender vibe of her male counterparts.
She told me no and rattled off some lawyer talk I didn’t understand. I skipped asking her if her mother was proud. She seemed sort of pathetic to be honest, and the look on her face was not one of career satisfaction.
More importantly — No speech! No being dragged off by sheriff’s deputies to the slow clapping of my fellow defendants! No fair!
I signed the paperwork and left the courthouse laughing just a little. Sometimes that’s all you can do.