I noticed a large group of people in front of the university book store at the beginning of the semester and thought, “Wow, everybody must be buying their course books today. The line-up is out the door.”
But after crossing the street to the entrance I realized the congestion was not spilling out from the store, but in fact was a queue to a Bank of Montreal kiosk, set up on the sidewalk, where two sales people were busily helping students fill out applications for a credit card.
The scene sparked a memory and I realized that this is exactly what my own daughter must have done almost 20 years ago.
She was barely 18 years old at the time, attending UNB in Saint John, and was the typical starving student. Although she was only about an hour’s drive from home for her it was a life time away. She was on her own, in another city, beginning her new life as an actual adult.
Of course things were tight, extremely tight, and although she had her tuition and books covered, she still had to juggle room and board on her part-time income.
So, why not? Fill out a few papers, get a nice sign-up gift, and voila, there was instant relief for those “emergency” incidentals. And the best part would be never having to go to Mommy and Daddy begging for a hand out.
The first I heard of it was almost four years later, which meant it took a while for things to get out of hand. It was a Sunday. Home for the weekend, she answered the phone in the rec room and that’s where I found her quietly crying a short time later.
The stress was too much, she said, not just from the pressures of her graduating year, but now, somehow, the credit card people had gotten both her work number and our home number and were calling day and night, harassing her for money she couldn’t pay.
My first instinct, naturally, was to swoop in and fix the problem – but only after a stern lecture about the proper handling of money, the very one she had been trying to avoid by getting the credit card in the first place.
I also considered calling the bank that initially dispensed the credit to let them know that soliciting young vulnerable people was downright unethical and if they did not instruct whatever collection agency was working on their behalf to cease and desist immediately, their chances of recouping lost funds would be about the same as the amount of money they would ultimately get back – zero.
I didn’t. And seriously, that was probably harder for me than her.
Instead, like the two adults that we both now were, we calmly discussed what she had to do to rectify the situation, the calls she had to make, the arrangements she had to set up and the repayment amount she could reasonably handle.
And then we moved on.
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