I read an article this morning calling for a 90-day or longer “rent strike,” which seems to be a classed-up way of saying even if someone can afford to pay their rent, they’re not going to do it. The assumption of this movement is that property owners across the country should just absorb the cost of housing for people who can’t or won’t pay.
Until a few months ago I was the smallest of small time landlords – having one condo unit that I rented out. Over the years of owning the place I squirreled away enough operating funds that I was able to make repairs and hold two or three months cash reserve to tide over those months between the departure of one tenant and the arrival of the next. In my very best year, I cleared $1495. Most other years I was lucky to break even or be a few hundred dollars in the black when we did the final accounting. There were more than a few years when I had to augment the rental income with cash infusions from my “day job” to make sure all the bills got paid.
That’s all a long way of saying that expecting landlords across the country to carry the freight of a rent strike indefinitely is absurd. Even assuming the property owner has a “day job” what they’re suggesting would have driven me into the loving embrace of the bankruptcy court at about the ninety day mark.
The big bad landlord these people want to screw over isn’t only the 10,000-unit holding company or Bank of America, it’s also the retiree who lives down the street or the working man across town who took a step on the property ladder by buying a trashed property and fixing it up. I’m well aware that blood from a stone isn’t a possibility, but the fact that social media is running amok with people who want to portray withholding all rent, especially by those who have the means to keep their obligations, as a heroic act of rebellion is just infuriating.
Everyone has that one hot button issue that makes them grind their teeth, or at least grind them more than usual. I’ve mostly accepted that people are awful and they’re going to spend most of their time treating themselves, each other, and every creature they come into contact with awfully.
Knowing this about myself, I can say that the kind of “person” I despise more than almost any other is a thief – the kind of person who decides doing an honest day’s work is for suckers and that whatever someone else has should really be theirs, just because.
This weekend, six charges rolled into my account before I realized someone out there on the internet using my name and account number. It totals to about $320, not a huge hit in the grand scheme, although the amount doesn’t make any particular difference to me. Whether a dollar or ten thousand, it’s the simple fact that I put in the time that cash represents.
Credit card theft is nothing new. It’s been around since American Express pressed their first card, I’m sure. I talked to the bank at length this morning, filed the appropriate fraud report, and was told that they’ll get back to me once they’ve had a chance to review the situation. My assumption is that eventually the charges will be reversed and I’ll be made financially whole. It’s apparently such a common occurrence now that thy told me not to even bother filing a police report. That the bank just shrugs this sort of thing off fills me with a whole different flavor of rage.
The insult added to injury this time is that I’ve already received two of the items the thieves ordered. I’ve got shipping notifications on two of the others. So at least for the next couple of days, I’ll come home to periodic reminders on my doorstep that people are as awful as I think they are.
While I was in line at the bank on Saturday, I overheard a conversation. That’s not the kind of thing I usually do. Even if it were the kind of thing I’d usually do, I’d have wanted no part at all in this conversation. It was the sort of loud mouthed yammering that makes me wonder if people ever really stop and consider the words that come flying out of their gobs.
In the span of the five minutes that it took me to get from the back of the line to bing second to front, the women directly in front of me subjected me (and everyone, really) to her stream of consciousness thinking on all manner of topics. The best (or worst), were discussions of:
1) How wrong it was that the bank made her take out that “bad mortgage.” As if someone held a gun to her head while she signed.
2) How pissed she was that the guy she had been dating for six weeks wouldn’t sign the paperwork taking himself off of her checking account. Because adding someone you’ve known 30 days to your financial accounts always ends up being a good decision.
3) How happy she was that her new beau was only going to be in jail for six months so at least they’ll be together soon. By this point, I’ve stopped analyzing out of fear that my brain might overload and catch on fire.
It’s safe to say I now know more about this random woman in line at the bank than most of the people who have known me since childhood know about me. It’s an honor I neither sought out nor wanted.
The only common thread I was able to identify through the flow of her verbal diarrhea, was the simple fact that nearly all this individual’s problems could trace direct back to piss poor decision making. Basic life decisions don’t require a 180 point IQ, but they damned well require the application of a bit of common sense. I increasingly fear the supply of this commodity has been exhausted.
If I can offer any advice, it’s just this: Stop making shit decisions. You’ll be amazed how much life doesn’t suck if you just try to get out of your own way now and then.
1. Refinancing. At the moment I’m trying like hell to refinance the condo since interest rates can’t conceivably go much further down. This week, I’m playing an interminable game of “send this, then send that, then send some other thing, send something else, resend the first thing.” While I can understand that not everyone share’s my obsession with order and neatness, it seems to me that just sending one list of the documents I need to provide might go a long way towards streamlining this process.
2. Don’t ask. If you ask if I’m busy and the answer is anything close to “yes, I’m going to lunch,” that should not be a signal to you to then drag me into a 30 minute conversation about something I couldn’t possibly care less about. Instead, you should consider it a signal to STFU so I can go get lunch. #TheMoreYouKnow
3. Nothing original. If you really are going to hold me to a third thing this week, let’s just go with the fact that, occasionally there isn’t a third thing. it’s not that the week has been any less stupid than the others, just that most of the grievances I noticed this week are a little too familiar. They’re the same ones that came up last week and a few weeks before that and maybe even months ago. Being a dedicated creature of habit it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that the same things come up over time. I’d be more concerned if they didn’t. There’s just so many times I can create a new and interesting spin on “meetings are stupid,” “people are a pain in the ass,” and why leader is a verb rather than a title.
1. Poor resource allocation. In the last three jobs I’ve had, my chosen line of work somehow manage to evolve into being an event planner. That’s not an intrinsically bad thing to be, but it does seem like a bad match to put the person with virtually no interest in talk to people into the role of setting up an event the point of which is to talk to as many people as possible. It’s just a bad fit. It may not be classified as torture, but if given the choice between life as a “wedding planner” and a good waterboarding session, just let me know where to lie down.
2. Highway robbery. According to the lady on the television news, ATM fees are “highway robbery” and having money “ripped away” just because she uses out-of-network machines is unfair. Uhhh. No. You’re paying for the convenience of the service, lady. If you think the fees are too high, maybe just go to your own bank to get money instead of just sticking your card in the closest slot. Even now when I don’t travel very often, I keep a small account at a bank in the area where I grew up so I can withdraw cash without paying $5 a pop for the privilege. Once I withdraw it, I replenish that account with an electronic transfer from my primary bank. I’m just going to assume what the TV lady really meant that she was pissed that she was being charged a fee for being lazy, not really for the fee itself.
3. The Republican Party. OK gang, listen up. How exactly are we expecting the American people to trust us to put up a presidential candidate if we can’t manage to get our own House in order? We’re the majority party. The election of a Speaker should be a foregone conclusion long before it ever gets talked about in the press. We’ve got the chance to put one of our own into what’s arguably the most powerful chair in legislative politics, but instead we’re showing the real life version of Dumb and Dumber. Do you imagine for a moment that Sam Rayburn or Tip O’Neill would have tolerated this level of jackassery from their members?
The last week or so I’ve been working pretty closely with my mortgage underwriter. The volume of paperwork involved in this transaction is impressive… and that’s saying someone who’s spent most of his adult life as a professional bureaucrat. Late Friday afternoon I got a very apologetic email asking for updated bank statements. It seems my state and federal tax refunds dropped into my account and set off all kind of mortgage lender bells and sirens warning about unexpectedly large deposits. Within minutes I sorted out what they needed and punted everything back to them so they’d have it on Monday morning.
A few minutes later I got a very kind message calling me a “dream borrower to work with,” presumably because I actually keep reasonably good records and can access them on demand. That sort of surprised me. I had always assumed that most people would be able to dive into their files and find whatever bit of paperwork they needed. Getting a mortgage lined up can be an exercise in frustration – and can feel like you’ve sent every bit of required documentation a few dozen times. Having the paperwork you need on hand shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.
All that being said, I have to think if you’re asking someone to lend you a few hundred thousand dollars or more, actually having your shit together and not causing them a bunch of headache is probably a good idea, no? Or maybe I’m just not approaching this endeavor with the requisite amount of douchebaggery entitled attitude. All things being equal, until we reach the closing table I’m going to err on the side of being as helpful to these people as humanly possible. It’s one of those happy convergences of self interest and the right thing to do.
1. Mobile check deposit. I learned a fun fact about my credit union’s new mobile check deposit process this morning. That little nugget is if you deposit a check by phone and the transaction doesn’t complete, there’s nothing in place outside of their website letting you know that something has gone amiss. No email, no text, just an envelope that shows up on their website when you get around to logging in. That would have been nice to know before going to the ATM this afternoon and finding the account dropped to a zero balance. I’m sure part of the issue is my insistence on using different financial institutions for different services and therefore using mobile check deposits to avoid transfer fees to keep money in motion, but still, I don’t think an email letting a guy know something went sideways or at least that there is a new message waiting on their website is too much to ask.
2. Suing POTUS. This is just one of of the many reasons I left the Republican Party (or maybe it’s really an example of how the party left me). The House of Representatives thinks they’re being cute by trying to drag the courts into the ongoing drama between the legislative and executive branches. The reality is a political solution already exists to remedy the Representative’s grievances. Of course they realize exercising that option creates nothing but problems for them. So basically what you have is just another example of my former party lacking the courage of their misguided convictions. I may disagree with any number of decisions made from the federal bench, but those judges tend not to be complete idiots, so I’ll be amazed if they ever find one to let this kind of asshattery move forward. Then again, I’m not entirely sure anything coming out of Washington can surprise me anymore, so don’t take any of that as a prediction.
3. Ebola. Honest to God, I can’t believe this is even a discussion we’re having in the 21st century. It’s even worse that there are reports circulating about a “special plane” owned by the Centers for Disease Control that could isolate and import ebola victims into the United States for treatment. I’m all for taking care of American citizens who find themselves afflicted in Africa. Import a whole damned hospital wing and treat them on site, but loading them into a jet and bringing them and their virus here just sounds like a ridiculously stupid idea. Surely I’m not the only one who thinks willingly importing a deadly virus into the country is a monumentally bad thing to do, right?
1. Banker’s Hours. Let me start off by saying I general like my credit union, except for one little thing. When they upgraded their website a few weeks ago they required everyone to create about a dozen “challenge” question/answer combinations for security purposes. Fine. Good. Whatever. The problem, of course, is that I apparently don’t have a clue what the answer to at least one of those questions is. And that’s the one I got on Sunday morning when I logged in to pay the week’s bills. Instead of asking me an alternate question from the list, the site promptly locks me out and tells me to call customer support. Which is also fine. Except there is no customer support at 7AM Sunday morning (or any other time on Sunday for that matter). I appreciate network security, but it would be nice if it weren’t so secure that I can’t get into my own account. Like the universe, it’s my fondest hope that they will find a way to seek balance.
2. Scheduling. I get that schedules are hectic. The higher you get on the food chain, the more hectic they are. If I can offer any bit of unsolicited advice, it’s that out of respect for the host of people gathered together awaiting your presence rescheduling a meeting thrice before settling in a final-ish time is just bad form. If your schedule is so jam packed with very important things to do, maybe you could go ahead and delegate to an underling or just put it in a concisely worded memo. When you make it impossible for anyone else to schedule something because of inevitable changes, where you could have looked knowing and decisive, you look like a tool. Don’t look like a tool.
3. Going overboard. I set a lot of posts about car seats, the armada of safety gear that today’s kids are expected to wear out in public, and generally how fragile small humans apparently have become in the second decade of the new millennium. In that spirit, I’d urge all of us to remember that we grew up in a simpler time. For me, riding in the open bed of a pickup truck was a rite of summer. I clocked more time behind the wheel on the back roads at age 13 than most kids do today by the time they’re eligible for the draft. None of us wore bike helmets, knee pads, or “safety gear” thicker than denim. It wasn’t uncommon for us to run unsupervised through the woods using pointy sticks as guns and rocks as grenades. I broke my arm three times and still have the scrapes and scars of childhood to mark the memories. I survived. So did we all… and in a world that surrounded it’s children in far less bubble wrap.
1. The Bank. From time to time I have to physically walk into a bank branch. Every time I do, I’m reminded why I do as much banking as humanly possible online. That would be because online, I don’t have to stand in a line five deep while one teller window is open for business and two other tellers stand behind the counter looking at the fire extinguisher. I know I couldn’t do a job that required direct interaction with the public, but if you’re going to have one, maybe you should try, you know, interacting with the public.
2. Adulthood. Aside from waking up with the occasional ache or pain, the bills, and other assorted responsibilities, I feel pretty much like I’m waking up at approximately age 17. Society might be able to make me put on pants and give the appearance of being a responsible adult, but I’m mostly just faking it and hoping nobody notices. You might be able to make me be serious and responsible, but you can’t make me want to… and you certainly can’t make me like it.
3. Lists. I start every day with a list. Most weekdays the list I started the day with looks disturbingly like the one I end the day with. I would be easy to assume that means I wasn’t doing much during the day, but more often than not it means that whatever I planned on doing got overwhelmed by whatever crisis-of-the-day cropped up and needed complete and undivided attention. The problem with having the list is that no matter what crisis you manhandled into submission, some jackass is going to come along and ask why the stuff on the list didn’t get done too. I’m pretty sure the lesson here is to either not make lists, or stop having expectations. Possibly both.
Last week, one of my mortgage payments went down. Thinking I would do the prudent thing and reallocate the surplus to paying down the another that’s at a higher rate, I logged into the online banking center and changed my autopay settings on both accounts. At least that’s what I thought I did. In reality, I set a brand-spanking-new automatic payment for each of the two mortgages in question. That wouldn’t be so bad, of course, if you caught your mistake right away. It turns into a bit more of an issue when you miss the mistake for a few days and the bank deducts twice the normal payment from your account and leaves you with a balance of $4.37.
Since almost every bill I have is set up to automatically pay every month, I rarely look at the actual accounts any more. Which helps explain the near-epileptic fit I launched into when the bank sent me a friendly “low balance” email this morning. I’m glad to say that the bank was more than accommodating at getting the situation resolved, but that didn’t really help me feel like any less of a tool. Although I’m still glad I found out today and now three days from now when I stop by to pay the rent. Since I spend most says ranting about it, I thought it was only fair to call out my own bout of criminal stupidity. And now you know the rest of the story.