April 29, 2003

Credit Cards and CPR

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.

First In Line For First Aid

Awhile back, the American Red Cross went and made a mistake of staggering proportions: they certified me in first aid and CPR. The only thing more dangerous than me giving first aid would be to allow Michael Jackson to give parenting tips.

It's not that first aid and CPR are difficult to grasp, because they aren't. After six and a half hours of lectures and videos and exercises and tests, I'm pretty sure I have a firm understanding of the basics. However, I just don't think I would be the level head you'd necessarily want to count on should your chest ticker start to fail you or you lop off a finger while chopping carrots.

I'm not squeamish around blood, and I won't pass out if I see someone walking around with a nail in their head, but when it comes to emergency-type situations, I just have this sneaking suspicion that I'll be the guy who adopts the Homer Simpson "can't someone else do it?" philosophy. Okay, I suppose if I'm the only person in the area, and a tree limb falls on you and breaks your arm in three places, I guess I could summon the resolve to help you out. If I HAVE to.

First aid and CPR really haven't changed much since I first learned them in elementary school, and again later in high school. You still apply pressure to bleeding wounds, and you still use the heimlich maneuver to get choking victims to hock up lodged edibles. What has changed considerably are the CPR mannequins.

My father used to be a member of my hometown's ambulance crew, and to keep his skills sharp he'd occasionally drag home a resusci-annie doll. For those not familiar with resusci-annie dolls, you're lucky. The doll my father practiced on was a legless and armless plastic torso and head, dressed in a blue jogging outfit. My first introduction to the resusci-annie doll left a lasting, and very probably damaging, impression.

My father practiced CPR in our back room where, as luck would have it, most of my toys were kept as well. I was just a young lad, and I went scampering into the dimly illuminated room to fetch my Linkin' Logs. . .only to trip over something. Imagine my heart-thumping horror when I turned around and was confronted by a female torso and head laying on the floor. I can't remember everything that transpired after that, owing primarily to the fact that most of my brain had shut down due to terror, but I do recall my father doing his best to soothe me and explain the function of the perceived corpse I had stumbled over.

The version of the resusci-annie doll I worked on a couple weeks ago is considerably different than the dead woman laying in the back room from my childhood years. The dolls of today are still torsos and heads, because legs and arms don't play a role in CPR, with the exception of the legs and arms required of the person performing the CPR. The big difference with today's dolls is that they have removable faces.

Removable faces are great because each person practicing CPR gets to work with their very own face, eliminating the gross factor of working around the slobber of other first aid practitioners. Back when I first learned CPR in elementary school, my whole class worked on one resusci-annie doll. After one student breathed into the head, the teacher would wipe the plastic mouth off with an alcohol-soaked towelette. This did little to convince me that the doll was then clean of the germs of my 20 or so classmates, especially the kid sitting in the back who I know for a fact picked his nose and ate it.

Another difference between the CPR dolls of today is that they're pretty much gender-neutral. This no doubt provides great relief to CPR and first aid teachers everywhere trying to educate a room full of teenage boys who start laughing uncontrollably when their hands come in contact with the chest of a female doll. Um, not that I ever did that or anything.

So anyway, yeah, I'm now certified in CPR and first aid, which means I can help you if you're bleeding profusely or your heart stops. Just remember that my training is very specific, so you'll have to meet very stringent requirements before I can render aid. But hey, if you just happen to be a gender-neutral torso with a removable face, I'm your man.

The Hilarity That Is IBM

Awhile back, as I sat in the cafeteria gnawing on my noontime meal, my eyes scanned down to a card placed on the table outlining some of the new IBM security rules that the company apparently decided were important enough to call to our attention. I think they're pretty funny, but you be the judge:

In addition to IBM Work Environment policies prohibiting drugs, weapons, and non-approved alcohol on premises, there are additional activities prohibited or restricted at IBM Rochester.

I know I've been snorting lines of cocaine while cleaning guns during MY workday. Who knew I was breaking so many rules?

No non-commute bicycling or roller blading, and no skate boarding at any time.

Skate boarding? Has that really become a problem?

No golfing, flying of model planes or rockets, horse riding, hunting or trapping, dirt biking, ATV or snowmobile operation at any time.

Well, shit, just the other day, I was trying to get into the building, but there was this damn horse in the way because crazy Ed, from accounting, well he parked the beast there so he could go check on his raccoon traps he set near the vending machines. And even after I got into the building, I couldn't get any work done what with all the duck and turkey calls issuing through the halls. Okay, okay, I know these rules mostly apply to the small IBM-owned park outside of the main blue buildings, but come on.

No overnight camping.

Definition of a workaholic? Someone who camps outside of their workplace.

Posted by Ryan at April 29, 2003 01:11 PM
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