There are few things as fun in life as fucking up your credit. Every trip to the mall is like a cocaine-induced episode of Supermarket Sweep—shoes, lipstick, potato clock. Whatever you can grab with your greedy fiend paws. Hurry, before someone tells you it's not free. Spending money you don't have is an injection of adrenaline, a transfusion of tiger's blood, and like every epic party, eventually the lights come on and you're hungry, tired, and surrounded by a bunch of empty beer cans.
For years, having bad credit barely affected my life. I ignored 1-800 numbers, because I'm not an idiot. I believed that my credit history would be miraculously wiped out by a cyber terrorist, because I'm an optimist. Eventually, however, I needed a new car and the only dealer who would sell me one offered me the special poor-person rate of triple the normal cost for a manual-everything Nissan. It was a deal only a fool would take, and I asked him where to sign.
My predatorily inflated auto loan shed light on the shocking fact that there was some correlation between my credit score and my financial well-being, so I tried to fix it. I paid off my Visa. I turned myself into Sallie Mae. Still, there were some old dings on my credit that needed to be disputed, and let's be honest, I didn't get into the bad credit game because I enjoy exerting effort on tedious tasks.
Also, I work a lot. I honestly never had a day to devote to dealing with my credit. Just as soon as I'd resigned myself once again to the fact that I would always have bad credit, I had a realization. No matter how busy I was, there was one thing that I always seemed to be able to squeeze into the calendar: day drinking. What if I could trick myself into fixing my credit by throwing myself a party?
I bought champagne, fancy cake, streamers, helium balloons, and a goddamn money-shaped piñata. I invited some of the most esteemed fuckups I know and told them to arrive in formal wear and ready to better our lives while anesthetized by booze.
In the grand tradition of credit fixing parties, neither of my guests arrived on time. I changed into a sequined Betsey Johnson dress that I'd impulse-bought and never had occasion to wear until this Monday morning, alone in my living room. I popped the bubbly.
These were my tasks:
- Pay my old AT&T bill.
- Ask Sallie Mae to remove my late payments since I was current with them.
- Ask Wells Fargo to remove late payments that occurred after my car was totaled and my insurance didn't pay them right away.
- Report the above to all three major credit bureaus.
It was a simple list, and I knew it would take all day. To motivate myself, I'd decided that after each success, my guests and I would be awarded a treat; the first contestant to complete three tasks would win the best prize $10 at Party City could buy. I started with AT&T and found that it was actually very easy to get ahold of someone there when you are offering to pay them money they assumed they'd never see. Having already checked the first thing off my list, I turned on RuPaul's Drag Race and stepped outside for a victory bowl.
This is when Barbara Gray, one of my best friends and partners in crime, arrived wearing a floor-length sequined gown that showed she meant business.
Barbara set up shop under a "Congrats!" balloon, and got to work on her own list of tasks. We both found ourselves on hold with our respective elusive institutions as an apocalypse-themed episode of Drag Race played out on the television above us. The robot on the phone told me, for 46 minutes straight, that my call would be answered in approximately five minutes. On Drag Race, the "Lip-Sync for Your Life" challenge song was "Toxic," so I hoped this mindless waiting would continue indefinitely, but alas, my call was answered.
I explained my situation to the human-robot at Sallie Mae, who seemed confused. Finally, he confessed that my loan had been bought by a company called Navient. "Should I be talking to Navient then?" I asked him.
"No. They won't be able to view your records."
"How do you know?"
"Because Navient and Sallie Mae are the same company." I lost track of my initial goal and followed him down this rabbit hole.
"I don't understand. If you're the same company…"
"We're not the same company. Sallie Mae created Navient. Navient got your loan, and attached a specific code to it. They paid an administrative forbearance…"
"Code. Code?!" I cackled. "Can you slow down? I'm trying to take notes. Can you start with the code thing again?" It was at this moment that both he and I realized that I was very stoned.
"I have that foot!" Barbara shouted beside me.
She pointed at the screen, where Latrice Royale was holding a fake foot on a plate.
"I have that same foot!" she repeated. It was the first logical thing that I'd heard in a while. I remembered that I was still on the phone. The human-robot continued to explain that they were the only company who could view my records, but that they could not view my records because they were no longer my company. Finally, I got him to promise to put a note in my non-record, and chalked it up as a win.
The doorbell rang. It was a delivery man with a necklace I had forgotten I'd bought. It came in a pretty box with a ribbon and was a delight to open. Impulse buys can be a wonderful investment in your future.
My sister Marlena arrived, looking fabulous in an unworn Betsey Johnson of her own. I poured her some champagne, threw an iPad at her, and told her to "start fixing shit."
"I don't have anything to fix," she protested, and she was right. There is a point at which one can have so much to fix that they have nothing to fix at all.
"You're just giving up then?"
She nodded happily. I should have known from her leopard-print platforms and shawl that she was just here for the champagne and Drag Race. I met Marlena halfway: "Fine. Get high with me while I wait on hold."
After spending an inordinate amount of time on hold with Wells Fargo, I got through to someone who told me that I needed to call a different number. This was enough of a win to commemorate with cake.
Just then, Barbara had a realization. "I fixed three things!" Indeed, she had paid her largest outstanding item, called her bank, and paid this month's student loan. I bestowed upon her the day's biggest honor: a Coors Light baseball cap that had a bottle opener built into the brim. This was the first and only time that Marlena expressed any regret that she had given up.
With the party in full swing, Barbara and I both attempted to log into our annualcreditreport.com accounts to dispute the charges that we had already disputed with the various companies. The site had no "back" button or login, and each time we tried to get back into the site, we had to answer a complicated list of security questions. When we tried to get into the reports we had just opened, a message came up saying that, for privacy reasons, we were not allowed access to our own information… unless we were willing to pay.
I'd spent money on all kinds of useless shit while drunk, so why not add a copy of my credit report to the list? I entered my credit card number and all of my most sensitive information onto a questionable site, where I was able to dispute charges on my Experian report. The logical next step was for all three of us to celebrate by having a go at the money piñata.
We each gleefully bludgeoned the giant hundred-dollar bill, but no matter how hard we swung, none of us were able to conquer big money. Finally, Barbara knocked it to the ground, and we took turns attempting to demolish it. Wailing on the bill was a cathartic experience. We were people, and it was just a thing. We were bigger than it, stronger than it, and we unleashed years of financial frustration on that pathetic, destroyable piece of cardboard until we'd slashed it open and its candy insides trickled out. Barbara noticed two "first place" ribbons that I had stuffed in it.
"So we all get one?"
I looked at my sister. "Well, not all of us."
Marlena shrugged and poured more champagne. Barbara, the victor of the day, went home with her ribbon, her Coors Light hat, and, as a party favor, her finances in order.
Marlena stayed (who else was going to smoke and watch Drag Race with me?) while I called Wells Fargo again. When I finally got ahold of the right person, she told me that my request had to come via fax. Yes. Fax. I asked her several times "Who faxes?" and then wrote the following note before drafting, with one eye open, what would be my faxed request: Credit buruea dispute resultion name addy dob phone number synopsize what I told you.
There were only two things left to do: Contact Equifax and Transunion to dispute items on those reports. I wanted to avoid wasting any more money on this quest to stop wasting money, but when I called Equifax, I had to fork over $40 and my social security number to a stranger in another country again. Je regrette tout.
The operator at Transunion, a man named Desmond, was also outsourced. I spent ten minutes explaining about how the car I'd had through Wells Fargo had been totaled.
There was silence on the other end of the line.
"Hello?!" I demanded, turning more and more into a sloppy version of Liza Minnelli with each sip of champagne.
"What is the total?" Desmond asked.
"Do you know what that means? Total? When a car gets totaled?"
"You wish to make a dispute?" Desmond guessed.
"Yes. Because my car was totaled. And my insurance was… Do you know what insurance is?"
"You wish to make a dispute?" he repeated.
"Yes. I'm, but I'm telling you my dispute. See, insurance is a company you pay, Desmond, and they… pay for your car if you have an accident. My car was damaged. The repair cost was more than the car, and they didn't pay Wells Fargo on time, but it wasn't my fault."
I sputtered. "Yes, just do the thing. Put in the thing that I'm making a dispute. Fine. Whatever."
And with that drunken, defeated resignation, I had officially taken agency in my own life and done everything within my power to fix my credit. It was time for the fete's final reward, a perfect way to cap off a day of excessively imbibing mind-altering substances: Marlena and I would detonate a firework we had recently purchased at a gas station in New Mexico.
Marlena left, thrilled with her goodie bag, despite the fact that she had earned none of it. In, a way, I think she ultimately won the day: She drank the champagne, smoked the pot, and enjoyed all the fruits without burdening herself with any of the labor. I should have at least given her an honorable mention.
I realized I'd spent eight hours doing tedious research and on painfully absurd phone calls on Credit Fixing Day, and it was one of the best Mondays I've ever had. I may not have control over the credit reporting system, or their unfair practices, or even my own ability to control my impulses, but I'll be damned if anyone's going to stop me from having fun while dealing with that sobering reality. This party was such a delight that I would ruin my credit all over again in a heartbeat. Some people look at bad credit as a character flaw, but the way I see it, in the words of the great RuPaul, "Even when I was down, I treated myself like a star and waited for the rest of the world to catch up."
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