Somebody is out to get you
Growing Up to be a Kid
There is something out to get me. There is something out to get me and bring me down like a sack of gold-plated bricks, spinning me on a downward spiral into poop. I will tell you what this thing is, because it is most likely trying to bring you down as well.
It is my credit card.
You know, last year, I had to write a fairytale for one of my classes, and I wrote it about a "princess" (that would be me) and an "evil being" (that would be my credit card). At the time it was utter and complete fiction, but much like school election scandals of last year somewhat foreshadowed the Presidential election of this year, I guess I should have known better. Like many, I should have known better than to trust a flimsy piece of plastic.
Like many, I have absolutely no idea how I really got my own credit card. My parents had been warding off the telemarketers from me for years until one day I made the mistake of 1. answering the phone, and 2. not telling them no. I was dead, and kept the smooth talker on the line for more than 2.5 seconds. Within six minutes I had my own personal Visa coming to me in two to three weeks but here was my number now in case I wanted to activate it right away — you know, do a little catalogue shopping or something.
I remember telling my mother in a hazy daze that I think I had just gotten a credit card, something I had tried to avoid for as long as possible. I figured that if I could spend a year abroad, and one solid month of that year traveling in countries where I didn't even know the obscene words, without a credit card, I could make it longer. Maybe all through college. Apparently not. I got sucked in.
My mother looked at me and said simply, "Hey, it's not my problem." (She's very supportive, my mother.) That was the thing — I knew if I got a credit card, it was my own personal responsibility. The parental units would have no part of it. Hence, it was my own personal responsibility to max out my card. Hence, it is my own personal responsibility to not tell my parents, because they would flip.
I was really good for a long time. I'm serious. Don't look down your nose at me, because I know many of you out there who probably have done the same thing. I got the card, and I used it only once in awhile, but kept it under strict "for emergency use only" lock and key. For that matter, I should have been keeping it in the trunk of my car with my jumper cables or something.
After awhile, though, my addiction to gym shoes became an emergency, and now I can run safely and comfortably until the year 2056. And after awhile, the 10 percent student discount at Borders became and emergency too, even though I don't have time to read the books I've bought because I have 14 other books to read for class, but don't worry because I put those on my credit card too.
It is all my own fault, and I realize this. I am just hoping that someone will learn from this and not do the same thing I did. Because really, it does throw you on a downward spiral if you are not careful. I was reading (no, not in a book that I bought from Borders) that the average American family has $7,000 worth of credit card debt. Thankfully, that is a hell of a lot more than I have, so I guess, in this case, it is OK to call me below average.
Don't get me wrong, the idea of buy now, pay later is one of the best invented. The matter of not having the pay later part is what gets us into trouble. I'm convinced that the people behind these master plans of MasterCard, these Vikings of Visa and all the rest, are like some great and powerful Oz, preying on college kids, promising them low interest rates, no annual fee, blah de blah de blah. Their lackey telemarketers waiting, hoping that the young man or woman on the other end will be too confused to realize that they've just promised their firstborn to MBNA or Citibank. It is a conspiracy that they are trying to bring us down, desperately trying to ruin our credit history before we can even get up. Before we can get off-campus, for God's sake.
This sad display of power does not seem to concern those in the behind the scenes aspect of this seemingly lucrative credit business, however. Why should it? For every month you don't pay off in full, they get to slather on another 17 percent interest fee! Well, guess what, kids? I am really not that interested in you or your fees. I'm sure there is someone out there who is, but feel the pain when I finally pay this puppy off, taking charge of my charge card. I have even entertained the prospect of cutting the plastic in two, but seriously, what if there is an emergency?
Molly Strzelecki is a senior writing major. She can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears every other Tuesday.
The views expressed in this column are those of the authors and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Tuesday, April 24, 2001