Sunday, August 21, 2005

Time's up

They are everywhere.

Big friendly letters announce ‘Instant Cash’ or ‘Quick Money!’ A few speak with uncanny insight and understanding: ‘Need help?’ or ‘Take the pressure off.’

The copy for loan shark ads is succinct and effective. The language clear as whistle, and the promise like a lifeline to those drowning. And you have to be drowning to be willing to give up the following information:
A photocopy of your bank passbook/statement.
Copies of your past two months’ pay slips.
A photocopy of your ID or driver’s license.

You have to be driven to desperation to give up such private information for sums as low as 300 bucks.

Interest rates are in the order of 40-50%, usually calculated on a weekly basis.
A loan of a thousand becomes 1500 in a week, increasing exponentially.

I have wondered what drove Junior to consider and ultimately choose a loan shark as an option. His middle class parents are well to do, and outwardly, he does not want for anything. I had speculated he might have been tricked into being a guarantor for some other desperate friend. One neighbour speculated he might have gotten himself in debt with the online gambling that seems is becoming a plague amongst youths.

The house has been very quiet.
The porch light is on, but the house itself is dark.
Since the last visit from the collectors, my neighbours seem to have gone into hiding. They were missing for more than 24 hours and only returned once in the past week, and even then only during the day.
The plants are beginning to wilt from neglect.
The same laundry hangs from lines, uncollected.

Junior’s sister was asked by one of our neighbours about the trouble.
She was somber, but frank about the matter: “Yes, my brother’s in some trouble with loan sharks.” A coupla months back. Junior’s sister had a bad auto accident right in front of our street (I called Auto Assist for her). The car was totaled but she was uninjured.

She returned to the house this week to collect some things. It is mere coincidence that she also took delivery of her new car this week. And when she drove it over, I wonder if those men in the van saw her.

For two nights, a white van has been parked on our street. The men inside made no noise, but also made no effort to hide their presence. Our neighbourhood patrol were informed and on the second night, they asked the men to leave.

I wonder what they thought as they sat waiting for Junior and his family who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) pay them and yet managed to splash out for a new ride. I wonder if that’s what made them decide to crank things up a notch.

Tonight, there is red paint on my neighbours’ walls.

My mother, who grew up in a rough neighbourhood says this is the last warning.
It is a traditional signal used by loan sharks.

The red paint is a message: When next we come, there will be blood.

1 comment:

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