October 30, 2002

Credit Cards and Pondering a New computer I

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.

Pondering a New computer

I received my contracting paycheck in the mail yesterday, so naturally I started mentally spending it before I even put it in my wallet. I've become a bit of a shameless spender the past couple of weeks, a sure indicator that winter's icy grasp has two fingers tickling my throat. When confronted with the onset of long dark evenings, I start buying things to help me while away the interminable darkness, such as purchasing Sims Unleashed and Alien vs. Predator 2.

Alas, it's become painfully evident that my 450 MHz Pentium III machine, built over two years ago, is woefully unable to keep up with the latest slew of computer games, so an upgrade is a must. Unfortunately, the computer guru who was my roommate three years ago and who helped me construct my last machine, is now married and living elsewhere, and I'm a technological fool when it comes to tinkering with computer innards.

I'm not against buying store bought computers, but I don't care for how many machines have video cards built in rather than removable. You can extend a computer's life for quite some time if you can dig around and upgrade video and audio cards. Also, I can't stand all the extra software they cram onto store bought computers, so I end up wiping everything clean and just installing Windows XP plain, no chocolate topping, no sprinkles, no AOL v. 128.

But, in my current position as an independent contractor for IBM, my tax preparer has assured me that now is the time to buy things in preparation for tax write-offs. And, topping the list of "I want" is a new computer, right away, no waiting for it to be manufactured and delivered. So, to you computer know-it-alls out there, please suggest the best brand name to buy off the shelf. Remember my #1 requirement: it must have removable video and audio cards. Thank you for your feedback.

Posted by Ryan at October 30, 2002 10:46 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!