2008 Bail Out

We’ve heard of the Year of the Rat. The ancient Chinese welcomed the Rat as their protector and source of material prosperity. 2008 was the Year of the Thieving Rats.

I don’t usually like to see a year end. I love sunsets because the sky colors light up my life at the end of the day but the end of 2008 just means I’m another year older and deeper in debt.

I started out the year with a Schwab One account and now have a Schwab .015 account.

Speaking of our financial institutions, we also started 2008 with a credit fiasco when some mope lifted Herself’s wallet in Philly; the credit card processing center kept sending substitute cards they wouldn’t let us activate.

“What are the last 4 digits on your card, Mr. Harper?”


“This looks like a replacement for a card that was lost. That’s your old card number.”

No, my old card ended in 3399.

“That’s not right. I show the old card as 5884 and the new card as 6091. Let me put you on hold.”

“Thank you for holding. We value this opportunity to service your call. Please continue to hold for the next available advisor.”

“The current hold time is approximately 8 minutes.”

At least they had a nice symphony playing as their hold music.

I found out later that, while I was on hold, the banks scored $700 Billion on my other credit card.

Start a spreadsheet. Right now. Immediately. List every credit or debit card you have. All of them. Include the card number, the institution name, the institution phone number, the full name in which it is issued. Include its expiration date. Make a column with every autopay you pay with each card. In a spreadsheet.

Did I mention to do it in a spreadsheet? Spreadsheets are cool.

Brett Favre, who is Herself’s favorite quarterback of all time, lost his last ever Championship hope with an illegal forward pass yesterday. On the other hand, the rest of the Jets did complete more lateral passes in a single play than anyone had seen in a professional football game this year. If they hadn’t been using their hands, we would have thought it was professional soccer.

I bought my first hard disk-based “Personal Video Recorder” this year so I could pause the news and Herself could pause fuhball.

Built in China, of course, so I did my best for the economy.

This may be the second most irritating product on the market. The operating system was designed to operate bulldozers instead of showstoppers and the remote control pretty much doesn’t. Despite that, I wanted to buy two of them and the seller shipped two of them but only one arrived. Somebody stole the second “in transit.” And now this brand is off the market. Maybe if I had ordered three or four…

Our neighbors decided a couple of years ago that my project to rebuild the North Puffin garage “disappointed” them so they sued us. In the process of beating on us with their lawyers they magically grew their postage stamp sized camp lot by a few feet to the South and a few more to the North.

We lost a few feet of land on our southern boundary and our other neighbors lost a couple of feet of land on their northern boundary but at least we have finished that episode and are done with them.

I bought General Motors stock earlier this year. Automakers and auto dealers immediately tanked. GM suspended its dividend; later Congress decided to suspend GM. I didn’t understand it then but I understand it now; I spent 100 hours and $200 selling a $1,700 used car for $1,400 this Fall.

Regular readers will recall that I had had a yen for a special plate and expected, when I bought this particular KeysCar, that I would get one. After all, DICK was available in Vermont.

Unfortunately, Vermont said I’m not a Dick.

I listed the car on the free craigslist classified advertising site. Three legitimate buyers called. I sold it to one of them for a stack of $100 bills. 15 Nigerians or Nigerian-trained operatives offered cashier’s checks. Every last one of those bounced.

Gasoline flirted with $5/gallon about 20 nanoseconds after I decided to start driving everywhere again. I have some small hope that the oil speculators who caused that spike (and have now taken it in the ear when oil dropped back to traditional levels) were the same financial wizards who robbed us in the mortgage markets.

Or maybe not. There was very little justice in 2008.

Denny Crane sure was something, though. All he asked for was my interest every week but he earned my respect and he got my vote.

The stories we Pollyannas tell ourselves are more optimistic than these. 2009 is going to better, right?

4 thoughts on “2008 Bail Out

  1. About five months ago a man I had not seen in a while called and invited me to breakfast, and we set a time for the next day. I learned long ago that if someone you haven’t heard from in a long time calls you they either want to borrow money or try and sell you AmWay, so I was wary. I phoned his ex wife–who goes to my church–and I nonchalantly asked how he was doing. She said he was down on his luck.

    She said he lost the house that he got in the divorce and had tried to borrow money from his former mother in law. I didn’t think to ask if he was selling AmWay because she volunteered that he worked in the car business–which meant he was a salesman.

    Well, I AM a Ford man, and I figured if he wanted to sell me a car–and if it was a Ford–mebbe we could do business. So, I dressed early the next day and went to meet him at IHOP. It turns out that he had a sad, sad story to tell: He said he went over to a gambling casino in Louisiana and rolled away $30,000 at the dice table and had to sell his house to pay the debt. Further, the housing market had skidded, and he ended up with a shortfall, and he wanted to know if I could *bail* him out (my *apropos* word choice). He said he needed $5000 by Friday.

    My immediate reaction was one of compassion; however, giving/loaning someone $5000 exceeds that virtue, so and I suggested to myself that I might buy a car from him to help him out. I asked where he worked, and he said a local Toyota store.

    I told him no as nicely as I could, and then I paid the check, and we shook hands good-bye.

    But the man had one virtue that these recently outted car CEOs do not. He recognized his mistake and had the balls to admit it. These guys who just visited DC don’t seem to have a clue as to the reason for their downfallance.

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