A Week of “Lasts”: Hunkering Down Like a Hobo Hermit

It may come across as an odd confession…but…things have been going alright. Not great, but alright. That’s a dramatic improvement over the last year or so. For the first time ever, I’m at a job where I’m appreciated. Heck, I even got Employee of the Month. That’s never happened before. However, with all the modest good fortune floating around, I couldn’t help but wonder when the other foot would drop.

And it did.

Hard.

One inconsequential morning, I went to fill up my gas tank. I handed the attendant my VISA, not thinking much of it. He returned a few seconds later with a, “This was declined.” Not an answer someone expects to hear at 6:30AM. The card still had a balance, so what was the deal?

I gave PenFed a call, and they informed me the account had been closed. Unfortunately, they couldn’t tell me why. What they could tell me was that a letter was sent out explaining the situation. I hopped online once I got home, and noticed the letter had also been sent electronically. The reason for the card closure?

My credit score had dropped. Significantly. From 750-something back in ’09…to somewhere in the 500s, now.

A panic attack ensued.

My first thought was to order a copy of my credit report. How on Earth could I let it get that low? Granted, my debt to income ratio was horrible, and – since 2010 – I’d had two bouts of unemployment. Not enough to warrant a score dip that large, or so I thought.

To add further insult to inquiry, the attempt to order my credit report via Equifax was ulcer-inducing. They kept directing me to the phone number, which then redirected me to their website – rinse, repeat. By the end, I was screaming at my computer so loudly, I scared my brother/roommate and his girlfriend out of the house.

Eventually, I calmed down long enough to find a number that worked. And received confirmation that it’d been sent. I also had time to reflect upon it. There was a time when I used to be pretty responsible with money. Hiccups – both personal and economical – curbed my fiscal fortitude, though. My debt level far outweighed my ability to pay things off. That and – truth be told – my spending was rampant. I also used credit cards way too much. My ability to debt-shuffle was “derp”-tastic at best.

I had to look no further than my $34 copy of Wheel of Time: A Memory of Light sitting next to me on the computer desk.

It was the last book in a series I had started when I was in high school. Only fifty pages left; I was almost done with that twenty-year reading journey. Still, it was an expensive purchase. One I couldn’t entirely justify.

In the midst of my financial credit crisis, I decided to read. Three hours later – while sipping an expensive pint of chardonnay barrel-aged Belgian-style double IPA – I finished that damn brick of a book. And felt both satisfied and melancholy at the same time. It ended perfectly; I couldn’t have thought of a better way to do it. Yet at the same time, with that ending, I realized something in me needed to end as well.

I stared at my pint, morose.

I wouldn’t say I’m an out-of-control drinker, but I do like my beer. Worse, I like expensive beer. If it has the words “casked”, “barrel-aged”, “oak-chipped” or “bottle-conditioned” in the title, I want it. That often presents a problem, though, since these special beers usually cost as much wine. On average, $12-$15 a bottle. And I was purchasing one or two of these a week.

My usual haunt for these purchases was a specialty beer shop in a neighboring burb. I had a lingering crush on the weekend bartender. I used my beer snobbery as an excuse to see her. This week, I decided to pay yet another visit, but resisted the urge to buy an expensive bottle.

A part of me started to think she was catching on to the fact that I liked her. She seemed kinda creeped out by my continued presence. I completely understood, too. As I exited the shop around 11:30 with a light rye-beer buzz, I realized…that’d be the last time I’d be in to see her.

That would also be the last time – for some time – that I’d buy beer there.

That would be the last time I’d go to a bar alone.

That would be the last time…

I have always been poor, but I’d never been loser poor. I always enjoyed beer, but I never drank alone. (Unless you count a pint or two after a rough day of work.) I’d always liked women…but never bartenders.

I was that guy. A sadder version of the sap I’d always been. With every good comes a bad, and I was doing nothing to improve upon it. The week wasn’t all bad, though. I still had my tea…yet even those had their epilogues. But that’s another story.

For the companion “steep story” to this entry, go HERE.

Monday, January 28th, 2013 Musings

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