May 30, 2003

Credit Cards and Cheddar Five

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.

Cheddar Five
All the Excitement Of The Friday Five, Only Much More Boring (If That's Even Possible)

1. When you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night do you leave the seat up or down when you're done?
A tricky question, and one that requires some exploration. If my girlfriend is staying over I try to put it down, just to be polite, but sometimes I forget that it's down and I end up peeing on the seat, which is really sort of gross. Otherwise, I leave it up, unless I haven't cleaned it in awhile and the rim is polluted with urine droplets and pubes, in which case I put the seat down to hide the evidence.

2. When was the last time you forgot to put the cap on the toothpaste and how did it make you feel when you remembered it was left off?
Again, this is a humdinger of a question. I rarely leave the cap off, and I can't remember the last time I did so. I do, however, remember dropping the cap once and when I retrieved it from the floor, there were a couple of pubes stuck to it (probably migrated from the toilet seat). This made me deeply sad, and I ended up throwing the cap away, stealing the cap off my roommate's toothpaste, and weaving a complex web of lies about what happened to my roommate's toothpaste cap. He still doesn't trust me to this day.

3. How many kinds of rice do you have in your cupboards?
I don't have any rice in my cupboards, because I haven't bought groceries in over a year. I do have some leftover Chinese food in the fridge that has some rice mixed in with it.

4. Is white rice inherently superior to brown rice?
Absolutely. However, there are some brands of white rice, particularly Japanese sticky rice, that is head and shoulders above the inferior Minute Rice and Rice-a-Roni white rice wannabes. It's been awhile since I've eaten a quality brown rice, although I did enjoy a nice Jasmine rice awhile back that was particularly enjoyable, primarily because I kept thinking about Jasmine from Alladin. For a cartoon chick, she's fucking hot.

5. If you were a Japanese citrus fruit, which one would you be?
Gotta go with the Nashi on this one. It's kind of like an apple, and kind of like a pear, but I'm hear to tell you, buddy, it's neither an apple or a pear. It's tasterific, and you can't buy a nashi here in America because they're banned? Why? Because the fruit powers that be here in the U.S. of A. have deemed the nashi a threat to the traditional apple and pear markets. The nashi would crush those inferior fruits like Godzilla stepping on a bridge. Damn, I really love nashis.

6. (Hey, this is number six? What the fuck? Oh well, so it's a Cheddar Six) When was the last time you sneezed without covering your mouth?
Just today, in fact. I stepped out of my car this morning, stared indirectly at the sun briefly, and let fly with two photic sneezes, both uncovered. Twas a grand spray of saliva and mucous, and I look forward to doing it again after work.

Posted by Ryan at May 30, 2003 11:48 AM
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