by Kevin Dicciani
— Part Two
“Hello, this is Kevin from Company Y. I understand that you recently applied for a loan and were declined, but I’m calling today to offer you a second opportunity, an advantageous one that will put you in direct contact with our second tree of lenders, a tree that currently has over 300 additional lenders ready and willing to advance the payday finances you need.”
“That’s very good, Kevin,” The Kingpin said, as he stood over my shoulder listening to me read the script. “People will be relieved to speak to a nice, young American boy such as yourself and not some Indian overseas. They’ll trust you, mate.”
It felt as if someone poured cold water down my spine. I said “Thank you” anyway.
“One thing, don’t use the word ‘declined.’ We don’t need them feeling ashamed of themselves.”
“OK,” I said, striking out the word with red ink.
“Claire,” The Kingpin said, “think of a better way to tell these buggers they’re deadbeats.”
Claire swiveled around in her chair and looked The Kingpin up and down with that same quizzical look she gave to me at the interview.
“How come you can’t think of it?” she said.
“Because I pay you to do that.”
Claire had a good rapport with The Kingpin; as his personal assistant, she was on call 24/7 and in charge of some of the most important aspects of his life: she handled his bank accounts, paid his bills, set his meetings, had his cars washed, got his meals, washed his clothes. If she didn’t have such an amicable relationship with him, she would’ve never been able to speak to him the way she did. No one spoke to The Kingpin like that, except his wife, who was even more abrasive than he.
“Say ‘unable to procure the money you desired,’” Claire suggested. “How’s that sound?”
“That’s good,” The Kingpin said. “Now insert it into the script, Kevin, and let’s start hitting those buggers on the phone.”
I had a headache out of nowhere. I picked up the phone and looked at the list of names and numbers on my desk; it seemed endless. 500 names? 600? I was supposed to speak to 500 people in nine hours? I don’t know if I’ve ever spoken that many words in a day.
I tucked the phone between my ear and shoulder and dialed the first number; it was disconnected. I dialed the second number; also disconnected. No one answered for the next three hours.
I spun around in my chair and faced Claire.
“Does anyone ever answer?”
“They better answer,” The Kingpin said from the blackness of his office. “If they don’t, both of you are cut.”
I picked up the phone and kept calling. Finally, an answer.
“Who’s this?” the gravely voice said.
“Hello, this is Kevin from Company Y…”
They hung up.
I dialed the next number.
Hello, this is Kevin from Company Y…”
“Don’t you ever call this number again or I’ll come find you; ya hear?” someone said before hanging up.
I wrote an “A” for “answered” next to their numbers and crossed their names off the list. I dialed the next number.
“Hello?” a woman said. She sounded old, maybe 85-90. We’ll call her Beatrice.
“Yes, is this Beatrice?”
“Yes, may I ask who is calling?”
“Hi, this is Kevin from Company Y,” I said. (I was told to rattle off the dialogue before they could tell me to go to hell.) “I understand that you recently applied for a loan and were unable to procure the money you desired, but I’m calling today to offer you a second opportunity, an advantageous one that will put you in direct contact with our second tree of lenders, a tree that currently has over 300 additional lenders ready and willing to advance the payday finances you need.”
“Oh, thank God someone is calling me back,” Beatrice said. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you guys for so long. Can you give me the loan I need? I don’t need more than $750. Can you do that?”
“Well, ma’am, we’re not a lender; we just connect you to lenders in our money tree. That’s what this offer is about. It puts you in contact with additional lenders.”
“Sir, wait; you said your name was Kevin?”
“Kevin, I really need money. My husband recently died from cancer, and now I don’t know what to do,” Beatrice said, stuttering. “The finances got mixed up, the life insurance is delayed, I just really, really need help right now. I have a dog to feed, phone bills, I just, listen…can you help me?”
My heart was disintegrating from the bile in my stomach.
“Ma’am, I am very sorry for your loss, but I can’t guarantee you a loan. Like I said, we’re just a mediator between you and the lenders. All I can do is try and help put you through to them.”
“Can you contact a lender for me? Try and help me as much as possible? Vouch for me?”
I started massaging my throbbing temples.
“Ma’am, I’m afraid I can’t do that. In order for you to reach the lender tree, you need to go to our website and enter your credit score, your social and other private information I am not allowed to handle.”
“Beatrice,” I said, my voice escalating and drawing the attention of The Kingpin, “please keep that information to yourself. That’s very delicate, you shouldn’t give out that number over the phone — to me, to anyone.”
The Kingpin was standing over my shoulder again. He made sure I was looking at him when he slowly dragged his hand across his throat like a razor. I held the phone silent against my chest.
“If they’re not going to bite after 30 seconds, hang up,” he said.
“I’m sorry, Beatrice,” I said. “If you decide to go through with the process, please give me a call back, and I’ll assist you as best as I can.”
“Kevin?” she said.
“Hang up,” The Kingpin said.
The phone was sliding out of my clammy palms.
“Can you please help me? Please?”
A drop of sweat was sliding down the bridge of my nose.
“I’ll send you an email, and I’ll call you right away…” I was saying before The Kingpin grabbed the phone out of my hand and slammed it down. Claire made a face at me as if to say, “This is what I put up with every day.”
“Dammit, mate,” he said. “You have hundreds of people to call. You can’t waste your time or my time on one person for that long. There’s not enough bloody time in the day for that nonsense. That is, of course, unless you want to spend the night here talking to those mucks, shackled to the phone.”
When I shook my head, a drop of sweat slid off the tip of my nose and splashed onto the list of names. The Kingpin took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair. He paced back and forth for a second and then told Claire to notify him when the funds arrived from London. He put on his sunglasses and walked out the door. It slammed shut behind him.
On my walk home after work, I called Beatrice. She was ecstatic that I kept my promise. She thanked me multiple times, even told me the Lord would bless my heart. I felt uncomfortable and reminded her that I couldn’t guarantee her anything. She said she didn’t care; she told me she was very lonely since her husband died and that it just felt good to speak to another human being. I told her everything would be okay. I wondered why I said that; I didn’t know a thing.
By the time I reached my apartment, I was still on the phone with her. I sat on the outside stoop in the sun and talked to her until she finished the application process. She thanked me and said it was great to speak to me. I told her the same.
When I got into work on Monday, I saw Beatrice’s name on the list of people declined. I dialed her number to ask if a mistake had been made and to see how she was, but her number was out of service.
Kevin Dicciani is the Chestnut Hill Local’s I.T. specialist.
— Part Three Next Week