September 30, 2003

Credit Cards and Posting Angst

I've never been in debt. Okay, that's not entirely true. Yes, I've been in the kind of debt where I had to make car payments, and I'm currently in the kind of debt that says I have to make house payments.

I've never been in credit card debt, however. Truth be told, I've never even owned a credit card. I don't trust them. I've been conditioned not to trust them thanks to many years of living with college roommates.

Most of my college roommates had this weird outlook on credit cards. Basically, they thought credit cards were magical pieces of plastic that just magically paid for things and that they were somehow immune from the the ensuing debt that came about due to excessive credit card spending.

I'll admit it: I was sort of jealous of my roommates and their magical credit cards. After all, they always seemed to have money and, if they didn't, they just whipped out their credit cards. Books? Put them on the credit card. Food? Put it on the credit card. Night out at a strip club? credit card.

And yet there I was writing checks and budgeting like a fool. I remember thinking that I was doing everything all wrong. I mean, there I would sit, meticulously lording over my finances, while my roommates went waltzing all over town swiping their credit cards with the careless glee of a six-year-old with a loaded pistol.

Then, one year, I was a roommate with a guy named Chad. Chad was actually a former high school classmate of mine. He was, and is, a tech-head. He's one of those guys who was born to know technology. Way back in elementary school, he taught me how to write simple programs for the Apple IIc, and he always just seemed to know everything about computers.

But he didn't know shit about personal finances. He whipped out any one of his many credit cards with the swiftness and ease of a Old West gunslinger. By the time we became roommates, he had already accrued over $10,000 in credit card debt.

I remember thinking what an incredibly large amount of money that seemed to be, especially when I factored in the understanding that he also received financial aid, and that he also worked. Granted, he worked at the local Brach's candy factory on the Gummi Bear line, which paid about as well as you might imagine, but it was still money, so I came to the conclusion that old Chad was a pretty carefree spender.

Well, one day, I popped into Chad's outrageously messy room where I noticed, tucked between two huge bags of pilfered defective Gummi Bears, a credit card notice that was slugged "Urgent!" and another that was slugged "Immediate Payment Required" and still another that read "We Break Fingers And Toes."

Then the calls started coming in, usually two or three a day. "Is Mr. Haugen available? We really need to speak with him." No, he's not here. "Are you sure you're not really Mr. Haugen?" Yes, I'm sure. "Well, when he comes in, have him call Mike at Discover immediately." *sound of shotgun cocking* Will do.

Chad was masterful when it came to avoiding creditors. He always seemed to leave the apartment just two or three minutes before a creditor called. It was like he had some sort of sixth sense. Which was all fine and dandy, except that I ended up being the intermediary between Chad and the creditors, so I got to absorb all the impatient anger and suspicion of basically every credit card company on the planet.

It was the day a creditor appeared, in person, at our doorstep that I realized Chad's debt situation was probably more dire than Chad cared to admit. There was a knock at the door, I answered, and a gentleman in a suit that looked both impressive and threatening stood before me. He asked to see a Mr. Chad Haugen, at which point I heard a little scuffling emanating from Chad's room as Chad scurried out the back entrance which, conveniently, was located at the far end of his bedroom.

We chatted together, the ominous creditor and me, for about an hour, waiting for Chad to get home, even though, of course, there was no way in holy hell Chad was going to make an appearance while that guy was in our apartment. I even had to produce my ID, so the creditor was satisfied that I wasn't, in fact, Chad Haugen.

After that, I believe, Chad ended up getting a loan from his parents, or somebody, so he could pay off his credit card debt at least enough to keep the creditors at bay. He eventually got a job working at IBM, which was a long-assed commute from Winona to Rochester, but paid a whole lot more than the Gummi Bear line.

As for me, Chad's experience with credit cards pretty much scared me away from plastic for good.

Although it's my default mode to be in a pissy mood, I've been in a particularly pissy mood ever since I read that Layne will be censoring herself in the name of domestic tranquility. The thing is, I haven't been able to figure out WHY I'm extra pissy about it, and if there's one thing about being in a pissy mood, I like it to have FOCUS.

At first, I thought it was because Layne will apparently go from being Anne Frank (without the Nazis) to being Dear Abby, transitioning from her compelling self-analysis textbook transition from rape victim to lesbian, to something akin to a gossip columnist. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that wasn't what was bothering me.

This morning, it hit me. I was pissy because Layne was silencing herself because other people told her to. That bothers the living piss out of me. Ultimately, it comes down to ideological differences between how Layne and I view ourselves as writers. In short, Layne doesn't view herself as a writer. I do. And, as a writer, it drives me absolutely batty if someone tells me not to write something. No one tells me what I can and can not write but me.

My parents stopped reading my blog over a year ago because my mother didn't like reading about my life in such expletive-ridden detail. Fine, I told her, then don't read it. So, she doesn't. Neither does my dad. I mention my girlfriend, Melissa, all the time, and she reads me frequently. My only rule about posting about her is that I don't mention her last name. That's MY rule, not hers. She gets mad sometimes when she reads about herself and she doesn't agree with my interpretation of events. Then I tell her, fine, don't read it.

Some girlfriends don't like to hear or read about a guy's past girlfriends or sexual exploits. Strangely, Melissa can't get enough of the stories of my romantic and sexual past, so that's really never been an issue. But, even if it were an issue, I'd still write about them if and when I wanted to.

It comes down to this: if you're afraid to write something out of fear of someone getting mad or disagreeing, eventually the only thing you'll end up writing about is the antics of the family pet.

And if you don't have a family pet, then you're really fucked.

Posted by Ryan at September 30, 2003 10:20 AM
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