September 30, 2004

Credit Cards and A Haunting Feeling

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.

A Haunting Feeling

Maybe it's the encroaching Halloween holiday, but I find myself feeling more and more certain that some sort of entity inhabits my still freshly-purchased home.

It's not that I'm a staunch believer in ghosts or anything. I don't hang garlic over my doors to ward off the undead, or spend my spare time trying to build a replica of the nuclear accelerator ghost-trapping rifle like those used in the movie "Ghostbusters." Although, now that I think about it, that would be pretty cool.

So, no, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about a visiting apparition. If it happens, it happens, and it will be at that time that I'll drastically have to alter my understanding of life and death and the afterlife. Until I actually SEE a ghost, and sit down and do an extensive Q&A, Barbara Walters-type interview with said ghost, I'm going to err on the side of disbelief.

But, still, my house consistently provides me with my share of both heebies and the occasional jeebie.

There was, for example, the evening when I was happily playing a computer game, and I could have sworn I heard somebody fall UP the basement stairs. I was just sitting there, engrossed in my game, when I plainly heard a *thump, thump, thumpathumpathumpathumpa!* Except, instead of the sound of descent, the thumps seemed as if they came in an ascending crescendo.

I mean, it would have been disconcerting enough to have heard someone possibly falling down my basement stairs (think of the lawsuits!), but to fall UP a flight of stairs must take some serious effort, even for an apparently clumsy poltergeist.

Then there was the evening, just as I was about to fall asleep, when my bedroom door popped open. And, let me be clear here, that my bedroom door is not the kind of door that can just be popped open. It's a tight closing door. You have to turn that doorknob with a little bit of authority to convince it to release its grip. Therefore, having my bedroom door pop open in the middle of the night kind of had an effect on me, in that I refused to walk to the bathroom for the rest of the night and wrapped myself up so tight in my blankets, my circulation was probably in danger.

It's tricky to balance my belief that ghosts probably don't exist with the realization that I know, KNOW, I heard something fall up my basement stairs and that something made my bedroom door pop open. But, until I actually see a ghost, I simply cannot make the mental leap to admit that ghosts exist.

Which of course brings me to the inevitable question: what would I do if I actually see a ghost? What if I wake up to go to the bathroom some night and I see a shimmering sillouette going through my closet. What if I'm doing laundry down in the basement and I see a disembodied head hovering above the water softener? What would I do?

I'm not sure, but I'm sure screaming would be involved. And I'd probably fall up my basement stairs to get away from it.

Posted by Ryan at September 30, 2004 12:10 PM

Well, if you want to get rid of it, then I'd say showing off your magic mushroom butt would be enough to exorcise it.

You never know, if you get a good ghost then you might have a damned excellent security system built into the house. Its a Feature!

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at September 30, 2004 01:13 PM

yeh. damn psilocybin will do it too u every time.

ps. a while back u had a post about someone finding ur site with google searching for "ryan rhodes ass" yeh, well. u see im really crap with urls, but i always read ur site, so if im not at home and i want to find it i now always use that method. nothing personal.

Posted by: Kimberly Bolan at September 30, 2004 05:19 PM

Have you looked into the history of your house and its former occupants? Might be interesting to find out if anyone has died in the house, or died while living there.

If you are interested, I can suggest a few things to do to encourage spirits to leave... As a person who believes in other realms of being - call it energies, spirits, ghosts, poltergeists, I will say, chances are you will never see "it". But you can ask "it" to leave!

Posted by: D at September 30, 2004 09:39 PM

sisn't you say, awhile back, that somebody used to screw dogs in your house? maybe the ghost is k-9.

Posted by: seed at October 1, 2004 12:04 PM


Posted by: Carl Sagan at October 2, 2004 05:02 PM

I just moved into a new (okay, old - built in 1903) house over the weekend, and I can totally relate to your experience. I swear to God that I turned all the lights off before going upstairs last night (the total darkness would have been a clue, right?)and five minutes later one was on again. Freaked me the hell out. I can guarantee that screaming and possible loss of bodily functions would occur if I actually saw a ghost, though.

Posted by: Eva at October 4, 2004 10:53 AM

As to the door; I would think that you had shut it and thought the latch had caught but were mistaken. Were you alone in the house that night? Were you more tired than usual and, for instance, got up to go to the bathroom and simply don't remember?

As to the sound moving up the stairs; sound can be tricky. The sound may seem to come from one direction but really come from another---it depends on the acoustics of the place.

Anyway, almost any house older then 50 years and a good deal of houses younger than that, will have a history. In a few months, when you are more accustomed to the place and its little habits, the ghostly feeling will disperse.

But if it doesn't; some states have clauses that would force the prior owners to reveal such facts as hauntings. If you are really bugged, find out if your area has such clauses and bug the realtor.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at October 4, 2004 01:08 PM

I'm not too spooked by the house, yet. I fully realize that they're could be, and probably is, a rational explanation for the random bits of spookiness. I'm alone in the house most of the time, and when you're alone you tend to be hyper-sensitive to every little thing.

I'll be getting two kittens next weekend, so that should give me something else to focus on.

Posted by: Ryan at October 4, 2004 01:12 PM


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