Plans of mortal men
Journal: Jan. 14, 1984
What goes on here now?
These petty little plans of moral men like me, men who trade pay checks for free speech, and drag out repayment on credit cards until some son of a bitch threatens suit.
I've spent my life getting into and out of debt, and what for?
When I was still working for Donald's Wholesale cosmetic circus in 1978, I applied for and received a series of department store credit cards. Bad timing. Interest rates -- fueled by inflation -- climbed to new and maddening heights that would have made loan sharks green with envy.
An old argument says: "The law is good for only those who make it," and I believe it.
Laws here seem to give a monopoly on ripping me off to a select group of business people.
Yet looking back, I can only blame myself for buying into the consumer mentality. I liked those cards. I bought things with those cards, including a humidifier for my room in Montclair -- a $70 purchase that broke down within a month of use (cheap plastic made-in-Taiwan parts inside).
I got my cards in January, and lost my job in May. I began to rely on those cards to supplement my needs. I figured I would get a job right away (which I did) and pay them back quickly (which I did not since I lost my second job by the end of the year). Thus, the cards helped me through those three weeks between my firing from my second job and my receiving my first unemployment check. I also had the benefit of a reprieve from Wine Imports of America, the second job, which was required under law to pay back my union fees since my firing was union-related. That paid rent and utilities. The credit cards supplied me with gasoline, food and other necessities.
By the time I began to collect unemployment, I was locked into a cycle of payment which I seemed unable to escape.
I could afford to pay only the minimum payment each month. So that when the next heavy disaster struck in May, 1979 -- unemployment ran out -- I used the cards again, increasing my debt and voiding the little I had gained in the way of payments over the previous months.
This was before I went back to college, before school loans helped create a new layer of debt that temporarily suspended the credit card debts, though books and rent and utilities and food created a more serious and long-lasting problem. By the time I was through with my first semester at school, the credit card companies wanted their money -- because I couldn't even meet the minimum they had established on my cards. They called me weekly asking if I intended to pay, cajoling me into sending them payments of five or ten dollars. One company (Korvettes) actually went out of business before I could pay them completely, some Japanese company buying the chain.
Perhaps they figured that I -- as a good American -- wasn't going to prop up that country's economy anyway, so ceased to bother me. Sears hounded me. Bamberger’s, Sterns, J.C. Penny's, as well. Part of this was my fault. Sterns, Bamberger’s and Penny's had changed their check cashing policy. By this time I was working in Willowbrook Mall and made regular visits to their credit departments, paying something each week when I cashed my check. They refused to continue to cash my check, saying they would only take payments. In what proved to be one of my less intelligent moments, I told them to fuck off, and said it would be a very cold day in hell before they saw any money from me.
Sterns threatened to take me to court, so I paid them off quickly, cutting up the card. The other cards I still have sitting in my wallet like pictures of dead children, hoping to some day bring them back to life as I spend my weekly pay check putting out an underground newspaper, as hungry and impoverished as I ever was unemployed. And for what? To print my version of truth?
Yes, that's it exactly.