In a few days I turn 45. I don’t have any strong feelings about this birthday, one way or another. As my maternal grandfather, who lived past 90, was fond of saying when his birthday rolled around every February 14, “It beats the alternative.” Point taken, Cyril Valentine. (I’m not joking – that was the man’s name). So yesterday, when the phone rang, I was neither surprised nor disheartened to see it was my bank on the other end, and not a friend calling to arrange a birthday pint or two. I had been half-expecting the bank to call. The bank calls quite regularly, and always about the same niggling thing. The day had come and gone when my student loan payment was due.
I admit it. I have a problem paying my student loan on time, where I have no trouble at all paying Roger’s a ridiculous sum for the privilege of internet and TV service every month, or any other annoying bill that happens my way every 30 days. But the student loan payment sticks in my craw. It’s simple. I can’t believe that at my age, I still have to make student loan payments. That’s it, in a nutshell. It just plain pisses me off. So every second month or so, I play this silly game with the bank. They call, and I ignore the call until they start calling early in the morning. That’s when Kim, awakened by the phone in the wee hours, insists I take the next call. So I do. And the usual blah blah blah …. student loan …. blah blah blah ….. yes I’ll pay it today …. blah blah blah …. any reason why you were late with your payment? It is at this point in the conversation that I have been known to pause, and consider my answer.
Once, I told them that as a freelance writer, I had no choice but to take the same tack with my creditors that so many magazines do when it comes to paying their writers – paying them whenever the hell they felt like it, or, up to a year after invoicing, as is the case with some magazines. That didn’t go over too well. Yesterday, I just sighed, and was about to say, “no special reason,” when it occurred to me that we had to be nearing the end of this charade. “Hey,” I said instead, “I must be getting close to paying this thing off.”
I should bloody well hope so. It’s been hanging over me since journalism school at Ryerson, and I graduated way back in 1999. It was more than a little galling when, three years ago, I started teaching at the same university, and still had student loan payments to make. The bank really had a hard time with me that year. Some of you must be wondering how this could have happened, particularly those of you who place some fiscal value on my two undergraduate degrees, the latest one being the cause of this ongoing student loan fiasco. What can I tell you? No one goes into writing professionally for the money, although those of us who do go into writing professionally should probably also book some professional couch time. Not that many of us can afford it. Last night I was flipping the channels and came across this financial nugget – the starting salary for pro hockey players in Canada is 700 – 800 grand, and the average salary is 1.3 million, with some players earning 7 or 8 million. It seems to me they can afford any after-care required of concussions suffered as a result of beating the crap out of each other in front of their adoring fans, of which I am clearly not one. But, back to my chosen impoverished profession and the student loan guy on the other end of the phone.
He tapped a few keys and said, “You’re right.” I only had $159.51 left to be considered student loan free. Oh goody. No more annoying phone calls. I thanked him, promising to pay the full amount owed that day. And it wasn’t a lie. I did it. Just in time to be going back to school again. This time, I hope to avoid student loans given my scholarship, income from being a GA, teaching one Ryerson class in both the fall and winter terms, and anything else I have the time to wrangle, work-wise, while I’m hitting the books. It will also be nice to turn 45 without having a student loan. Then I read this little charmer in the Star this morning: Why people face an increased risk of dying on their birthday.
Happy birthday to me.