Q: You were responsible for serving lawsuits to people. Tell me about it.
A: It was called a process server. Basically, any time someone is served with a lawsuit or subpoena, we deliver it. I don’t know if the job exists anymore.
Q: When did you have this job?
A: It was in ’88 or ’89. I was 20 or 21. You might have to be of legal age in order to do it.
Q: How did you get the job?
A: A guy across the street was a lawyer and he found out they needed help. At the time, it was really hard to get work. There were people with master’s degrees working in McDonald’s.
Q: Is there a reason they can’t just mail the notice to the person?
A: A lawyer can send it to another lawyer, or sometimes sheriff’s officers can serve people, at least in Colorado.
The game is: Obviously, this is bad news, and often people don’t want to get bad news. The kind of folks that process servers end up serving don’t have lawyers, and don’t want to get served. So, a lot of the time, lawyers hire process servers to serve lawsuits or subpoenas. I was like a junior bounty hunter.
Q: Is it a scary job?
A: It can be. It’s generally for situations that are more challenging.
Q: Would you say you were dealing with riffraff?
A: Yes, riffraff.
Q: So tell me how this worked.
A: The trick is, you have to get someone to acknowledge that they are the person being served. Or you want the person who lives with them to vouch for them—that they were willing to accept responsibility for the person being served.
If you say their name and they say yes, you read the script and then I think you try to get their signature. If they say yes and then slam the door in your face, you’re off the hook and you can just leave it on the porch.
Some people were easy. They would invite you in, say, “Hey, do you want a soda?” You know, it was an awkward situation.
Q: How much did the job pay?
A: You would get paid based on how many times you had to track guys down. It was like five or eight dollars if you had to show up once and they’re there. If I had to go several times, it paid like double or triple.
If it was a tough case, you’d get an added bonus. Like if you knew it’d been tried four times …
You don’t get paid if you don’t get it done. And I think they just paid you cash on the spot.
Q: Doesn’t that system encourage you to pretend the person wasn’t there? To try to get more money?
A: There was some veil of legality to the whole thing. Nobody lies—I was a kid in Colorado …
Q: When did you do this? During the day?
A: You serve in the evening. You show up at the dark, dingy one-room office at 4 or 5. Some days they would give you two papers, some days 10. Then I went home and my mom would fire up this big map of Fort Collins. She’d figure out addresses and plan the best route. There was no Google Maps back then.
She knew it all. She put stickers on the map and then she numbered the stickers.
Q: Did your mom go with you to deliver the subpoenas?
A: She didn’t go with me, but it was like she was with me.
Q: Did you drive or ride your bicycle?
A: I generally drove. I had a 1971 Datsun pickup and the floor was rusted out. Every time it rained, there were two to three inches of rain on the floor. It was constantly breaking down. Motorcycles have bigger engines than this thing had.
Q: Did you ever run into any sticky situations?
A: It was sketchy. One time a guy showed up with a bat. I was like, “Raoul Rodriguez?” and he said, “Yes?” and I dropped the papers and ran.
Another couple, I tried to serve them three or four times. Finally, I showed up during the Broncos game. (I learned pretty quick to go during Denver Broncos games—people were always home watching the game.) The screen door was closed but the door was open. It’s like a three-story home and I can hear them downstairs. I call their name and I hear the TV volume go down! I was livid. I yelled through the door, “Mr. and Mrs. Jones, I know you’re in there! Come to the door right now!” and all I hear is the TV being turned down. I just want the cash and I want to move on with my life, you know?
So I hop in my truck and proceed to ruin their yard. I do a cookie in the front yard.
Q: Don’t you mean a donut?
A: Yeah. I scuffed the grass, honked the horn. I thought I would teach them a lesson. Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit. I probably nicked the corner of the lawn. But I was mad.
Next time I came they answered the door.
Q: Did you have any protection with you, in case someone attacked you or something?
A: I used to carry a stick with me. It was like a wooden dowel rod. I wasn’t threatening; I just carried it next to me.
Q: Did you ever have to use it?
A: No, but there was one time where we had this process that no one wanted to serve. It was up to, like, $124. The guy lived in the mountains.
So, again, I’m sure I’m exaggerating, but I drove like 30 minutes up into the mountains. Unfortunately, it was winter, I think. I had heard horror stories about this cabin in the woods.
I had to deliver a garnishment of wages. That was something you didn’t want to deliver, because it meant the person wouldn’t be getting paid—it was like child support, that kind of thing.
This thing was like a legend. It had been out there for three months. It was good for $124 plus travel plus other stuff.
I was a little late in getting started. My mom was mapping out the day, and I didn’t leave on time.
I go up this dirt road and I’m packing a rifle.
Q: A rifle? Did your mom know you had a rifle?
A: I don’t think she knew.
Q: Can I write that you had a rifle?
A: Yeah, it’s OK. My dad was in the military and liked to give me guns.
So I serve my other papers. I drive into the mountains and then I pull up to a locked gate. I was like, “Fuck, no one told me about this!” And there was a Do Not Trespass sign, the whole thing.
I couldn’t drive in. I had to hike, and it was starting to get dark. I grab the paper, which isn’t a nice clean piece of paper anymore. It’s all wrinkly and dirty from all the attempts to serve it.
I sling the rifle over my back and start hiking. It was starting to lightly snow or mist and I am totally freaked out. I hike in about a mile and all of a sudden I see a cabin. It’s all brightly lit, a nice house. I go to the door and a man shows up. He’s older and semi-balding. I say, “Bob Smith?” and he says, “Yes?” and I tell him I have papers and he invites me in and offers me coffee or hot chocolate. He said, “I’d have unlocked the gate if I knew you were coming.”
Q: So he didn’t try to kill you?
A: I think what happened was that people got stuck at the gate and then just made up stories.
Q: Anything else interesting about the job?
A: Once, I went on a “stakeout.” Me and this other guy waited for a woman in the morning, when she was going to get in her car and go to work. When she came out the front door, we rush her and we’re like, “Rosanna Vazquez?” So we served her the papers.
Q: Why did you quit this job?
A: I knew I’d get shot or clubbed. At some point, something bad would happen.
When I quit, my mom was disappointed. She liked it more than I did; it was bonding time.