Neither a borrower nor a lender be~

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius instructs his son not to get involved in the borrowing or lending of money from friends. This bit of advice has given commercial banks and credit unions a bit of a boost in fulfilling the need for third party credit. Which in turn provided me with one of my first jobs as a lender behind a banker’s desk in the lobby of a local bank.

Back some three decades ago, before electronic magic of all sorts, we used to take applications by handwriting the information into neat little squares on a paper application form. Whether the applicant sat across the oversized dark wood desk or we talked over the phone, the interaction also served as a time to discuss the customer’s ambitions, the time frames and mechanics of the process. This was something called customer service.

The bank advertised car loans and home equity loans, reserves on checking accounts that would advance when the account was overdrawn, or unsecured lines of credit. Over the course of a week it wasn’t uncommon to look at 80-120 applications. These required information on employment history, wages and asset and liabilities statements. So as you can imagine, one starts to get a sense of the earning potential from a variety of employments. And where people spent their money.

Having been raised in a private school type of environment, I was unfamiliar with the whole segment of society that fell outside the professional class. Socially I was only familiar with families whose parents earned a living as a result of a higher level of education. And, of course, was steered to going to college to attain a similar standing. Imagine my surprise when I took an application from the service manager at a midsized car dealership in town. He earned twice what the average attorney made.

Granted this was during an era when there were an abundance of attorneys achieving their Juris Doctor. But still. A service manger, or any one wielding a wrench under a vehicle was not suppose to rise even to the lower edge of the white color professional crowd. This was the first crack in the veneer encasing an implied class and resource structure.

Come to find out there were whole neighborhoods of folks who worked in the trades at all sorts of income levels. They didn’t drive jaguars, they drove trucks with carried similar price tags. Their hunting dogs needed kennels so they lived in cities that were not only pet friendly, but didn’t mind a fifth wheel parked on the concrete pad along side the oversized double garage which was sheet rocked, heated and had a TV sitting area.

I had no idea of the social depth or financial variation of such folk. They weren’t simply a group, a class. They were a whole ecosystem with pecking orders and special interest subtleties.