“I am going to look at ARC while you are in here, okay?”
“Yes ma’am. This shouldn’t take long.”
I walk across the parking lot and pull on the door. The receptionist is a joyful, eager beaver type. “Where do they find these folks? Is there a Crackhead Central around here that I didn’t know about? They always seem happiest when they are about to put the screws to you!”
“Hiya! What can I do for you?”
“I need a loan ma’am.”
“Okay! You can sit right over there and fill out this totally unnecessary paperwork! Bring it back when you are done, and we will get someone to see you!”
I take the paperwork and turn to go to the cluster of seats next to the big, pane window, when she bursts forth humming the chorus to Staying Alive. Shaking my head in amazement, I walk to the seats and take my pick of the empty chairs. “I hate paperwork!” Somehow, I power through it and walk back to the desk of Ms. Eager Beaver.
“Hi! You’re back!”
“You seem a little nervous. Let me tell you a secret, our rates are cheap! No worries about a thing, okay?”
I force a smile and walk back to the empty chair that I had recently occupied. Sitting down, I notice that there are two men talking in the back of the office. Both have the well-oiled smile of a practiced salesman. They remind me of sharks that are circling weak prey.
“Mr. Freeman, one of our associates will see you now!”
I stand, and Ms. Eager Beaver is bursting at the seams to show me the way to the next person who seeks my financial demise. We walk between the cubicles; each person seems to suffer from a disability of having a telephone stapled to their right ear.
“Hiya Jonathon! This is Larry, he needs a big, scary loan.”
“Hi Larry, take a seat. I am here to help you in any way that I can.”
“So, how much do you need us to loan you?”
“I need ten thousand.”
“Okay. We need to run your credit score.”
I feel like a turkey on Thanksgiving morning. I am just waiting for the axe to fall upon my overburdened neck.
“Good news Larry. We can loan you the ten thousand, and if you need more, we can do that as well. Have you been to CIF yet?”
CIF is Central Issuing Facility; it is where you go to get your gear. When you out process, it is where you return it. It is known as hell to military types. Your paperwork is never updated, and you never seem to have what it they are looking for. It is a waste of money.
“No, not yet.”
“Well, if you find that you need more money, we can loan it to you. Sometimes, it is easier to just pay the money than it is to replace the gear. We will leave your loan open so we can double it up if need be.”
I walk out of the loan office, feeling like I have been shot multiple times, sheer adrenaline forcing me to take the steps needed to exit this horrible place. I pass Eager Beaver’s desk; she is belting out the lyrics to Staying Alive. “God, I hate this woman!” She forces a smile and continues singing. Finally, I walk out the door into the brisk fall air. The van is a familiar sight and it seems like my refuge from the impending storm.