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Your Card’s Been Declined.

Look. I understand. You’re trying to live the Newport Beach/Laguna Hills/Anaheim Hills version of The American Dream and, in the process, over-extended yourself (and your credit) a little. At first, it wasn’t too bad. When business slowed at your chain of tanning salons or at your anti-male-patterned-baldness herbal medicine business (that operated via Multi-Level Marketing), the expenses of your inflated lifestyle were only slightly exceeding your income. You had a little bit of savings but, more importantly, you had that most vital tool of conspicuous consumption: The Credit Card(s). You could still keep up all the appearances of a successful Orange County Middle Aged Man even if your businesses were slowly receding into oblivion.

So you kept living the way you were. You renewed the lease on your BMW 7-series (“The DoucheMobile”), kept adding more TapOut sleeveless shirts to your collection, and kept going to Target for your Cialis prescriptions. (Can I just make one slightly and very brief tangent here about prescriptions and pharmacies? And yes, I realize that my only sister, the one who used to feed me white bread topped off with a layer of granular sugar when our parents would leave us alone as latchkey kids, is a pharmacist but still, I must rant about this one thing. Why are pharmacies so bad at refilling prescriptions? Every time I go there to get my totally-not-related-to-anything-contagious prescription, it’s never ready. They have ONE JOB that takes three steps. (1) Get prescription. (2) Put pills in bottle. (3) Give prescription to customer. What could be simpler??)

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Anyway, even though your fortunes are declining, you’re still going to expensive restaurants with women half your age. At first, this wasn’t a problem for you. You had your credit cards. Gleaming plastic symbols of your purchasing power. You could take your arm candy to Louis Vuitton for the latest handbag and still buy an ostentatious mancelet (man bracelet) from the Gucci boutique. Nothing had to change. You could still take all your minions to a waterfront restaurant, let them have the “run of the house,” and put it all on your card. That’s the beauty of plastic. It can be made to look like anything–it can even look like success.

Here’s the problem with credit. Take this lecture from an Ivy League graduate with a degree in Economics and laurels from Nobel Prize winners. Credit compounds faster than that suspicious rash forming around your happy trail. Your debt GROWS FAST, is what I am saying. I know you’re so bad at math that can you never add up your subtotal and tip correctly but you must realize that if you take a $1000 restaurant bill and not pay it in full, it becomes nearly $1400 after two years, right? BY THE WAY, you all really need to learn how to add up your tips correctly. You’ve caused countless servers such consternation because of your sloppy, preschool-ish math. Your bill will be $87.25, you’ll leave a nice $24.75 tip, and you’ll total it up as $102.* SERIOUSLY. What the f— is that? Now the server has to put the lower amount and eat the lost $10. Your generous tip has become a less-than-20% $14.75 AND you’ve made the server feel like she just threw money away. Thanks, Blaise Pascal. THANKS A LOT. You make Euclid turn over in his grave and Pythagoras cry.

So all your years of “living large” have come to a head here, at one of our tables in our busy waterfront restaurant, when you hand me a fancy “platinum” card for your dinner for yourself, your mistress, your ex-wife, your kids, your business associate, and your groupies. (And a little aside to the credit card companies: when you call every single credit card you issue “Platinum,” it no longer is, in fact, anything close to platinum.) Your meal concludes and I hand you, the obvious The Alpha Male, the check for $992.45. Bottles of Cakebread and filets of Kobe beef aren’t cheap, you know. You hand me your card, I thank you and retreat to the POS, slide your card, and…..UGH. Out pops a little receipt saying, “Declined,” followed by some cryptic error message that the codebreakers during World War II would have issues deciphering. Guess what I do next? I try it again. That’s a little secret I want all of you to know. I don’t care if I become more wanted than Edward Snowden. I want all of you to know that we always try to swipe your card AGAIN if it gets declined the first time. Sometimes, you know….sometimes, it actually does work the second time. There. I’ve said it. Oooh. That little secret’s going on Wikileaks later this week.

I’ve tried it twice and now have two more copies of the “Declined” slip. Yay. So I approach your table meekly and with all the politeness I can muster in my jaded demeanor, I lie and tell you, “I’m sorry sir but something must be ‘wrong’ with your card and our computers. It’s just not going through.” At this point, I’m expecting you to tell me that I should try it twice. That’s a very common reply. But not you. NO. NOT YOU. HERE’S THE MOST GLORIOUS PART OF THIS WHOLE TRANSACTION. Since you know you’re already over-extended and since you know your card really might not work, you IMMEDIATELY HAND ME ANOTHER CREDIT CARD. You don’t even blink! You basically had me “test” your card, hoping it just might go through. What the hell is that? Because YOU can’t handle your finances, you put me through that uncomfortable situation where I have to tell you, in front of all your loved ones, that your card’s been declined, knowing full well that your card had very little left available to it? You literally had another credit card chambered and ready to go. You know we’re not supposed to be participants in your own twisted one-man game of credit card roulette, right?

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Amazingly, your second card from Last Chance Bank of North Dakota went through. Well, have fun paying that one off. Anyway, the one good thing to come out of all this is you left me an extra big tip. That’s usually what people do when they embarrass themselves.

THE END.

*I know all you readers had problems adding this up, too. I know.

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