Usury and Plunder (or Bank of America Must Die)

A few months ago, Ann Minch posted the following Youtube video:

I felt her pain while chortling with glee. A year or so ago, Bank of America ended up with my mortgage – one of those last minute shuffles before the Great Credit Crisis of 2008 became public knowledge.

The change in my mortgage company didn’t concern me. I’ve had a Bank of America credit card for years with nary a problem.

But then, BUT THEN, there was The Incident this summer.

My card was declined at the Bob Evans. I called the number on the back of the card thoughtfully provided for just such situations, punched in my account number, and spoke to a woman in Customer Service who was very nice and assured me this wasn’t a problem – a sort of “these things happen” smiling voice on the other end of the phone. After we sorted things out it shook out that I had shorted my last payment by $2.  I offered to pay it then and there, but their billing process wouldn’t allow me to just pay the $2, I would have had to pay the $2 plus my next payment which I hadn’t gotten a bill for yet.  Ms.-Smiling-Voice-These-Things-Happen told me the $2 would be tacked onto my next bill and all was well in Credit Card Land. I was amazed, confused, and flabbergasted just enough not to ask if it wasn’t a big deal why was my card declined.

I get the new bill – they want my regular payment plus the $2 plus a $39 late fee. I’m a wee bit annoyed. Again, I call the number on the back of the card, punch in my account number, and am immediately routed to the Collections Department (not Customer Service) where Attila-the-Credit-Hun informed me that since I was late on a payment, I was charged a late fee. I told Mr.-Jerkdom-of-the-First-Order that I had made my payment in a timely manner as I had all my other payments for years and years including my mortgage payment and that accidentally shorting a payment by $2 didn’t seem to warrant a $39 late fee. Mr.-Hun-the-Jerk-of-First-Order disagreed.

TWO DOLLARS. TWO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Two dollars was enough to throw me to the wolves in the Collections Department. But the story doesn’t end there. Oh no.

Several days later, I get a letter. Due to the “delinquency” on my account, they were slashing my credit line and shooting my interest rate into outer space.

I called Attila.

Attila-the-Asshole is not a reasonable human being.

In my best Scarlett O’Hara, I announced to a red sky at night that I would pay that damn card off, refinance my mortgage, and badmouth Bank of America every chance I got.  As God is my Witness, I’ll never be usuried or plundered again.

Unfortunately, it’s taking a long time to pay that card off and given the Sucky Credit Crisis, I anticipate refinancing isn’t going to be the cakewalk it was the last time, so I’ve just been stewing in my juices and occasionally glaring at the Huntington branch of Bank of America when I drive by.

I haven’t used that card for anything. I will move into the Huntington City Mission and turn tricks in 41/2 alley before I’ll use that card.

I’m thinkin’ Attila must have gotten laid, because a couple of days ago, I’m paying bills and I notice my credit line has been restored and my interest rate is back in the stratosphere (higher than it had been, but significantly lower than Attila’s spleen venting of a few months ago).

So, I’m a little less willing to turn tricks to avoid the card than I was last week, but I still don’t intend on using it. I don’t piss off easy, but when I do it can be for life. (I’ve been boycotting Dole for 25 years and I can’t remember why.)

We have a perfectly wonderful local bank where I’ve had my checking account for 25 years. They’re solvent, were solvent, and didn’t need a dime of bailout money. Why I got hooked into Chase, Citi, Bank of America and all manner of Too-Big-To-Fails is beyond my ken right now. All I know is that as soon as I can, the locals are getting all my business – mortgage, credit, retirement accounts, and any future lottery winnings.

I was too afraid of trashing my credit score to join Ann Minch in her boycott – my finances are precarious and I didn’t need something else to worry about. But I admire her. I can’t remember the exact quote, but it’s something like “a satisfied customer will tell three people, a dissatisfied customer will tell 9.”  Ann Minch went beyond that.  She not only told thousands and thousands, she stood up to their bullying and won.

Bank of America must die – hopefully at least 7 people will read this (I’ve already told two).

The Evening Purse as Memoir

the evening purse

The Evening Purse as Memoir

My father was overseas a lot in the 60s and 70s and spent a lot of R&R time in Hong Kong. Daddy’s time in Hong Kong always resulted in packages arriving at the house. In one, there was an evening purse for my mother. My small self was left breathless by the beauty of pearls, crystals, and sequins sewn onto thick satin made of silk. It was years before I understood that one doesn’t carry an evening purse to the grocery store, but that breathless small self that used be me was bumfuzzled that Mama didn’t carry that purse everywhere.

The purse came out for special occasions – chiefly the Marine Corps Birthday Ball (which coincidentally occurs about this time every year). Like all truly inspired accessories, it’s a classic. In all the years of its use, it was never out of style.

prom045

Yes, I know. . .but let's see your prom photo before you laught at mine. At least there isn't a hoop.

When I got older, I was occasionally allowed to borrow it. I carried it to my prom. I carried it to some black tie events. I didn’t use it for my wedding, and for the life of me I can’t remember why. It would have complemented my heavily beaded dress beautifully.

And speaking of beaded dresses, one of Daddy’s Hong Kong trips resulted in a little black dress for Mama that was anything but simple. It consisted of a black, fitted silk sheath with a 3/4 length beaded tunic. It made my little girl heart yearn to grow enough to borrow that dress. By the time I was old enough to borrow it, the sheath had died or been lost or something. I had possession of the tunic but nothing to wear under it. For years, it was impossible to find anything that would work under that dress. I did finally cobble something together and have worn it a few times.

The dress is heavy. I can’t imagine wearing a full-length beaded dress after running around in this one a few times – beauty queens have my grudging respect on that score.

such delicate workBy the time I could wear the dress, I realized that both the dress and the purse had probably been made by some child who went nearly blind from the work involved and likely wasn’t paid more than a few cents for their effort. I dithered for awhile and finally decided that it was better to honor that child’s labor by using and caring for the dress than to hide it in a closet. It’s fitting that dress is heavy – luxury born of slave labor is a heavy burden.

While the dress hangs in my closet and I occasionally skitter past it, pausing to ponder when and where I might wear it again, the purse simply faded from my memory. Mama tells me now that it succumbed to old age and she doesn’t even know where it is – likely it’s tucked away somewhere.

beads and crystals

Beads and crystals and sequins, oh my!

What she and I also didn’t know was that Daddy bought an identical purse for his mother. A few weeks ago, after Emma’s funeral, I was given the purse. By the look of it, she used it more than a time or two. I’ve been imagining the where and why that she had cause to carry a heavily beaded, white satin silk evening purse. I like the images that crowd my head during such imaginings. It changes, subtly, every thing I thought I knew about her.

ravages of time

Memory stains.

I was honored to be given the purse. The next time I wear the dress, I’ll carry the purse – in honor of the grandmother I didn’t know as well as I thought I did and in honor of the children who spent hours beading. A purse that began as a souvenir ends up an unwritten memoir. A definite design spins an enigma. And a simple purchase made 40 years ago still reverberates. There’s a Great Truth buried in there, but I don’t want to disturb the beading to pick it out.