Credit Rating - AN ARTSY JOURNEY #29
A nervous storm brewed in my stomach after the sudden death of the 1984 Chevette. I had to have a new car before the Chicago wholesale art show at McCormick Place that was coming up quickly.
But going to the car dealership for me was like going to the dentist. I had to trust their opinion because I knew nothing about the specifics. At least the dentist flashed an x-ray that represented decay. The used car salesman simply flashed a smile.
Cautiously, I eyed the car salesman’s expansive smile, noticing his slick-smooth hair matched his slick-smooth style. He rattled off mechanical buzz words and oozed engine jargon. My ears didn’t perk up until I heard the word: warranty.
I talked a good game with him, letting my knees knock in private under my pant legs. Thinking of my sons and the art I needed to haul, I narrowed it down to a mini-van.
When I asked about cargo room he embellished, “This beauty comes with the whole shebang! It has two back-seat benches so there’s plenty of room for extra passengers.”
I looked at the massive and cumbersome seats that secured three people each.
“How do you remove the seats for an empty cargo area?” I asked.
“Simple. Very simple,” he explained, reaching for a lever on the floor. He gave it a crank. It looked like a spring-loaded coil that released a latch to disengage the seat, but nothing happened. “We can have a mechanic take a look at that for you. Easy-peazy.” He beamed his game-show host smile, again.
This was the era of pre-stow-and-go seating options. The only way to make room for cargo was to heft the beastly bench seats out of the van . . . and store the two mammoth pieces. Where would I find room to stash the heavy monstrosities? Already my friend Jennifer was storing a bed, dinning set, and living room furniture. I gawked at the benches once more. Each one was taller, wider, and weighed more than I did.
Then I remembered my landlord’s upstairs tenant, Nora Andersen, had a side porch access that she didn’t use. Maybe I could barter a painting for some space. I said another silent prayer and hoped that the angel I needed more than once was still nearby.
“Okay,” I said to the salesman. “I’m ready to sign on the dotted line.”
But it wasn’t that easy. Even with a substantial down payment, I had to go through a credit check with the financial officer. The salesman led me to a windowless office.
Behind a metal desk sat a husky man. I sat down in a hard plastic chair. His broad nose was buried in the stack of forms the salesman had given him. He looked up at me as he peered over his half-rimmed glasses.
“So you’re self-employed,” he said, shuffling the papers with his meaty hands.“Without a steady paycheck, you don’t fit into any category on my chart.This will take a while.”
I remained poker-faced and sat up straighter in my chair even though I wanted to slink to the floor. Part of my strategy was to borrow a small sum to establish a credit rating. I was in my mid-thirties and I had never applied for anything more than a library card on my own. Previous house mortgages, cars, and so on were all joint applications.
As his dark narrow eyes drilled at me, I realized my net worth was a rusted out Chevette and my tenacity. I was putting 70% down. If needed, I had another thousand dollars in the bank I could use toward the car.
I pressed on. “Should I wait or would you like to call me with an answer?”
His gaze became so intense it took my breath away. Then I realized if he said no, there would be another dealership. There would be another mini-van. I’d try again with that extra thousand added to my deposit with someone who appreciated me. We agreed I’d leave and wait for his call.
He called me within the hour and I had my first coupon-book. Faithfully I tore off a payment voucher each month, often times two at time. I had the start of good credit rating.
Early on while living alone, I learned I had to ask for help if I was going to survive. Many people in Bismarck helped me, and Nora, the upstairs tenant, was no different. Not only did she let me store the unwieldy bench seats, she helped me lug the beasts.
Friendships like Nora’s pushed me to face the next challenge.
And it seemed there was always a next challenge.