Meet Willy Fargo, My Friendly Neighborhood Loan Shark

Willy FargoSaturday morning at Starbucks and the baristas are in full flirt mode.

I pay them no mind because I only have eyes for a lovely square of almond-peach bread. I give her a wink and I swear she winks in return. We exchange meaningful glances.

Is that so terribly wrong?

I remind myself these affairs often end badly. She is so sweet, rich and completely out of my league. Who am I to lust after her? Just a schmuck with barely enough cash on hand for a small coffee.

But that’s what made me so desperate. I’d do almost anything for almond-peach bread but there are some lines even a fella-in-a-fever cannot cross, even for love – like using a Wells Fargo debit card on the day after payday.

I heard about a guy who had a similar experience. He was from out of town; bored, lonely and desperate. So what did he do? He walked into a Dunk’n Donuts, pulled out his debit card and threw his life away.

Just like me, his check went into direct deposit the night before, but how could he know that Wells Fargo does things with time that even Albert Einstein thought were impossible?

First they sent his deposit back to the future. Even though his pay check came in first, they processed it last. Then they cranked up the way-back machine to sort his charges by size rather than time, so they could process the largest charges first and let the little one dribble in after.

The poor slob thought he had a couple hundred dollar cushion, but a two day old airline ticket gobbled that up – then the overdrafts started kicking in. Before he knew what hit him, the fees sucked up his entire deposit then things got biblical as overdraft begot overdraft.

No one knows exactly what happened to him after that but all we known is – it wasn’t pretty.

There is no way I would run that route.  Still Ms. almond-peach bread and I were destined for great things.  So I left Starbucks, cut over to 3rd Avenue and ducked into an alley where a guy that looks like like Steven Van Zandt  (think Silvio from the Sopranos) was discussing business with a client behind his lime-green 72′ Lincoln Continental.

Meet Willy Fargo, my friendly neighborhood loan-shark.

I didn’t want to interrupt his meeting but Willy motioned me into the alley (busy guys like him know how to multi-process).

I explained my situation, filling him in about my lust for the almond-peach bread and my fears about using a debit card.

He was sympathetic. “Greg, I’ve been getting a lot of that lately,” he said, grasping his client by the windpipe and hoisting him off his feet, “People respect my hands-on approach. They are coming back to traditional banking in droves.”

The little guy’s legs began to flutter and a bubble of spit swelled on his lips (it appeared as if there might be at least one less fan of traditional banking).

“Take this little weasel for example,” Willy said.

Here he addressed his client. “Did I not present my terms in one concise paragraph rather than in a twelve page brochure of fine print?”

The little guy croaked, “You did.”

“Did I not define your responsibilities in clear English?”

“Yea-gh-gh-gh-gh-gh-gh”

“Would I change our agreement without notice?”

“Noo—ooo—ooo”

“Would I tack on late-fees without your approval?”

“Murumpth….”

“Would I calculate the vig BEFORE you made your payments?”

Thump. Thump. Thump.

“No,” Willy agreed, “I would not do those dreadful things because unlike some faceless indifferent corporation, I am an honorable man.”

“Uh Willy,” I said, “may I make a suggestion?”

“Certainly.”

“Let the guy breath.”

“That is excellent advice and normally I would be glad to take it under advisement but right now…. I’m kind of upset.”

The little guy turned from a deep shade of purple to a sickly slate gray. I felt so sorry for the guy, I forgot all about my almond-peach bread.

“Willy!” I said, “what does he owe you? Maybe we can work something out.”

Willy looked dubious, but he dropped the guy in a heap and pulled out an ancient dog-eared notebook. “Lemme see,” he said, thumbing through the pages. “The loan plus the juice comes out to…”

You could almost hear the abacus beads clicking in his skull.

“$24.58”

“You got to be kidding?”

“Nope,” he said with a grin, “the man borrowed $1.75 from me yesterday, he’s a fool for a doughnut.”