letters and counting!
Dear Mr. Linville: May I call you Jud? I have a true, horribly true, story to share with you. (Warning: Please do not eat while reading this.) I was cast in a play during my sophomore year in college in which I played a preacher. One day was a matinee followed shortly thereafter by an evening performance. Time was limited between the two shows, so I ran to my favorite nearby Mexican restaurant and wolfed down a burrito. Just prior to taking the stage for my three-minute monologue, my bowels rumbled with considerable fury. I’ll leave it to your imagination to fill in the details, but needless to say, I didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. (There’s a cruel life-imitating-art thread here too, as the character I was portraying suffered from Mexican food-induced irritable bowel syndrome, preventing him from delivering a eulogy for a grieving family.) But the show must go on; I cleaned up the best I could in the limited time frame. Prior to taking the stage, I sucked up my pride and apologized to a group of my fellow actors who were to follow me out on the stage for my monologue. I knew the smell would be unavoidable, but I simply and politely requested their forgiveness. This was perhaps the most embarrassing episode of my life, and I suspect that walking out in a theater full of people, wearing soiled pants and delivering a three-minute monologue would be for most people. But I came out of it better: I’m more humble (as I type proudly) and I don’t take myself too seriously anymore. But recently, I’ve formulated another interpretation of this story…prepare all you want, sometimes the best laid plans are foiled by outside forces, and with a bit of inner grace and the forgiveness of others, you can go on. You see, I applied for a credit card with your organization while still a college student. Originally, I believe it was a $1500 credit limit at about 16% interest, and now is $8700 limit at 23% interest. (My interest rate increased despite making all payments on time.) I had not missed a payment until this past June, when I had no choice due to a cross-country move, the birth of my first child, and temporary unemployment as a result of the move. I am presently gainfully employed, and I am working hard and loving it, but the income can only barely cover my family of three, much less the money needed to pay down past debts. My experience with Citi has been one in which the organization isn’t too understanding or forgiving or flexible in working with folks to fairly and affordably repay their debt. You’ve worked hard and gotten very far. I sincerely congratulate you on your success, but the formula hard work=success that applies to you does not necessarily apply to me and most of my peers. We work hard and get nowhere, usually (but not always) due to no fault of our own, as if spinning our wheels in place. We signed implicit social contracts that college was a good thing, college loans would be manageable in pursuit of that, and that credit cards were a tool to provide some liquidity and help create wealth for card holders, not just card issuers. In recent years, I’ve found that those assumptions are no longer part of the contract. Briefly, I have (quite accidentally) financially soiled myself. So I have two requests of this letter: (1) Please affirm my faith that corporations and the people who run them aren’t heartless sociopaths by forgiving the balance of my credit card debt (just as Citi was forgiven by taxpayers for overextending itself three years ago), and (2) Please share with me your story, what’s made you successful, and any ideas you have for folks in as wildly differing financial situations as we are to work together and build a stronger nation. I patiently await your reply. A Citi credit card did not provide the liquidity I expected to help me create true wealth; but forgiveness of that same debt can. If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Have a wonderful day.