The Other Repo Men


The other day I was talking to a friend who grew up in a rural part of the Midwest. His father worked for a bank and, early in his career, was responsible for doing repossessions. When you think of repos you usually envision cars being whisked away by some hard-guy in the middle of the night under a hail of gunfire. But that’s Hollywood. The day to day reality is often banal and quite absurd.

Apparently, an item that is about to get repo-ed is like a boxer’s head — a target for horrific abuse. The owner thinks “Well screw you, if you’re taking it back I’m gonna reduce it to junk.”

One story my friend related concerned a snowmobile. Knowing it would soon be gone, the “owner” took it out for one final ride. In the middle of July. On a paved street. The guy raced it back and forth on the road, creating a glorious display of sparks and grinding metal. The runner blades were reduced to thin sheets of warped metal. And the rubber belt that propels the machine was basically gone.

When the bank agent showed up he should’ve looked at the machine and said “Well, you’re in luck. We’ve changed our minds. You can keep it.”

Some of the repo-ed items ended up on my friend’s farm because the bank was unable to resell them after taking possession. Their farm slowly became like The Island Of Misfit Toys, with a dented pickup truck, a bucket-loader with a bent shovel, and two snowmobiles that wouldn’t always start.

But the best story involved the bucket-loader. The farmer had used it to move animal waste around to fertilize his cornfields. When my friend’s dad entered the machine there were a few inches of dung sitting on the floor boards. And growing up out of the dung were tall stalks of corn. Which must’ve made driving it away extra fun.

Yup, even the grimmest job can be funny sometimes.

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