Monday, February 27, 2006

Red [Black!] Letter Weekend


Let's talk student debt. I was luckier than most: thanks to pulp mill nepotism and the need to keep giant piles of woodchips safe, I spent three summers as a Firewatch in the early '90s [see: "Yore; Days Of"]. From May to August I patrolled the chipyard and kept a hairy eyeball out for skiffs of smoke. Get even a small fire going in a great big chip pile, friend, and you have a capital P problem. Mind you, the only fire I ever saw was during a rainstorm, and at the time I was having lunch in the Chip Tower with Ed Adams, who made soup every shift at noon or midnight. And anyway, I wasn't allowed to do anything about a fire: should I come across anything bigger than my steel-toed boot, my instructions were to radio for the fire crew.

They paid $23 an hour and time-and-a-half on Sundays. Luck into a Canada Day shift, and you
could just about treat the whole mill to ice cream. So my undergrad degree was mine, free and clear from the day the chancellor bopped me on the head, and there was always money left over for milkshakes and magazines. And peach coolers, the repulsive drink of choice in 1992. It was wonderful.

But then it was another young snapper's turn to patrol the chipyard and make the big bucks, and off I went to grad school, where, what with one degree and then another, I managed to get in hock with the governments of B.C. and Canada. It wasn't an outrageous amount, but it had five figures before the decimal point, and I'd only ever had a credit card with a $1,000 limit.

When I graduated for the final time in 2003 (so help me god I'll never pay another dime in tuition), the Royal Bank and I owned a sparkling new Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. Which is
not a bad degree to have, out on the job market. It testifies to an ability to communicate and a willingness to suffer. In short order, I had a job that required both.

Right, so long story shortish, I started paying that pup down two years ago this month. When I quit the job at Crazy Ladies, Inc. and went out on my own, I considered slowing the payments down, but then decided that would show too little faith and might jinx the new little biz. This weekend I cut a big slice out of the nest egg, found a bank branch open on a Saturday, and finished it off. What you see above is the receipt for final payment. And a couple of Shakespeare erasers.

What does it all mean?

1. I own that degree.
2. No more putting off other things because "I just want to pay down my loan a bit more." I'm a ways off becoming a real estate baron or adopting an alpaca herd, but now I'm going to dream a little.

To celebrate the dropping off of the check, there were treats. Here you see Paul Auster's latest book, The Brooklyn Follies. If Paul Auster published his grocery lists, I would buy them in hardcover and read them. And probably you'd all get copies for Christmas. In addition: Ritter SPORT, yogurt variety. Big favourite. Why don't more chocolate bars have yogurt filling? And: first sock! This is the doorprize yarn [great typo...wrote "yearn" for yarn: so true!] from the Team Canada Opening Ceremonies party. It will be practice for my Sockapaloooza socks. So far, so good. I'm not having a transcendent knitting experience, but it's pleasant. Turning the heel was satisfying. I'll definitely make two.

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