Jewish World Review May 4, 2000 / 29 Nissan, 5760
At some point in life, the secret of even a tenuous grasp on happiness is permanently not noticing almost everything. The true nature of the relationship between you, your house and the Mellons is just one more thing to hustle into that corner of subconsciousness where you are also storing the news about your federal withholding taxes and your waist size. But before arriving at that long-term solution, you must survive the short term--the moment where you are forced to sit down and listen to the truth, acknowledge that you have heard the truth, understand the truth and are legally bound by the truth. This is called the settlement, or the closing. It is called that because if it were called the indenturing, no one would show up.
Closings are two-person shows; the seller's lawyer and the buyer's lawyer get all the good lines. Everybody else gets to sit and try to look as if he has some say in, or grasp of, what is happening. The lawyers arrive in suits, armed with great sheaves of important paper and excellent pens. It is as both lawyers are performing the ceremonial uncappings of their Mont Blancs that you realize that you of course have forgotten to bring a pen and that you will have to open your bit role in the proceedings by asking in a small voice if someone can lend you an instrument with which to sign away the remainder of what it now occurs to you has been a life filled with small failures of exactly this sort. It is at this point also that it occurs to you that you really should have put on a tie and that it may not have been wise to bring to the settlement a 4-year-old and an 11-month-old, both of whom, in the presence of lawyers, appear suddenly quite remarkably dirty.
But wait--there is your check on the table. How comforting it is to look at that. Such a magnificent amount of money! Who would have thought that your name would ever appear on a check bearing a sum like that? Why, you must be rich to have your name on such a check! This cheering thought lasts until you recall that your name is on this check as the payer, not the payee. You are giving that money away, and it took you your life up to now to accumulate that money, and when it goes bye-bye, what you will be is not rich but poor.
After this, it all goes rapidly downhill. You sit there and your wife sits there, signing, signing, signing, while the lawyers say things like: "And here, you are agreeing to maintain payments of the promissory note on the first of every month, and to maintain home insurance at the appropriate value, and to maintain payments of the property taxes and to maintain the home in such a condition that it maintains a value at last equal to the amount of the loan, and if you fail to maintain these requirements, the bank maintains its right to foreclose, not that this would ever happen of course, ha, ha, ha, and at any rate you would receive ample warning."
The nadir arrives with the presentation of the federally mandated Truth in Lending Mortgage Disclosure Statement. This tells you, in a little box, "the amount you will have paid after you have made all the payments as scheduled." Why the government thinks you want to know this is a national mystery. We are Americans. We want the Mellons to give us a Truth in Lending statement about as much as we want McDonald's to give us a Truth in Eating statement.
But there it is. You really should look at it. A grown-up would. So you look. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear me. That was a
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