Friday, April 15, 2011

"The Loan Arranger"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Ever since my wife and I were rejected for a home refinancing loan by our bank, which actually owns the house but kindly allows us to pay the mortgage, I have been wondering what we did wrong. The answer, I now realize, is that I didn’t rob the bank.

On the advice of my attorney, who is in jail, I will say for the record that I would never resort to bank robbery. And our loan officer, Joe, who has been in the banking business for almost 30 years, is so ethical and honest that I call him the Loan Arranger. He’s not a masked man, but he is a straight shooter. And a good guy.

“Times are tough,” Joe said when I went back to case the joint -- sorry, I mean to pay the mortgage. “And people are frustrated.”

A classic example, Joe recalled, was the guy who had been put through the wringer by the underwriters, who kept asking him for pay stubs, insurance forms, bank statements, everything but his birth certificate.

“Nothing he provided was good enough to get his refinancing application approved, so they kept asking for more,” Joe said. “The guy got so angry that when the underwriters demanded to see where he kept his money, he took a picture of a stainless steel box with an arrow pointing to it. He said, ‘The money is in the box.’ I was hysterical. But the underwriters weren’t amused. They said, ‘Open the box and give us pictures of George Washington.’ The guy didn’t get the loan.”

It’s stuff like this, Joe said, that causes people to try to outwit underwriters -- not a very difficult task, he and I agreed, because they seem pretty witless.

“They’re stupid. They have no common sense,” said Joe, who remembered the guy who pooled his resources by hiding his pool.

“He had a built-in swimming pool that he didn’t have a certificate of occupancy for,” Joe said. “The guy took the ladders out of his pool, put plywood over the whole thing, threw dirt and grass seed over it and roped it off. He told the appraiser not to walk on that area because it was freshly seeded. The appraiser never suspected and the guy was approved. He got away with it.”

Then there was the guy who got approved by not having an open-door policy.

“He had converted the garage to a living space that he didn’t have a certificate of occupancy for,” Joe recalled. “He took the facade off the front of the house and put two garage doors up. They didn’t work, so you couldn’t open them, but the appraiser didn’t know because he never checked. Most appraisers don’t bother to go into the garage. This guy got away with it, too.”

So did the guy who used pull to get approved.

“He had a huge deck on the back of his house that he didn’t have a permit for,” Joe said. “He also had a huge tree by the deck, so he devised a pulley system on the tree to pull up the appraiser, who went along with it. The appraiser took pictures of the back of the house from above that never showed the deck.”

Of course, some plans backfire, which is what happened to a guy who tried to doctor his W2 form but put down the wrong address for a company he said he worked for but didn’t.

“He wasn’t that sharp,” said Joe, adding that he would never go along with such chicanery. “My reputation is involved,” he said.

Still, Joe said, banks have been robbing people for so long that some people have decided to use pens and ingenuity instead of guns and bravado to rob banks.

“It’ll keep happening,” Joe promised. “You can bank on it.”

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Jest What the Doctor Ordered"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

You have to have the patience of a saint to deal with a devil of a patient.

That’s what I learned recently when I went to the hospital for a ureteroscopy, a surgical procedure taken from the Greek words “ureter” (an extremely sensitive area of the lower anatomy) and “oscopy” (invaded by a scope the length of a boa constrictor).

The intention was to blast to smithereens a kidney stone that, because it appeared to be composed of concrete and asphalt, was barely dented by shock waves in a less invasive but unsuccessful procedure a few weeks earlier.

Despite the persistent fear that I would wake up as the lead singer for the Vienna Boys’ Choir, I was in a pretty jaunty mood as I sat in the pre-op unit with my wife, Sue, who was at my side to provide comfort, support and, if necessary, information about my living will.

“Are you diabetic?” asked Janice, a nursing assistant.

“No,” I replied. “I’m Italian.”

Janice laughed.

“It gets worse,” Sue promised.

Sure enough, when Janice asked if she could take my blood pressure on my left arm, I said, “Either arm is fine. I have it narrowed down to two. Good thing I’m not an octopus or we’d have to do this underwater.”

“Is he always like this?” Janice asked Sue.

“Yes,” Sue responded. “I just ignore him.”

I helpfully pointed out that I hadn’t even been given drugs.

“If I gave you Sodium Pentothal, you’d be gabbing up a storm,” Janice said.

“Please,” Sue begged, “not that.”

“Do I have a pulse?” I asked Janice.

“Yes,” she said. “It’s 64. And your oxygen level is 100 percent.”

“I never got 100 on any test in school,” I said.

“You just aced oxygen saturation,” Janice replied.

“Too bad the oxygen isn’t going to my brain,” I noted.

Sue nodded.

Mary, a nurse, came in to continue the prep work.

“Turn toward me,” she said.

“I’m taking a turn for the nurse,” I told Sue.

Mary looked at Sue and said, “You’re his daughter, right?” Sue chuckled. Mary smiled and said to me, “I’m giving it right back to you.”

She was just what the doctor ordered: nice, funny and very good at her job.

Then the doctor (or one of them) came in.

“I’m Dr. David Paul, your anesthesiologist,” he said.

“What’s up, doc?” I asked in my best Bugs Bunny voice.

“I’m going to knock you out,” he said.

I thought Sue, Mary and Janice would kiss him.

After a brief discussion about allergies (“I’m only allergic to myself,” I said), the doctor left and Brian, a nurse anesthetist, came in.

“Do you have any questions?” he asked.

“Yes,” I responded. “Will you be giving me domestic beer or an import?”

“You’ll be getting craft beer,” Brian said. “It’s the best-quality brew.” He should know because a friend of his owns a brewery. “By the way,” Brian added reassuringly, “I won’t be having any during the operation. I’ll wait until tonight.”

“Cheers!” I said as Brian left. Then my urologist, Dr. Albert Kim, who would be performing the procedure, came in.

“Are you behaving?” he asked.

“Of course not,” I replied.

“Good,” he said with a smile. “See you in surgery.”

The operation was a success. I’m grateful to Kim and everyone at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, N.Y., for taking such good care of me.

The next day, Louise called from the hospital to ask how I was feeling.

“Couldn’t be better,” I said. “It’s been a rocky road, but the stone is gone.”

“Did she get the joke?” Sue asked after I hung up.

“I think so,” I answered.

“Next time you have surgery,” Sue said, “they should take the rocks out of your head.”

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima