I fidgeted as I sat under the suspicious stare of the bank vice-president. I was only 24 years old and still believed that the world was mine to conquer, so I shrugged off the awkward feeling and set about to convince the keeper-of-the-treasury that my request was worth considering. We wanted to buy a second car and needed less than a thousand dollars to make the purchase. The problem was that the car was well over the limitation for age which the bank had set for car loans. Put plainly, the 13-year old car couldn’t be financed. I was aware of the restraint before I took my seat in the loan office, but I was prepared. I had a sure-fire, can’t-miss offer to make the bank, an offer on which I was sure they would be happy to take me up.
After the scornful start to the interview however, I wasn’t sure. I think it may have had something to do with my haircut…well, the lack thereof would be more to the point. I was at a time in my young life when I believed that what a person looked like should have no bearing on his worth as a human being. I still think that, but I understand that the packaging presents an image to those who must have some standard by which to determine the trust-worthiness or stability of their investments. This is still true today, just as it was way back then. My mom would say it like this, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” In other words, sometimes our individuality takes a backseat to expediency. When I was young though, you couldn’t tell me anything, so the nearly shoulder-length hair was proudly in evidence. Of course, I was new in town and had wooed and won one of the finest young ladies here, so there might have been a lingering resentment over that too. Regardless, I was fighting an uphill battle at this point, so I pulled out my offer, which I knew he couldn’t refuse.
“You’ll take collateral, won’t you?” I asked. “Of course, if you have something of value to put up, we’ll consider it,” came the doubtful answer. I knew I had him! “I have a six-month old Conn French Horn, worth fifteen hundred dollars. It’s a Conn 8D, one of the top horns made today.” It was over! Now he had to give me the loan!
Oh, it was over all right! The arrogant young executive laughed in my face. “There’s no tin horn in the world worth fifteen hundred dollars!” he exclaimed. “That’s not collateral. Your request is denied.” I walked out of that bank, disappointed and angry, never to do business with them again.
I have repeated that story more than a time or two over the last twenty years, dwelling on the man’s ignorance and conceit, as I concluded my story by telling of going to a competing bank in town and being given a loan on only my signature, with no collateral asked for. I’ve paid many thousands of dollars in interest personally and professionally in the intervening time, money which the other bank could have added to their coffers if the loan officer had been willing to do a little research. Now, I’m not saying that they have missed me at all, but I’d like to think that I’ve had the last laugh. It’s my little illusion, so don’t spoil it for me, okay?
In fairness, I have made my share of similar missteps, in particular one a couple of years ago, when a fellow music retailer walked into my shop with a battered guitar case in his hand. He asked me if I would sell the guitar for him on Ebay. I opened the case and laughed. “A Gibson Les Paul Junior! That guitar never saw the day it was worth three hundred dollars.” He looked at me in surprise and said, “I think you may be a little mistaken, Paul. They’re going for a good bit more than that.” I laughed a while longer and agreed to sell the instrument for whatever the bids came in at, promising him the balance after I took a predetermined commission. I took pictures and started the auction, convinced that the pittance the 3/4-size student guitar would bring wouldn’t pay for my time to prepare the sale. Nevertheless, he was a friend, so I dutifully fulfilled my promise to him.
Seven days later, I owed the man over four thousand dollars! The market was significantly stronger for that little student guitar than I had ever considered. I swallowed my pride and called him to give him the good news and had a little side-dish of crow. As I did, my mind drifted back to that day in the bank and I realized that anyone can make uneducated decisions. It’s especially nice when redemption is also an option, through no merit of your own. Because of changes over the years, it’s no longer a possibility, but in retrospect, I might even have given that bank vice-president a second chance, realizing my own propensity for ignorant choices.
Oh, I sold that French Horn a couple of years ago, over 25 years after my rejection in the bank. Selling price for the “tin horn”? Fifteen hundred dollars. It’s a small comfort, but it is nice to know that I’m not always wrong…
“I have been Foolish and Deluded,” said he, “and I am a Bear of no Brain at All.”
“In the process of trial and error, our failed attempts are meant to destroy arrogance and provoke humility.”
(Jin Kwon~South Korean martial arts master)