Sunday, May 28, 2006

How I Became My Own Consumer Credit Counseling Service And Bounced Back From My Bad Credit Nightmare (part 4, continued)

I'm guessing my story isn’t unique. I'm guessing most people who have gotten themselves into a credit bind are just like me. You know, average Americans who just wanted to grab a nice little slice of the financial pie. Joe Blow, Jane Doe, not hardened criminals living on the periphery of all that’s decent and honest.

I didn’t set out to scam anyone, “beat the system” or get away with murder. I wasn’t a criminal. I just wanted to whip out my Amex, slap it down, and walk away with merchandise I could put on, plug in, eat or otherwise proudly display.

I worked hard 5 days a week for a corporation and I’ll tell you right now, if you’re a certain kind of person, working for a corporation is no stinkin’ picnic. It’s no walk in the park. I had to fill out a timesheet every morning, when I went to lunch, when I came back from lunch, when I left at the end of the day. One day for a joke I recorded time spent in the bathroom on the timesheet.

My boss, his career stalled in the limbo of middle-management where he spent 80% of his day engaging in VP rump kissing, called me in the office and said, looking at the timesheet, frowning, "Three times a day, eight minutes each time, 24 minutes a day. That's almost a 30 minute lunch break."

I said, "That was a joke."

He stared at me.

The next day there was a departmental memo issued. The subject of the memo was "acceptable versus nonacceptable amounts of time utilized for bathroom excursions."

The point is, I – all of us, all the faceless corporate drones who make it possible for a select coterie of jargon-spewing number-crunching CEOs to pocket their multi-million dollar bonuses and their stock options and expense accounts so on – the point is that after you leave all those timesheets, after you leave all that gray flourescence and industrial carpeting behind, you’re ready for some payback. Some kind of reward. Something. Am I right?

What better way to unwind, put the misery of the day behind you, than to run out and buy yourself a lot of useless junk that made you feel good for a few hours and took your mind off your fecal-reeking job?

I think there’s this stereotype about people whose credit reports fall short of reflecting the magic numbers. We're scammers, irresponsible social misfits, losers, even criminals, etc. etc. I mean, hey, do you have a criminal record?

Well, okay, don’t answer that.

If you do it’s okay. We all make mistakes. You’ve probably paid your debt to society. Ha ha.

I'm guessing we're good people for the most part. Good people who, as the man once said, have been had, took, bamboozled, run amuck, led astray, hookwinked. How so?

We’ve bought into the financial version of Descartes philosophical proposition, cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am. Only our version is, I spend therefore I am.

I'm talking about spending as compensation for a soulless repetitive job. I'm talking about the desire to own a piece of the American dream. I don't know about you, but in the world I live in, material possessions are the barometer of success. All of it leads in insidious ways to the very commodification of identity. It's scary, but that’s the bedrock, baby. That’s where the foundations of our society rest.

Let me breeze through my pathetic story. Some parts of it will probably remind you of your own. I went through it and survived, and so will you. In fact, I'm pretty sure I can pass along some information that might help you. Or maybe not. That depends on you.

Don't you just hate it when people tell you that? (consumer credit counseling, to be continued)