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Saturday, September 03, 2005
Lender's Remorse - By Dan Ewald
I’m buying a home in Florida I’ve never seen with my naked eye, nor with my other scantily-clad eye. I’ve only seen photographs of this rumored house. I’m trusting my mother – who will rent – this place actually exists. I’m buying it sight unseen. Hopefully, it isn’t one of those fake exterior Hollywood sets, taunting you believe there are four walls instead of just the front exterior.

I should be fine. My mom never lies about big things. She may say she’s feeling “fine” during a hot flash, but does that warrant suing her for perjury? I thought it did, but the judge thought otherwise. Some people think it’s tacky and shameful to take your mother to court, but who asked you?

My point is, I’m not going to sue my mother over anything, unless she crosses me or gives me “those eyes.”

Buying a house is nothing but paperwork! Since I live in California, I was forced to buy a fax machine which will make a great garage sale item after this purchase goes through. The realtor my mom chose is calling me constantly. Her name is Ginger and she cannot shut up. The phone calls are on her dime, but she’s wasting my time. It’s bad enough when she talks my ear off. She called a few days ago and caught my roommate. Instead of leaving a simple message, she gave the entire detailed back story.

“Can I take a message?” Damon kindly offered.

“Sure,” Ginger said. She took a deep breath before beginning. “My name is Ginger Jacobson. I’m Dan’s real estate agent. I’m a Sagittarius and I’m allergic to wet grass. Dan is buying a home for his mother in Florida. That’s where I’m calling from… Florida. Can you tell from my accent? Sarasota to be specific, which is on the west coast. You’d know that if you’d ever been to Florida. You haven’t been? What’s wrong with you? Anyway, Dan is buying a home for his mother. I guess I said that already. His mother is going to live in it. I don’t know what their rent agreement will be, but that’s none of my business. Nor is it here nor there. At any rate, Dan’s sister Rachel is the mortgage broker in this deal. We’re at the place where the seller has accepted our offer and now we’re waiting for the paperwork to clear. That’s why I’m calling, to get more paperwork signed from Dan. It’s really hard without him located locally. The Fed Ex bill is staggering! Hey, I’ve been talking your ear off for several minutes. Is Dan home yet?”

When I did arrive home, his message was succinct and pithy: “Dan, your real estate agent called. Her mouth has a bad case of the runs.”

Ginger emails twenty-five page documents that I must print, initial, sign, and fax back. Inevitably, I miss something and must fax something again. The paper in her fax machine likes to jam, so I usually get to resend things six-to-eight times. Many pages have ink smudges so I get to do it a few more times.

Sometimes I swear Ginger calls me just to talk. To “shoot the breeze,” as they say, though I wish they’d stop. Ginger thinks we’re friends. I fear she’ll show up at my apartment for an unannounced visit. Really, I’d be satisfied with a yearly Christmas card of a camel burping “P-E-A-C-E-o-n-E-A-R-T-H.” Help me buy this house, Ginger, and let’s leave it at that.

My sister Rachel “I have an ethnic last name now” DiGiovanni is working as my mortgage broker. For those of you who have never purchased a home, a mortgage broker is defined as one who “gages morts.” And that’s what you want when you’re making a substantial acquisition--someone who will carefully, meticulously gage your morts. I’m not sure how Rachel ever got so smart. The girl used to pronounce “oatmeal” as “oak-meal.” That toddler was such an idiot! But despite being talk-challenged, Rachel ended up going to college and I didn't. She attended one year of Liberty University, a school founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell who likely thinks gay black people are responsible for Hurricane Katrina.

Rachel called me last night, trying to rub her smarts in my face. She said I need to fax some kind of form to the lending bank so they can approve some kind of loan which will provide my something-something financing. There were a lot of important words in her sentences that I did or did not understand. Still, I nodded and replied “uh-huh” a bunch of times which seemed to appease her.

The gist was that I would need to sprint to my bank first thing in the morning using my car for faster results. There I would wire eighteen grand back to the lending bank. It needed to arrive at four p.m., eastern standard time. Los Angeles is three hours earlier than the east coast and Sarasota is on the west coast of an east coast state, but that makes no difference here. She reminded me that wire transfers take several hours, so I would have to wake up at the crack of nine.

I got to the bank just as they opened. The teller was perkier than most.

“Welcome to Citibank, what can I do for you?”she beamed from behind bullet-proof plexiglass.

“I’d like to send lots of money to Florida,” I said.

“Oh, great! I’ll get you the fun forms to fill out! But you know, if you were to do a wire transfer online, you could avoid spending the super-fun service charge!”

I didn’t realize it was going to cost twenty-five bucks to send eighteen thousand bucks. I asked if the process of wiring money online was easy.

“As pie!” she giggled. “It’ll take you five minutos. That’s minutes in Spanish!”

I said fine, got my parking ticket stamped, and drove home. I jumped on the Citibank website to find there was a super-fun password required to send money. All I had to do was request it, wait fifteen minutes for a response email, then hop back on and presto.

But somehow, Satan had broken the space-time continuum set in place by God and my clock said it was already eleven a.m./two p.m. in Sarasota.

Apparently, Satan also had control of the world wide web, because the password they sent didn’t work. I entered it multiple times, like a stupid person repeatedly pushing the elevator button. Doing this caused my account to freeze “for my security.”

I dialed the toll free number where I was prompted through seven friendly voice messages leading to seven friendly minutes of hold time. Citibank kindly offered an irritating rendition of “Kokomo” performed by a boys choir backed by panpipes. Eventually an uninterested operator picked up. For my safety, she needed the last four digits of my social, my current address, my mother’s maiden name, and my opinion of the war on terror.

She said that online wire transfers cost as much as doing them at the bank, then reset my account. I had to wait another twenty minutes for a new password. When I entered it, Citibank put a colorful red (!) explanation mark on the screen and said, “Due to technical difficulties we are unable to process your request at this time. See you in hell.”

It was noon when I jumped back into my air condition and radio-free car, gunning it for the bank, my home-away-from-home. I had to get the money to Florida within one hour or I’d lose the house I’d never seen. I got to the bank, left my cell phone in my car to avoid being interrupted, ran in, cut in line, and accused the skinny, perky teller of being a big fat liar. She apologized and gave me the forms to fill out. I wanted to sit at an empty desk and relax my throbbing calves, but all the pens in the building were attached to eight-inch chains and were out of ink. I eventually filled out the forms and got back in line. This time I got a male teller and thanked God, in a brief, rare moment of sexism. (I apologize.)

When it was all said and done, I left the bank and breathed a bad-breathed sigh of relief. I checked my messages. My sister Rachel had left an urgent voicemail saying: “Stop the transfer! The bank says there’s no time to process your money today, even if it arrives in the next hour. You’ve lost the house. I’m sorry to be the one to bring you tidings of great sorrow.”

The Christmas allusion made me no less irate. I had spent the entire morning running back and forth to the bank, losing precious time I would have enjoyed watching TV and catnapping.

I called Rachel and she gave further explanation, nothing of which I understood. The gist was this -- we didn’t get the house for my mother. I am greatly disappointed. I hope the bank officers remember this when they see her living in a refrigerator box outside of their bank, using potato sacks for pretty curtains. Maybe this cruel sight will cause them to experience lender’s remorse.