But then I got the mail.
And I quickly called the toll free number that was prominently displayed on the letter I opened. . .
Me: I just got a notice in the mail and I'm hoping you can clarify something for me.
Debt Collector: Well first - even though you phoned in, Mam - I'm obligated to tell you that the conversation we are about to have qualifies as an attempt to collect a debt. Do you understand?
Me: Of course I understand! I'm calling you, aren't I??? It says here that my "account" with the NY State Thruway has been placed in collections and I owe them/you $88.50?
Debt Collector: Yes, Mam, that's correct.
Me: But this is the first I've heard of this. I didn't even know I had an "account". Can you enlighten me?
Debt Collector: Now, let's see. . . the first violation was on October 2, 2008. . . and the second . . .
Me: What does that mean, violation? Speeding? Was I speeding? I live in Jersey! I don't even drive on the Thruway!
Debt Collector: Not speeding, Mam. EZ Pass. The vehicle went through the EZ Pass lane without a device.
Me: But I have EZ Pass.
Debt Collector: Well, I have the license plate right here. . . YEX 24P. . .is that your car?
Me: Oh. . . it's one of my daughters' cars. . .
Debt Collector: Well did she have a device in her car?
Me: An EZ Pass device? Knowing her, probably not. But I'm sure she had her cell phone. . . and her iPod. . . .and her Tom Tom. . . she never leaves home without them. . .
Debt Collector: Well, that's nice, Mam, but as I said, the next violation was two days later. Tappen Zee Bridge again. And the third. . .
Me: Never mind. I get the picture. . . .but why so much money?
Debt Collector: It was $4.50 for the toll and a $25 penalty for each of the violations.
Me: But why didn't I know about this? Those so-called violations were a full year ago? Did you send prior notification?? Was my daughter confiscating it in the mail or something?
Debt Collector: Mam, I'm just the debt collector. They don't give me that sort of information.
Me: I understand. I'm just their mother. And they don't give me that sort of information either. What will it take to pay you off?
Debt Collector: I'm authorized to settle with you for 75% of the debt, Mam, with an $8 processing fee, so that comes to $75.
Me: Do you take credit cards?
And, as any good Debt Collector would answer: We sure do!
and in case you're wondering. . . yes, I feel a tad-bit violated myself tonight. . .