Between Big Brother running around loose and the Big Banks having their way with us, more and more I feel like I'm living in The Twilight Zone. In the last couple of weeks two very strange pieces of snail mail from American Express arrived at my home. One was addressed to "Grann Rezistans" and the other to "Spirit Guidance Cards." These are not my first and last names, nor are they the names of my business. However, I do know a group of sculptors in Haiti who call themselves Atis Rezistans. And I do have a girlfriend who authored a book called Contact Your Spirit Guides, which comes with a deck of cards called Spirit Guidance Cards. Creepy, right?
And then, like many Americans, I recently went through the process of trying to get a mortgage refinance on a home loan. I won't bore you with the weird, robotic and nonsensical reactions we got from The Lender in regard to average checking account transactions. Neither will I bother you with the shocking amount of documentation that is required of people with very decent income, fantastic credit scores, no debt, zero late payments and excellent property values. Doesn't matter. If you're just a little bit of a risk, sorry, Charlie; you don't get to walk in the door. If you're absolutely no risk, prepare to be abused, dehumanized, debased and grilled on all expenditures, large and small (especially the small stuff) until you want to chop off your own head off and hand it to them on a nickel-plated platter.
The fun doesn't stop there, though. In our case, we had just been approved for a long-coveted business line of credit with the SBA. When time came to sign those documents, our mortgage broker advised that The Lender would view this new funding source for our business as a new debt -- and that it would derail the refi. We had to walk away from the line of credit. Once the refi went through, we resubmitted the business line application, but the SBA said we now had to wait a year to re-apply. Why? No reason. That's how things work in The Twilight Zone.
But that wasn't the coup de grace! As the final condition to reducing our interest rate -- not giving us more money, mind you, just giving us the same loan at a reduced monthly payment (banks make money when they resell your loan) -- they demanded we close a credit card account with a $50,000 credit limit. For the last 12 years we've used this card as a lifeline for our business because no bank would give us a line of credit. Now we have no line of credit and no business credit card.
Banks have arranged it so that you can barely survive this world without using credit cards. (Yes, you can use debit cards. But trust me, if you have a small business that's doing well -- not bad, not great, just well -- you need cash flow.) And after they've got us by the balls, they pull the rug out. Why? No reason needed. In fact, nonsense trumped reason every single step of the way on the hellish Road to Refi in The Twilight Zone.
But hey, our monthly mortgage payment is $800 less than it used to be!
Oh, the irony of relativity.
This episode reminds me of a line that jumped out at me in the book, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi:
"It is amazing how, when all possibilities seem to be taken away from you, the minutest opening can become a great freedom."