Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thank You, Sir, Sallie Mae I Have Another?

3 years ago, when I was working in a video store and living juuuuuuuuuust above the poverty line, the Sallie Mae Corporation and I engaged in a series of frank exchanges of ideas, often in the wee small hours of the morning. In a nutshell, they felt that I should begin paying off the loans I incurred while earning a Master's Degree at USC, whereas I felt that this money would be better spent on pizza and DVDs. Needless to say, the discussions could get quite lively.

That was June of 2005. I have since improved my financial situation (SOMEWHAT!) and have started to actually pay back the loans. When I get around to it. But it's no longer a crisis.

Yet the blog post I wrote about the situation at that time CONTINUES to get a steady stream of traffic and comments. More comments, in fact, than any other post in the history of Crushed by Inertia, save the one where I wrote about all the dirty movie quotes and the one where I bashed the hell out of Zach Braff.

The post's relative popularity is not so surprising, I guess. Lots of people run into student loan trouble, so the topic is more relatable to more people than, say, discussions of classic Mexican horror films of the '50s. Many people share their own debt nightmares - constant anxiety, threatening phone calls, the walking death of wading through endless red tape and bureaucracy. Some of these people have stories that are seriously chilling and sad. I can't help but feel for them. They were, after all, getting into trouble in the pursuit of an education, not an Xbox or a Humvee or a McMansion.

So that's not a shock. What is surprising to me is how many of the responses to the post are vicious and pointless. Not intended to aid or inform or sympathize or even comment, really.
Some people show up just to lord over others, I suppose. They seek the elation of feeling superior to an anonymous stranger, for a fleeting second, because that anonymous stranger has one problem that they DON'T have.

The VERY FIRST RESPONSE I received, in fact, was cruelty from a stranger:

I suggest you pay them somehow, some way or your future is shot.

Now, at no point in the post did I say that I would never pay off my debts. The whole point of the post was that the company had spent a considerable amount of time and effort threatening me, even though I had no more money to give them.

But beyond that, my future was not SHOT. That is a ludicrous overstatement. Literally millions of Americans have found themselves in debt and managed to survive and press on, to restore their credit and begin building their financial dreams anew. So this person is showing up on my blog and responding to a post meant as humor with an idle threat. "Do as I say or you are ruined!"

2 comments later, another Anonymous person responded to that previous comment thusly:

Why would anyone sign your comment with an anonymous? It's amazing how close that email is to the things that come from Sallie Mae's halitosis breath.

I basically overlooked the observation that my threatening commenter may have been Sallie Mae-affiliated because of the hacky, schoolyard insults strewn throughout the paragraph.

(A brief note to people who rant on the Internet...Many of you seem inclined to emphasize your criticisms of an individual or body by resorting to gross-out humor or obscene insults. This is not an effective rhetorical strategy, however, as it makes you sound like either a junior high bully or, in the case of the person who left the above observation, a mental patient. Cutting, satirical statements should always be based on acute observation, not just taunting language.)

As it turns out, though they lacked eloquence, that Anonymous visitor to my blog may have been correct. I am now of the opinion that a number of the negative comments left on my amusing, mildly chiding Sallie Mae blog post could have been left by either employees of the company or other individuals who have been enlisted or hired to defend her honor on the Internet.

Don't believe me? The next negative comment on that thread came from another Anonymous person:

you people are fucking tards and ruining your credit. trust me i work there.


Maybe you should quit wasting your money on beer and trying to be twenty and actually pay your bills like an adult. maybe you could get another job while you are typing all these blogs. just a suggestion

Am I crazy or is this a hostile response to a blog post by a stranger written in a comically ironic fashion? Bear in mind, the post is clearly dated June of 2005. This comment was left at least 2 years later. Yet this person sounds ANGRY with me for suggesting that I couldn't afford my student loan payments. They degrade my lifestyle, call my immature...everything but actually threatening to beat me up and give me a swirlie.

(Also, pet peeve, people who USE blogs and yet do not know how to USE the word "blog." You type ON a blog, or you BLOG, but you don't type A BLOG. You type A BLOG POST that is then added TO YOUR BLOG. And you can just say "write," Mr. McCain. We're not using typewriters any more.)

So, one explanation is that these people are angry because they work at Sallie Mae, and are told to respond angrily and in a threatening fashion to these kinds of blog posts, so as to scare the author into paying up. Another explanation of such aggressive commenters is that they're pissy Sallie Mae employees who see this kind of crap from people all day...They have become jaded and bitter, and just wish people would stop giving excuses and pay bills like they're supposed to.

I hope it's one of these explanations. I really do. I can understand these scenarios...They make sense to me. I can relate to these people if they fit these profiles.

I just hope that the alternative isn't true. That these are just ANGRY strangers with no dog in this fight one way or the other. They just want to get on their computers at night and YELL and BARK at people who maybe aren't as secure or well-off as they are, who have some obvious flaw like irresponsibility and poverty that could be held up for scorn.

I hope this isn't true...but I suspect that it is. Because of the bullying tone of the responses, the way they remind me of the things assholes in real life just say all the time, because they are assholes.

I hate to break it to you, but you took their money and promised to pay it back. Quit drinking your money away and do what you promised. It's really not rocket science (presumably not what your masters is in). If you loaned money to someone who never paid you back, I guarantee you'd be calling them to ask about it as well.

That's just being an asshole. This person obviously read my post carefully and then proceeded to write the most bilious, mean-spirited response he could devise. For no reason at all. In the hopes of ruining my day. (Too bad he was about 2.5 years late.)

First off, whenever people say "I hate to break it to you..." you know they are full of shit. People who say that always LOVE to break it to you. THAT'S WHY THEY'RE THE ONES BREAKING IT TO YOU! It gets them off, somehow, to tell other people bad news.

Also, this guy can take his guarantee and cram it. Plenty of people over the course of my life have borrowed money from me and never paid me back, and I'm not on the phone threatening and harassing them all the time. And we're talking about money that, proportionally, is much more important to me and my livelihood than my individual loans are to the health of the Sallie Mae Corporation.

(I should note here that I did say in the post that Sallie Mae woke me up when I was hung over. But I also say that I went to a party and got drunk, not that I drank all my money away again because I'm an abusive alcoholic. Who never ever goes to a party and has a few drinks? Because I went to USC a few years ago, I'm not allowed any further vices, ever? In fact, someone who gets drunk at a party is THRIFTY and OPPORTUNISTIC, not fool-hardy and loose with money. That's the person who gets drunk at home.)

These two comments came in today:

count yourself lucky that you got a call on saturday at 10:30 am. They start as early as 8AM on saturdays. So quit your bitching and pay your loan back. YOU borrowed the money!

Again, 3 years too late, so by now I HAVE quit my bitching and started paying my loan back.

But why on Earth does this person care so much about my finances? They don't. They're just an asshole. (Though...note that this person KNOWS what time Sallie Mae starts calling people on Saturdays. Possibly because this is their job? I hope so, for their sake...)

Wow! I find it funny that you people can't pay on your student loans, but you have the time to sit here and type out these comments and you have the money to pay for internet connection? Hmm odd...Why don't you take the money you use for internet connection, put it on your student loans, & go get a job, since you do have all this free time to sit here and bitch because salliemae helped you go to school. OMG what an awful company! They loaned you the money you asked for so you could go to school to better yourself! OMG I would be sooo mad too! You all are so stupid.

At least this one's honest. He or she admits to finding other people's pain "funny." They're not even pretending at trying to help or making an honest suggestion.

(This one doesn't so much sound like a Sallie Mae employee as a Republican. Who goes around when the economy is shedding jobs like a German Shepard on a crushed velour couch and yells at strangers to GO GET A JOB! I even mention in the 2005 post that I HAD A JOB! PLUS IT'S 3 YEARS LATER!)