In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at booklocker.com or amazon.com.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find more columns by Palmer here.
Steamboat Springs I hate this economy.
I hate thinking about money, worrying about money and talking about money.
I hate not taking vacations, looking at prices at the grocery store and checking my bank balance on a daily basis. I hate that, after living here for 19 years, I picked the worst possible time to sell a piece of real estate.
When I first listed my condo for sale, 18 months ago, I was an optimistic, enthusiastic seller. I cleaned frantically in anticipation of showings, bought fresh flowers and left homemade cookies on the table. I fantasized about buying furniture for the new place and daydreamed about parking my car inside a garage.
At that time, the real estate market was booming. Mortgages were easy to get, and my boyfriend and I took advantage of the easy credit and bought another property together. We moved with complete confidence that my condo would be sold in a few weeks. If not, we calculated we had enough financial reserves to last three months and by then, it surely would be gone.
And then, the bubble burst.
I have morphed into what realtors call a "motivated seller." My furniture fantasies have disappeared. I now daydream about a high-paying, full-time job with benefits and eating something besides pasta for dinner. I am in the worst financial shape of my life. This is a hard thing to admit, especially since it's my own darn fault.
After a few months of moping around, I decided I needed to take action. While the government was bailing out companies such as insurance giant AIG, I devised my own financial rescue package. I rented my condo and started reading financial advice in magazines. One article, written by a well-known woman, advised calling my credit card company to ask for a lower interest rate. That seemed easy enough. After entering my 16-digit credit card number, verifying my mother's maiden name, my dog's name, the name of my street and the name of everything in my refrigerator, this is the response I got:
"Miss Paaaaalmer," the syrupy voice said. "There's nothing we can do."
I begged, pleaded, asked to speak to a supervisor, threatened cancellation and still got the same response.
Not one to give up easily, I called a week later and got the same response.
I sold my pop-up camper, made a large payment and still they wouldn't budge.
And still, I kept calling. The more I called, the more intrigued I got with the whole process. It became a game I had to win. I channeled my inner pit bull and kept calling.
Finally, one day I snapped. I lost my patience and said things I'd rather not remember. Every time they said there was nothing they could do, I countered with, "I am not hanging up the phone until you come up with a solution." I said that over and over and over again until they finally agreed to transfer me to the "hardship department."
The hardship department was aptly named. No one there seemed able to fill out the form completely, check the right box or arrive at a decision. When the syrupy voice said: "Miss Paaaaalmer, you need to be more patient," I started to cry.
The next day, they called me back and offered me 0 percent interest until the balance is paid off.
I hope someone else can benefit from my months of obsessive-compulsive behavior. Clearly, I need to get a life. In the meantime, if you have any great pasta recipes, e-mail them to me at email@example.com. I'll need to carb load as I plot Phase 2 of my financial rescue package.