Working in Car Loans: The New Black

O, Stop Sign, I wish you luck.

Miles run today: 0

Words written in my novel so far: 34,955

Stop signs hit down the road: 2

I know you’ve all been sitting on the edge of your computer chairs waiting to hear about our crazy stop sign. It was hit the first day it was installed… in the center of the street. The second day, a new stop sign appeared, looking not much different than the first. No lie… within hours, it was twisted and mangled… but still standing (a slight improvement?). Stay tuned for the next installment of The Stop Sign Turns.

And now… more riveting stories from my early work days.

I’m telling you, people, working in the retail car loans division at a bank is sexy. Scintillating. I mean… wow.

The summer after my first year in college, my dad and I carpooled into the Big, Bad World of Downtown for my riveting job in the retail loans department.

By that, I mean that I sat in the front seat of the car like a blob and tried not to enjoy “All Things Considered” and what might have been going on in Bosnia Herzegovina. It was all very confusing at such an early hour of the morning.

I was exciting company for my dad.

We parked in a nondescript lot that kept our car safe for that summer. (Later on, it was the same lot where Dad walked out and… voila! No more car. But that’s a story for another day.)

The retail loans division consisted of three corridors of cubicles and a mostly female cast who used dark humor to get past the fact that the DMV never answered the phone. Like, for hours.

I was assigned a woman who had the cutest tinkle of a laugh and managed to make filing car loans and sitting on hold seem fun. Well, manageable.

The retail loans interns consisted of me, Eric, and this other guy whose name escapes me. We’ll call him Ron.

All naive college students, Eric, Ron and I were Master Filers and Getters of Anything That Needed to Be Gotten. We hovered around peoples’ file cabinets and invaded their space.

Ron was a nerdy fellow who wore bowties and had a penchant for country music. He did responsible things like packing his lunch to save money and sitting in the windowless break/file room to eat said lunch.

Eric was a tall, blond, gorgeous guy. God made him well and took care with the details. His hair glinted in the sunshine and curled up at the ears when it started to grow out.

Eric came from Old Money. He wore it with a Gatsby-era nonchalance, like if he dipped his sleeve in ketchup, there were one hundred more where that custom button-down came from. His voice had a lazy quality about it, as if he didn’t have the energy to enunciate. Somehow, it worked.

I learned a lesson from Eric that summer: a boy could be divine to look at, but I felt absolutely no sexual chemistry when I was with him. It was a weird and dispiriting lesson, and one from which I have never totally recovered.

He had a girlfriend named something predictably preppy like Pinky or Mary Kate, and she most likely wore argyle in the winter, linen in the summer.

The best part of the day for Eric and me was LUNCH.

We got to leave the building, most days, and walk over to meet my friend who was working at another bank for the summer.

I’m sure we ate at other places, but KFC was the one I remember. It had a TV, and it was always playing the same soap opera, something like, “As the World Turns.”

The first time we ate there, my friend and I realized that Eric was an enigma: he loved “As the World Turns.”

“That Crystal… she is always scheming,” he would say, shaking his head.

Eric became like a pet: we would bring him to KFC to hear what he might say about the ever-shifting world of soap operas. Sometimes, when he wasn’t there, we kind of missed him.

When it was pouring rain or I had run out of money, the days felt endless. One day, on a long haul between lunch and quitting time, I found the carbon copy for my high school crush’s Jeep. I held in it my hands and read all of the numbers, the details, the riveting history laid bare for me. And then I put it in the file. That was the most exciting thing that ever happened. Really.

My retail loans mentor would dial the DMV and sit back in her chair. She would call to the woman at the next desk, “How’s it going over there?”

And the woman would say, “Who’s that on the phone?” As if they all weren’t waiting for the same lines to open up.

“It’s my layaway,” my mentor would laugh. All married and trapped in loveless jobs, they invented torrid affairs on the other end of the line.

“Is he meeting you tonight?” another one would yell.

“It’s gonna be good, honey,” my mentor would say, rocking back and forth in her desk chair.

I never did find out if any of their layaways were for real, but I ended up rooting for them. Just once, I wanted my mentor to end up with a bouquet of roses on her desk from an admirer.

It was a summer of pantyhose and high heels and filing and cubicles.

I went back to school that fall and deleted “Business Major” from my plans.

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25 thoughts on “Working in Car Loans: The New Black

  1. Melissa says:

    Ha! We joke around about Raul the “pool boy.” The hubs wonders why he has to pay a pool boy when we don’t have a pool…wink. I really can’t see you as a business major. You’re not a wild one, but that is way too structured for you…smart move. Let me know how sign # 3 works out.

  2. Andria says:

    Anne-
    I look back on those days of summer or part time jobs fondly. I had many of them, through high school, college, and as a beginning teacher, always because I needed the money. I worked at a newspaper, was a waitress, a cook, worked at the post office, worked retail, worked at the park in recreation and at a golf course. None of them were jobs that I wanted to do forever, but I met many wonderful, interesting, hard working people, and learned many life lessons.

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    Hmmm, maybe cleaning restaurant toilets wasn’t such a bad gig after all…

    “he didn’t have the energy to enunciate.”–I loved that line. Sums up most teenage boys I’ve met. 🙂

  4. Bernie Brown says:

    Bo-ring! Your job, not your blog. I like soap opera guy. I think he should appear in your fiction.

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    At first I thought there was a reason why you remembered Eric’s name but not Ron’s. 😉 But then you said there was no tension and he likes soaps. Hmm… The mind speculates…. 😉

  6. David Gentry says:

    This one is a laugh-out-loud! The part about Bosnia Herzegovina. I bet you had to look up the spelling on that one.

  7. Amy Mak says:

    God made him well and took care with the details…great line. Sounds like it came from a good novel! Yes, those jobs are tedious – I’ve had several but not the energy to write about them 🙂

  8. 4amWriter says:

    Wow, what a job. This would make for a good comedic novel. you have quite the eclectic cast of characters. I really liked your description of Eric. He sounds like a couple of guys I once knew in prep school. Did he wear Izod polos with the collar up? 😉

  9. robincoyle says:

    My first job was at a machine shop. I was the only female other than the owner’s large wife. They guys at the shop were a scary looking lot . . . especially “Scooter,” a Hell’s Angels type. Turns out, he was a pussycat. Called me ma’am (I was 18), gave me a card on my birthday, opened doors for me . . .

  10. Ravena Guron says:

    Still haven’t had a job yet 🙂 Still, that job sounds more exciting than doing nothing for an entire summer. The people in this sounds so interesting, especially Eric, but for some reason it was Ron that I noticed. He packed his own lunch and sat in the windowless filing room… that sounded like me when I went on my work experience. All my friends were out at McDonalds or KFC and I sat on my own in the office with a bunch of squashed sandwiches. Saved myself a fortune though 😀

  11. Good move. I have yet to meet a truly happy business major.

    And, hey, what a coincidence! You and I ran the same number of miles today!

  12. Chris Edgar says:

    Oh geez, that reminds me of my first internship in the high-powered, fast-paced business world, which was characterized by being referred to as “what’s your name,” being told that making one call every thirty seconds wasn’t fast enough to meet the quota, and showing up in otherwise prohibited shorts because the A/C failed.

    • annewoodman says:

      That sounds very stressful. I had a failed job interview one time for a sales position where they asked me, “Does it bother you when you get rejected?” And I said, “Sure. Doesn’t it bother everyone?” I didn’t get that job.

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