Who Farted?

Ha! Gotcha! See, I used that title because I wanted to see if I could drum up enough traffic on my blog to beat my all-time high of 170 views in day. So, I chose as crass and puerile a title as I could think of and posted this on Sunday evening when I figured Facebook traffic would be at a weekly high. And look! You’re here, aren’t you? The real subject is this post, however, is not flatulence, though it is gas. Specifically, natural gas. More specifically, a natural gas company in Chicago, IL, a company that enabled me to showcase one of my favorite allies, my father.

I’ve said for years that I don’t have much in this world, but I do have cops, lawyers and judges. That’s the crew my Da rolled with for nearly 40 years. I mean, I use to work the chain gang at high school football games with my Da, a couple cops and a guy who eventually sat on the bench. My fantasy baseball league was stocked with me, my brother, a few of his friends, and virtually every stage of the legal process from arrest to conviction (in a couple counties) represented. We held the draft at the office of the attorney who represented me in my Disability case, okay? Anyway, a long time ago, a friend’s father called my Da a “tough bastard” in court. He was a prosecutor with the Douglas County Attorney’s office for almost 2 decades and a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s office for almost that long after that. It’s always been interesting to me that this guy who made a living putting bad guys in jail for about 40 years could have started out his adulthood in a Jesuit seminary and remained a devout Catholic his whole life. But I guess my Da shares my affinity for the sacred and the profane. If you get him in his cups, he’ll quietly point out that a prominent private attorney here in town, a guy who is a slut for the spotlight, has been featured in the local daily rag, and who has represented a goodly amount of criminals, has lost to my father all but time in the courtroom. It’s not even that the guy isn’t a good attorney. It’s that my Da is a lot better. I saw him in court one time when he was arguing a case against a man who gunned down a teenager and I suddenly realized where his talent for getting to the truth of whatever I had done so many times came from. Now, years later, I remember him questioning the murder suspect and realized he used the same tactics in questioning me when I screwed up. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he was a stone, cold asshole when he wanted to know something you didn’t want to tell him. Like I said, a tough bastard. And over the years, Da has been afforded the opportunity by friends and family alike to dip his toes in all manner of legal matters across the legal spectrum. Secretly, I think he kind of digs this stuff.

I will attempt to encapsulate the situation before I get to the good stuff. Remember that trip I took to Alaska the year after I graduated from college? Well, I came back to the lower 48 to a couple letters from the gas company informing me that I still owed them about $1200 for the natural gas usage from the winter before. Without boring you with the details, I owed them, but not $1200. After discussing the matter with my Da and the circumstances that led up to the $1200 bill (all you need to know is after I got telling him the story, he was on my side) he advised me, as my attorney, to pen the gas company a letter explaining that they thought I owed them for the heat for the whole building during a very cold winter. In truth, my landlord, not exactly an up-an-up kind of guy, hadn’t responded to any of the gas company’s requests to let them into the building to read the meter and get an accurate reading of what the 2nd floor tenants, the 1st floor tenants (me and my roommate) and the basement tenants (the landlord) actually owed them. As I said, not a very up-and-up fella. He would rather I get stuck with the heat bill for whole building. So the gas company turned the account over to a collection agency. A short time later, I received a phone call from an employee of the collection agency (they called me at work at an outdoor gear retailer here in my home town. No idea to this day how they got the number) again informing me of the total amount I now owed them.

“We need to know when we can expect payment?”

“You can expect payment anytime you like. I don’t have $1200 and am not paying you anything.”

Then a letter from the collection agency promising me legal action would be taken if I didn’t pay. Here’s a portion of the letter my Da … er … attorney … wrote in reply on the letterhead of one of his other lawyer buddies who said would play along:

“Mr. Sigler disputes this claim. This fact was clearly delineated in Mr. Sigler’s letter to [Gas company] in September. Mr. Sigler is also fully conversant with the provisions of Title 15, United States Code, Section 1681.”

Fully conversant in … how many? He goes on:

“Nevertheless, Mr. Sigler has authorized me to offer the sum of $250.00 as full settlement of his liability, if any, for this disputed claim. I am prepared to send you a check from my trust account and a suitable release. Please advise in writing at your earliest convenience.”

My trust account? I didn’t know I have a trust account. That’s probably because I don’t have a trust account. But does the natural gas company need to know that I don’t have a trust account? No, no they don’t. Perhaps the kicker in this little dispute is I was living in another state with my folks. So unless the collection agency thought it worthwhile to pay to fly a representative to my city and serve me with a summons (and also the air fare, meals, hotel room and rental car fees involved [I knew my job at the airport would come in handy eventually]) over a $1200 bill, they were SOL. Needless to say, the statute of limitations on the bill (I had no idea what the phrase “statute of limitations” meant until this incident) has long ago expired and I’m free and clear of the $1200.

Perhaps the best part of all of this is I just got off the phone with my Da and after explaining to him my concerns over the possible legal ramifications of this post and my father’s role in the whole affair, my Da replied “Son, I’m retired now. They can’t touch me.”

Indeed, Da.

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