Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Life as an Imaginary Girlfriend (and other tales)

By now most people have heard about the story of Manti Te'o, the college football player who was duped into believing he had an online girlfriend who tragically died the same day as his grandmother. I really don't care about the story as much as I care about the incredible mundanity of kids doing stupid kid things. So now I'd like to confess some of my own stupid kid tricks, just a few of many transgressions from college and yes, even early in my post-college career:

     At some point, thinking this would be useful information, I memorized the phone number to the Tri-Delts sorority house. Several months later my roommate and I were sitting around late night watching television when we decided we needed a pizza. He asked for the local pizza place phone number and off the top of my head, I gave him the Tri-Delts’ number. He called and then cursed me for the rest of the evening. I thought that was the funniest thing of all time.

     One semester, I had to take a required computer class; in it were several people I knew. This class provided access to the university computer network along with something new (to us) called email. After wasting my time trying to access other university networks and other people's accounts, I resorted to email gags to my classmates. After creating a false id, I started sending emails to one guy as if I were a girl pretending to be interested in him. This was fun for a short while, until he figured it out because I kept asking him about her.

     Early in my post-graduate career, I was granted system admin access to the company computer system where I promptly learned the wall command (write to all) which would send an immediate message to the monitors of everyone logged onto the system. I became very annoying. I then figured out how to set up user logins to make it appear as if a user couldn't log on to the system. This would have been an easy way to steal people's passwords, but I was not that evil. It amused my 22-going-on-12 self to watch people trying to figure out what was happening when they thought they couldn't log on.

     In the early days of the internet, it was a novelty to join newsgroups where like-minded people could discuss similar interests. A friend and I decided to join one where the focus was golf. Our first (collaborative) posting was this:

      “Hey does anyone remember the 1943 El Paso Open where Ben Hogan got mad because a kid in the audience farted during his swing, and Hogan chased the kid into a pond waving his 5-iron, and the kid was mauled by an alligator? And then Ben Hogan signed a golf glove and gave it to the kid's parents?”

     We thought we were quite hilarious when people posted their astonishment to the story and wanted more information. Finally, someone wrote: “You are an idiot.” We immediately canceled our membership in that newsgroup.

There you have it, four totally useless juvenile stories that probably make you question why you read this blog. But my point is that I would argue rarely does anyone totally “grow-up” before the age of thirty and for men it might be fifty or sixty. We all commit, and are often victims of, stupid pranks.

Even if Manti Te'o was involved in the deception from the beginning, the story still should have ended up in the “who cares?” file. And as far as his talking up the so-called girlfriend, what guy in the history of humankind has not embellished a story(ies) about girls or women he has known, or sort of known, or briefly met, or seen pictures of, or totally made up? And if you believe it affected Heisman voting, then you have only the voters to blame, because having the best background story is not a qualification for the Heisman Trophy.

Unless blackmail or some other illegal activity occurred, this was nothing more than juveniles being juveniles (as instigators and victim). It's only a story because sportswriters are mad that they've been duped and by golly they're not going to take it even if it means writing the most deadly, vengeful haiku imaginable.

In short, the Manti Te'o story is the most overblown story since Ben Hogan at the 1943 El Paso Open.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Tale of 2 Real Estates (Part II)

Now I'm finally getting around to part II of:

A Tale of Two Real Estates (Part II)

This second tale has more to do with the finance company rather than realtors or buyers. We recently had to move again due to St. Pauli Girl's job change, and we decided we'd be better off buying a second home rather than renting something until we sold the old house.

We found a nice little fixer-upper straight out of 1973, with gold shag carpeting and Brady Bunch d├ęcor still in tip-top shape. After looking at different financing options via the internet, I began receiving phone calls from several companies which I ignored. I finally broke down and answered a call as a reward for the caller’s persistence. This turned out to be the same mistake as when we tried to find a plumber but everyone was booked up for weeks except for the last guy we called; there's a reason he was the only one in town not booked for weeks. And there was a reason for this woman's persistence.

Having been through the buying process in Texas several times, I already knew the paperwork we would need and had it ready. Lola, from a finance company that shall remain nameless but let's just say they like to “discover possibilities,” seemed very impressed by my homework. We set a pretty aggressive closing date, but she said that date should be no problem.

The next day, St. Pauli Girl told me someone from the finance company had called our realtor and told him “we” had chosen an unreasonable closing date.

 “Not to worry,” I said, “Lola from the same finance company said it wouldn't be a problem.”

Nine days before closing, Lola told me that everything was in order and she was ready to pass it on to the underwriting team. Mr. Haney, the underwriting manager, called me to tell me he was looking forward to working with me. Then I didn't hear anything for five days.

On the Thursday before our Monday closing, I decided I'd better call Mr. Haney.

“I'm just trying to find out where were at since we're supposed to be closing on Monday,” I said.

“I was just about to call you,” Mr. Haney responded. “I still need your W-2 for 2010.”

“You already have it. I uploaded it for Lola two weeks ago. In fact, I'm looking at it in the document directory of your website right now. It's called W2_DK_2010.doc.”

After a brief hesitation, “Oh yeah, there it is. I was looking for 'W-2', no wonder!”

“Great but we're supposed to be closing on Monday so I’m leaving tomorrow morning because it’s a 350 mile drive from where I am right now.”

“I'm doing everything I can to make that happen.”

“I'm sure you are. I just need to know if I should bother to make the drive or not.”

“I'm working really hard on this, I just don't know.”

“Are we going to close on Monday or not?”

“I'm putting all my time on this, and I'm trying to make it happen.”

“Yes or no would be fine,” I finally said with a sigh.

“How about this, there's a 20 percent chance that you'll be closing on Monday. Is that good enough for you?”

“Fine. So, that’s a no?”

“But it's not. I'm really working hard on this. It's not no, it's twenty percent of a yes!”

I hung up. Although I gamble a little, I pretty much limit it to blackjack and video poker. We moved the closing date.

The day before our new closing date, I packed up the car with as many essential items I could for the new house. St. Pauli Girl and I both had arranged to take that day off from work to get the closing done. Mid-afternoon, I got an email message from our realtor forwarding an email from Mr. Haney's boss (whom we'll call Ivan) stating that the closing date would most likely not be met, and we should not bother to try and set any more closing dates because it makes their job harder.

I fired off an email to Ivan asking when he or Mr. Haney were ever going to bother to notify us about the closing date. After some apologies, they pushed the closing date back another week, to make closing date #3.

At 6:00 p.m. the day before closing, I once again had the car packed and ready to depart first thing the next morning. As I shut the trunk, my phone rang.

Without even looking, I knew: Mr. Haney. “We're almost there,” Mr. Haney said. “There's just one thing. We're having trouble getting St. Pauli Girl's employment verified.”

“But you said we were approved by underwriting?”

“Yes, you were but they wanted me to follow up on this.”

“But Lola received the employment information three weeks ago. You've had three weeks to do the verification.”

“Now that's true, but we're still going to need a letter from her boss to verify her employment.”

“It's 6:00 here. Everyone is gone for the day. And it's an academic department--who knows what time he gets to work.”

“I'm working really hard on this,” Mr. Haney said.

The next day when our realtor found out I wasn’t planning on coming, he called to tell me that if we don't close that day, it would take another week to redo the paperwork. I sighed, then told him I'd be on the road in thirty minutes.

My phone rang. Guess who. Mr. Haney said I was wasting my time by leaving so early (!) because he wasn't sure if we could close that day.

I finally told him, “I'm not wasting my time. You approve the loan today or the contract is dead and we’re getting an apartment.”

Finally, by late afternoon, Mr. Haney notified the title company of the loan approval. However, paperwork would not be ready until the next morning. His last words: “I'm going to work late and work really hard on this.”

Of course the paperwork was not ready the next morning. We sat at the title company for an extra hour waiting for it. And when it did come in, it included paperwork that only the seller usually signs, plus a long application form as if we were applying for a loan for the first time. The woman at the title company tried to hide her smile but failed.

“But they already have all of this information,” I told her.

“Of course they do. They couldn’t have processed the loan without it. Based on how everything has gone so far, let's just sign everything. There's no telling what might happen if we don't.”

We finally finished and moved into our new house. After a couple of weeks I decided to call Ivan back because, according to a large guarantee on their website, they offer a $1000 rebate if you don't close on time. I figured that was the least they could do for us.

“Well, I looked through the paperwork and since we never actually set a closing date, you don't qualify for the rebate,” Ivan said. “People misunderstand that guarantee all the time. What it really means is we'll do everything we can to keep from paying you $1000.”

“Like instead of setting a closing date, you give a percentage chance of closing--”

“Thanks again for your business. Tell your friends!”

There’s about a 20% chance that’ll happen. And not in a good way.