As a rule, I am a glass half full person. But, day in and day out, I tense up too easily and howl at whatever — the computer, the traffic, sports team shortfalls, onerous fees, the moon.
I once heard someone say, or words to this effect: life is one long, forced march into enemy territory. I have lived long enough to believe it. To this warning, I would add, “be vigilant.”
One of my favorite sayings, though I do not have many: aim high, swing for the bleachers, but celebrate the small victories. I also promote a variation of helicopter parents, a label I never earned: now and then put yourself in a helicopter and hover over your life.
I am blessed to not be an illegal immigrant, a refugee fleeing an oppressed or dangerous country, or one caught up in a civil war. I am not a person of color and combating prejudice day in and day out. I am not female. I am not LGBTQ.
I should stop here and shut the fuck up.
Here’s the thing, no matter where or who you are, it is a challenge to do hand-to-hand combat everyday with the forces who want to own you or control you. They want to rip off as much of your hide and money as they can, legally or otherwise, and they want you as indebted to them as possible for as long as possible. Think college loans. My wife and I are fortunate. Our combined college debt totaled $7,000. As a veteran, thank you GI Bill.
People scream about taxes and often appropriately so. While screaming about taxes, with a not-so-slight-of-hand, we are being bled with onerous fees: whether it be airlines, banks, credit cards, buying and selling of properties, municipalities or state and federal governments. Anyone want to talk about medical expenses?
Don’t get me started about credit ratings and how they work. Okay, you got me started. Here is the deal: they lay in the weeds, waiting for the slightest slip up. When you do — zap — your scores drops 30–40 points. Does it matter? Hell, yes. Try going for a refi after a precipitous drop. Your loan rate will be higher, and thus, your monthly mortgage payment.
My wife and I have steadfastly paid our bills since first married 48 years ago. We have often maintained high credit balances, but we were never without sufficient income to make the payments.
Two years ago, I turned our Hyundai lease in a few months early, spurred by a dealer’s offer for a recent-model lease. We had gone over the annual mileage limit…knowingly. We leased the midsize SUV, purposely, for long road trips. When the settlement bill arrived, we paid off the mileage overage quickly. But it took nearly three months to get Hyundai paid by the insurance we bought for dings and scraps. Hyundai hit our credit rating for 40 points.
We just finished a refi. Because it was our lowest ever credit rating ever, we paid more for the conventional loan. But we did it to get rid of a debt burden, spiked by too much information to cover here. You would think our credit rating would jump after getting rid of 90% of our debt. It did; maybe 15 points. Furthermore, Wells Fargo later turned us down for a line of credit application (for emergencies — we live in earthquake country), because of the Hyundai flagging, called an up-charge — a new term to me. Attempts to appeal to Hyundai to expunge the record have been met with, “fuck off.” It is easy for us to say “fuck off” to Hyundai and never do business with them again — we will — but the credit stain remains.
I recall the first time several years ago the cost of an overseas flight on KLM did not secure a seat. Apparently, the fare only guaranteed space in the luggage compartment. If you did not pay them the bounty you would end up in a middle seat for an eleven-hour flight. Today, this is the norm. But hey, no collusion. What is next? Charging for water? Oh wait, I was on a Middle Eastern airline (Air Dubai) eight years ago that charged for water — coming soon to an airline near you. Want a blankie on domestic flights? Sure. For a fee.
I live in California. Gas prices are consistently higher here, from between 15 to 25 cents, after factoring out all of the California taxes, and that is a lot of factoring. I could drive to Yuma and spend at least 25 cents less per gallon, but that would blow the savings with the trip. I thought the closer one lived to a refinery, the lower the gas price because of less distribution costs. Silly me. They do it because then can. But hey, no collusion. With our driving needs, our family donates another $200 annually to the California oil companies’ coffers — just for one car. Doesn’t seem like much. Multiply this times the number of California drivers and the total rip-off comes to around $2.6 billion. The CEOs and their yachts thank you.
This is called a transfer of wealth.
Governor Newsom has asked the attorney general to look into gas prices. Finally.
I could cite many more examples. But those would fall under the banner of TMI.
These are a white guy’s whines. What of a person of color? Off the top of my baldhead I can easily list red lining, traffic stops, incarceration rates and sentence lengths. Ask a person of color, and they appropriately remind me that while I was born into the lower middle-class, I began on first base. I get that. What of female barriers? Think glass ceiling and wage inequity. Oh, and never become emotional. The Supremes may soon rule that LGBTQ folks can be fired for causes other than performance.
Do the best you can while marching into enemy territory, no matter your color or sexual persuasion.
Meanwhile, I still aim high and swing for the bleachers. But I celebrate reducing our debt by 90%.