I had entered into this verbal, in cash, installment plan with the repairer of my house because the cost of taking out a home equity loan or line of credit with either of my commercial banks or my local credit union was not advantageous. That was when I did not dislike the man as much as I have come to do, and before he started to press me for larger installments than what we had originally agreed upon.

I have been worried about this, economizing as much as possible so as to pay him off as quickly as possible. I have been irritated as well that the arrangement means having to meet him each month to pay him. Today I contacted a community bank here and also my credit union in another state. Both turn out to offer loans at advantageous rates. I will be paying this man off within the next few days, and then paying the bank in easy payments, almost interest free. It is amazing how different I feel already — how calm and how powerful.


I am still afraid I was too cruel to this man. Had I been feeling less corralled, I might have defended myself against him in a kinder manner. It should, however, be telling that I think of these events in terms of defending myself against him.


1- Go to community banks and credit unions, and really shop around. If one credit union does not have the product you seek, try another. It really feels different to work with a good credit union or a small bank than it does to work with one of the big conglomerates. It feels so different, in fact, that it is like being another person.

2- Financial stress really is stressful, even if you as a person take a comparatively relaxed attitude towards it. This is why universities should stop trying to nickel and dime their employees to death — stress reduces productivity. In fact, the credit union I am working with corresponds to the university which, of those I have worked for, least nickels and dimes its employees to death.

3– That house repairer really was like an abusive spouse to have around, and was now about to function somewhat like an abusive pimp. (You know — I work and then deliver him money, and he leans on me for more cash while looking and speaking in too familiar a way.)


But my mind is so much clearer now, and I feel so much more like an adult and so much less like a prisoner, and this is the combined effect of not having to deal with either a predatory lender or a predatory painter, any more. And it seems to me that I have spent a great deal of my time in academic jobs, in the power of some sort of predator, and that is why I do not relate when people say there is so much “freedom” in academia.

Note to those who say, “I know how to evade predators at my job!”: Ah yes, I was young once, and I said this sentence because it had been true so far, at the levels at which I was working then. I was white once, too; I think I was even a man once.

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5 Responses to Power

  1. I so know what you mean. It is too easy to find oneself in this kind of a situation if the other person is too pushy and you react badly to pushiness because it reminds you of painful situations from the past. I had a neighbor like that who wanted me to pay for repairs to his apartment because, apparently, I somehow caused them (which wasn’t humanly possible.) Brrr, I still shiver when I remember that horrible situation.

  2. Z says:

    Glad I’m not the only one. It is my hope to become more impervious to this kind of thing.

  3. Stringer Bell says:

    Glad you fixed this, Z. I can relate to this. In my case, it was because I was new to this country, therefore too eager to be accepted in this society. That caused me a lot of pain because I would never question unreasonable behavior and would draw back in the face of harassment, both on the professional end (school administrators) and personal (roommates, girlfriends).

    Funny, the thing that helped me most in changing this personality trait was – and I’m not kidding – poker. What I’ve learned is: you cannot win by submitting (calling/folding), the only way to win is by being aggressive yourself. That’s when people give you what is yours in the first place: respect.

    I’ve made a decent chunk of money playing this game but I’d be happy if I didn’t win one single cent. It’s unbelievable how often one has to negotiate in their every day life and I’m happy that I almost never get exploited, at least not on a personal level.

  4. Z says:

    You know, I consider myself a foreigner here, trying to get used to things, and that is why I permit this kind of situation to exist, as you did. I will go on strike against this.

  5. Z says:

    Also, re poker and money – if I start giving tips to assistant professors, one will be to get friendly with your credit union or if yours isn’t great, a community bank. I did not get hip to this because our credit unions here are not as wonderful as some. But a good credit union or community bank (we have good ones of those) can liberate you and help you feel like, and be, an adult; the feeling of power over your life will increase massively.

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