Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cold

This is an e-mail I received from a close friend of mine. I thought it was worth sharing. It's basically a page from his diary, which is why it starts off like a typical day after Thanksgiving. He gave me the OK to publish this entry. All of the names have been changed.

11/23/07
"This is how my day went. I woke up at 3:00AM in order to get to the door buster Black Friday sales starting at 4:00AM. I figured nobody would be that crazy and I would be first. Last year I went to the stores at 1PM after lunch and everything was gone. Good thing I asked them when the doorbusters were gone, and they said within an hour of opening the doors. Traffic was fairly heavy at 4 in the morning. I visited Kohls at 4, Circuit City at 5, Walmart at 8, LOW/Target at 9, and then finished up at the mall. Kohls was very busy, but it wasn't difficult finding a parking spot. Circuit City was jammed packed. It took me 10 minutes to park, an hour to find stuff I wanted, and 1.5 hrs in the checkout line to pay. LOW was not busy at all so I think I made the right decision to take the tax loss of the shares. The mall was insane, but good thing I didn't go to Wrentham Outlets, which opened at midnight, as there were reports of fights over people trying to find a parking spot.

On my way home, I stopped in WFMI in search of the $100 turkey. I didn't want one, I just wanted to see if I could find one. Sure enough, the high end turkeys at the regular stores, Plainville, was the low end at WFMI. There were about three to four brands above that. The WFMI brand turkey that came in a bag filled with brine solution was $80. And the mother of all turkeys, a 24 pound bird at $4.29/pound, brand Heidi's Hens, came to a whopper price tag of $102.96. This compares with my price tag of $4.90 for the turkey I roasted for the Colts/Patriots game. And that was expensive because I bought just the turkey at $0.49/pound which would have been $0.39/pound had I bought $25 of additional items.

I got home from shopping at 1PM and rested a half hour before heading out to do my good Thanksgiving deed. I helped a victim of the subprime collapse. First, some background information. Readers Digest condensed version. Fifteen years ago a woman named Sara married some guy named Joel. They bought a house and had two daughters. Money was always tight. Sara stayed at home to raise the two daughters and hubby was in the flea market business. Pressures mounted and they got divorced. She got the house, full custody and all the flea market crap which was stored in the house. After a couple of years, Sara meets someone new and dates him until he ends up in jail. What did he do to end up in jail? Nothing. Sara's bad daughter, as opposed to the good daughter, accused him of sexually assaulting her. He gets convicted of that which he did not do, so he is out of the picture. The subprime market collapses and Sara can neither refinance nor make the mortgage payments. The bank forecloses on her and orders her out of the house on Halloween. Here's where it gets pretty bad. Sara and good daughter Mellissa had nowhere to go so they stayed in the house in spite of the eviction notice. Nobody talked much about where the bad daughter was, but rumor has it that she is getting treatment somewhere. The oil tank goes unfilled because the oil company won't fill the tank of a foreclosed house. The electric company shuts off the electricity because nobody is supposed to be living there. After a few nights of freezing cold temperatures and no light, Sara leaves to stay with a friend. Meanwhile, the locks are changed and Sara cannot visit the house to feed the two cats and two dogs. The friend's apartment does not permit animals so Sara figured she would just visit the house once a day. Mellissa is upset because she is worried for her pets. She visits the house at night and manages to toss food in through a crack of an open kitchen window. This has been going on for three weeks.

My coworker and friend Tom, whose daughter is a friend of Melissa's, asks me to help move Sara's stuff out of the house. I am told 8 people have volunteered to help. On Saturday, 11/24, everything that is left in the house will be hauled away. I get there and the house looks beautiful from the outside. However, as soon as the front door was opened for us, the stench reminded me of a public urinal that had not been cleaned for ten years. Two would be helpers called to cancel. Another two showed up at the site and then chose not to help once they saw the inside of the house. Imagine three weeks of dogs and cats shitting and urinating all over the place, and junk piled everywhere just like in the Oprah show segment on the junk collection couple. I could have gone home at that instant when I saw it, but I decided to stay and help. It was cold outside. In was cold inside. There were no lights once the sun went down. All I had was my key chain LED light. I knew I'd have to throw away everything I was wearing once done, including my shoes.

We emptied as much as we could before midnight arrived and we all were tired and hungry. Two members were injured so the real move team was just two, my coworker and me. One of the injuries was a sprained arm so that guy was out of the picture. He fell down the stairs while carrying something heavy. It is hard to navigate stairs in total darkness, except for the light from the full moon, and the carpet was so ripped up that you could trip at any time. My coworker took him to the hospital. Sara went to see if she could get some flashlights or kerosene lamps. So now it is me and Mellissa moving more furniture and boxes from the house to the front lawn to be loaded into the truck when Sara returned with light. Mellissa loses her balance while carrying this six foot tall wooden scare crow and falls, breaking a large mirror and getting glass stuck in her ass. It is so bad that she was bleeding through her jeans. She is in agony and asks me to help and all I can think of is her sister falsely accusing a guy who is now in jail. But it is clear that she needs help so I use my little light to find towels, rubbing alcohol, etc. I had to go into lawyer mode for a minute and asked her to confirm that she requested help, that this does not constitute harassment and that we would tell her mother exactly what happened as soon as she returned. She agreed. There was no light in the house so I turned on my car and in the beam of my xenon headlights, I administered first aid to this young woman's ass. I may not be a doctor, but I did okay, and I'm sure this was easier than if I had been called upon to deliver a baby.

After we finished up, we all went back to my coworker's house for a nice turkey leftover dinner with all the fixin's. Sara said the bank's trash hauling company will be emptying the house starting at 10:00AM, so as a big thank you, we could have anything we wanted. Since I'd say we only removed about 20% of the stuff in the house, there was a lot left. She left behind some decent stuff, a TV, two computers, a piano. Of course, there was no way we could have moved the piano. But most of the stuff was flea market stuff she got from her hubby in the divorce. I told her she could have a huge yard sale, but she thought that was just too much both physically and emotionally.

This experience reaffirms my longstanding belief that if you have a bad day there's always someone who is having a worse day. Capitalism works at the top but the consequences are the ones who get stuck on the bottom. Sometimes there are no safety nets and you can become homeless in a second. The government does little to help the bottom and the middle's standard of living just keeps getting worse. I asked Sara about the bank who is sticking it to her without any regard for the human side of business, if there is such a thing. She told me the name of the mortgage company. I checked them out on the web and they just happen to be one of the largest residential mortgage companies in the country. Never judge a website by its homepage. I saw the reality of what they will do if a customer is unable to pay the mortgage. And finally, if I had been the market to buy foreclosed homes because the price was just too compelling, and I bought this house, the moment I stepped inside I would have vomited, dropped to my knees and screamed."

I'll be back to MY regular posts tomorrow. Have a wonderful Wednesday.


Peace

5 comments:

Anne said...

Soon as I saw Wrenthem Outlets, I knew exactly where this story was taking place. Your friend was very kind to do everything he did, and he's absolutely correct that there is always someone worse off than you. I hope Sara and Melissa realize that too. They are very fortunate to have friends willing to help them through the rough times.

And once again I'm drawing a blank on the song. Dangit.

Backofpack said...

Your friend is a wonderful person. And that is a scary story.

Evelyne said...

I kept thinking, 'this can't be real'. Wow, how nice of him to help even though it was deplorable conditions. We have a nasty mortgage company too and they've tried to foreclose on us a couple of times. But hubby hired lawyers to take care of it and they do a pretty good job. I hope things start to look up for Sara and Michelle.

chantal2bfit said...

What a nice friend you have! Hope things start looking up for Sara and Melissa!

Irene said...

Anne,
My friend is a multi-faceted person. He is a great guy.

Michelle,
It is scary. I couldn't imagine, but that kind of thing happens all the time. He is a very good friend, indeed.

Evelyne,
I sort of understand the legal side of this whole situation, but it's sad that once they throw you out, you're left to your own defenses. Some sort of counseling or help should be an option. I was glad to know my friend did help.

Chantal,
As I've said before, he is a really good guy. There is always hope.