Credit counseling bureaus, laughing out loud

Do you ever get those annoying messages on your answering machine?

“Hi, this is Bobby. We have your tickets to Las Vegas ready and waiting. Call me directly at 1-877-123-3245 before 10 p.m. with confirmation code #49235 to claim your tickets.” pthththbbbhtht. Stupid money sucking time share.

Scam right? I would hope most people would know to just delete those messages. Living in an apartment, you’re cursed with receiving those phone calls for the rest of your apartment dwelling life. Some stupid, prior resident who had the same phone number thought that she would actually win the Land Cruiser that was parked in the middle of the mall. She put her phone number and address on the little slip and dropped it in the box. Not only did she involuntarily [because she didn’t bother to read the back of the card with a magnifying glass] change her long distance phone provider, but she sold her soul to the marketing devil. I’ve accepted that. I don’t answer phone calls that show up as ‘unavailable’ on caller ID. I hate unsolicited advertising, but what can you do about it?

I used to have fun with telemarketers. In our automated society, you don’t even get to talk to a human telemarketer anymore – you get a recording. Even the sales industry is getting lazy. It’s not even worth it to answer the phone. Every time I decide to answer an ‘unavailable’ call, I always hear that infamous “click”, then the phone goes dead. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I assume that that click is to log a valid phone number so I can be subject to more solicitation.

I went home for lunch yesterday and the answering machine was blinking. Nobody calls us during the day because all of our friends and relatives know that we have daytime jobs. I knew what I was going to hear when I hit play.

I was actually pretty surprised at what I heard after I listened to the pitch the whole way through. It was some sincere guy speaking on behalf of a particular credit counseling bureau. It wasn’t personalized. It was a recording. I thought to myself: “Wow, that’s really sad. Statistics must show that a credit counseling company can randomly call people and leave messages offering their services to help consumers get out of debt.” I thought about calling the company and saying: “Hey morons, guess what… we’re not slaves – we don’t have a single credit card.” There wouldn’t be any point to doing that. Maybe our phone number was once owned by someone else who had some financial difficulties and was flagged by creditors, hence this annoying message.

I think that it’s safe for the companies to call every American and offer their get out of debt scam. There’s more people than I would like to imagine that are stuck with credit card debt. Thinking about it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Look at all of the TV ads and the online pop up ads. “Get Out of Debt for FREE!!!” We’ve all seen them. What’s really sad is that a lot of people that I know make a lot more money than I do – but I bring home more. I put more into savings. It’s not a whole lot that I can put back, but at least I find comfort in doing what little I can. I save money on ink. I don’t have to write three separate checks a month to Visa, Mastercard and Discover. Woooo… Dillard’s is having a SALE this weekend, I’m whipping out the Gold Card. After paying interest on a shirt and a belt, you might as well have paid full retail. I’ll take my fist full of dead presidents to Walmart or the Salvation Army and avoid the blinded consumer mass.

Anyway, we have debts. Luckily our two debts are considered “good” debts. Regardless, I don’t like being in any kind of debt. Credit cards are the worst. “But you need a credit card to rent a car or make airline or hotel reservations.” Wrong. If a company won’t take my debit card, then they lost a good cash paying customer. Case in point: When Elise and I went to rent the Harley Davidson a couple weekends ago, they needed a $3000 credit card authorization. This was for insurance purposes. I forgot what option I chose – I think it was the best since I already have my own motorcycle insurance. If I were to damage the bike, my insurance would cover it. I wouldn’t have to pay $3000. I handed ol’ Keith my debit card. My debit card wouldn’t ‘authorize’ $3000. That’s because there’s not a credit limit associated with a debit card. I was fully prepared to either 1) hop behind Keith’s computer, pull up my online bank statement and show him that I had cash available, or 2) say thank you and leave. I told Keith that I only use a debit card. He appreciated my confidence and did an old timey print of my debit card and handed over the keys.

I think credit is a contemporary [and permanent] aspect of life. We’ll eventually have a mortgage. We’ve planned on incurring another car loan. But that’s it. Those are the ones that are considered ‘good’ debts. In our mid term financial calendar, we don’t foresee any other new debts. Unless, of course, we win the lottery. HA! I don’t even want to touch on that. Mr. Ramsey calls the lottery the tax on the poor. We have a really good friend who swears that one day, he will win the lottery. He plays every week. I bite my lip and say: “When you do, would you mind buying me a new motorcycle?” Like clockwork, he retorts: “Sure… how many?… what color?”

I’m glad it’s a short week this week. We’re taking the trusty Shadow into Austin for brake repairs on Saturday morning. Spherion is having a company party in Georgetown. Elise works for a temp agency that is under contract with Spherion. I think it will be fun. I’ll get to meet all of El’s girlfriends from work. I’ve heard enough about them that I feel as if I already know them. It’s always interesting to meet people that you’ve already painted a mental picture of without actually having seen them face to face.

We had our monthly Marketing Communications staff meeting today. I forgot how all of this came about, but there were three of us who started laughing uncontrollably at a very inopportune time. I hate it when that happens, but at the same time, I love it. It wasn’t really a ‘formal’ meeting, but it was still kind of rude for us to be laughing. We were all trying so hard to hide our faces. One of us would eventually emit a little chuckle through the nose and the laughing would start over again. It was great fun. It reminded me of being a carefree kid again.

That reminds me of a time back in the 10th grade. Johnny and I had our English class together. Our teacher was also our Theatre Arts teacher. She was a great lady and an awesome teacher. Unfortunately for us, she had a relatively large mole on her chin. Our classroom was setup in a theatre in the round formation. Johnny and I had been separated early in the year for obvious reasons. We were seated on opposite sides of the classroom, facing each other. One of us would always take a small, circular piece of paper, color it in with a black pen, moisten it and attach it to one of our chins. The other would eventually take notice of this tomfoolery, turn beet red, hold his breath and nearly die of internal laughter. That was great. I really miss stuff like that.

Labor Day weekend alone

This past weekend was pretty laid back and relatively uneventful for your humble narrator.

On Friday, I rushed home to play on the PS2. I put a big dent in SSX Tricky – unlocking levels and adding tricks to my trick book repertoire. I was really tired from having stayed up late on Thursday, so I went to be pretty early.

I slept until 9 a.m. on Saturday. I got up, charged the Hitachicam’s battery, hopped in the shower, dressed and headed to the post office. I had to mail the Radeon 7000. I’ve become quite the master at transporting awkward objects on my motorcycle. I’m waiting for the day to be pulled over by a cop and hear the words: “Young man, you know it’s not very safe to carry a white tail buck carcass, a mini refrigerator and a domestic cat on this motorcycle.” Hey… there’s an idea, I ought to train Riley to ride the motorcycle with me. I could take him to the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and charge people to watch him eat Jell-O and green beans. He also likes beer. Bud Light. He doesn’t really like Miller Light, but he’ll drink it if that’s all we have.

Anyway, after mailing off the graphics card, it was off to the Temple Party Drags – emphasis on the Drag. It cost $45 for a weekend pass. They didn’t offer day passes. Luckily I stopped at the bank on the way and pulled $40. The lady dispensing wristbands spotted me the extra $5.

I rode around the ‘campgrounds’ for a while and found a little secluded space to park. I walked around for a bit and checked out the patrons’ motorcycles. After walking around for half an hour or so, I went and sat in the stands to watch the qualifying races. Mullets, do-rags, home-job tattoos and beer drinkers at 10 a.m. The races were fun to watch, but the people watching wasn’t as fun as I had expected. Nothing like the smell of nitrous oxide and burning rubber to start off a Saturday.

Before it got too hot [and because I had no cash], I headed home for some lunch in the air conditioned apartment and some more SSX Tricky. I was told by Temple Party Drags officials that if I got my wristband cut before 7 p.m. on Saturday, I would get a $20 refund. I checked the event itinerary and saw that there was a bikini contest and live music later in the evening.

I headed back to the raceway at 5:30 p.m. I parked in the same spot and made the same rounds. Nothing had changed. There were a few more people, but nothing was going on that was worth my $40. I really didn’t feel like watching bikini girls strut around to Skynyrd cover songs. I left along side many other bikers at 6:30. We all wanted our $20 refund. I figure the actual $20 that I spent was somewhat worth it. It’s good to know that once a year there is a motorcycle event here in bustling Temple. I made my contribution. I guess it would have been more fun if I had some company. Elise was in Minneapolis.

I went by the local Mom and Pop video store and picked up Orange County. I came home, watched that and then “beat” SSX Tricky. I guess you really can’t beat that game, I just unlocked all of the levels and most of the snowboards.

I slept in until around 10 a.m. on Sunday. It was such a great feeling, waking up on Sunday and knowing that I didn’t have to worry about going to work the next day. I don’t think I did anything on Sunday. I went to the store and bought the paper. That was pretty much it. I sat around all day and did nothing. That felt great. Riley and I channel surfed and played with his string toy.

Monday – I pretty much did nothing again. I took a good long walk in the late morning. It was really hot and humid. I guess that’s why I didn’t do much that past two days… it’s just too hot outside. I did cook a really good t-bone that my parents gave me. That was my lonesome Labor Day barbeque – me, the cat and 98 channels. I caught the Red Hot Chili Peppers Backyard BBQ on VH1. I don’t know the specifics, but some girl won a contest and the RHCP performed a private concert at her apartment’s pool.

The Abyss came on at 10 p.m. I forget what channel it was on, but there was no commercials (we have ‘basic plus’ cable – no premium channels). I don’t think I’ve ever seen that movie in its entirety. Good movie. I think I was trying to stay up until Elise got back. She flew from Minneapolis to Dallas and had to drive back to bustling Temple. Her plane didn’t get in until 12 a.m. The drive from Dallas is 2+ hours. I lasted until around 1:30 and had to fall asleep.

I heard the water in the sink running at around 2:30 p.m. I pried my eyes open just as El was coming to bed. She laid her head on my shoulder and I scratched her head. Seems like only moments of sleep-time had passed when both of our alarms were screaming.

El got up and took a shower. I slept until the very last affordable minute. We both roamed around the apartment in our own pathetic ways, bumping into each other with zombie eyes, attempting to start the work week.

Tonight we can pretend like she’s just gotten back. She will tell me all about her exciting weekend in Minneapolis with her friends and I will tell her how Riley and I caught a fuzzy insect in the fireplace.