Today my wife and I closed on our house. It is not the first house I have owned but it was by far the most difficult to close. Not for financial reasons but because of the towering mountains of legal voodoo magic you must conjure up to get the approval.
“Sir, could you provide us with a statement verifying income.”
“Thank you. Now we need a full letter in APA format with a bibliography verifying your income, and official transcripts of the tax seasons from the day you lost your virginity till yesterday.”
“Excellent sir. You are an exceptional person. Now we need you to guess the blood type of your second grade teacher. You have 2 chances yet the first doesn’t count. If you can’t do that then I need a copy of a phone bill from September 14 years ago. We also need you to predict the name of your third grandchild by your second child, but only the first name.”
“Outstanding sir. Now let us move to the next complication that will cause you to lose 14 pounds from stress and anger.”
It is amazing how oddly accurate that was. However, the thing that confused me the most was the apparent fear that all lenders seem to have towards the mysterious entity known as ….. The Underwriter!
I really needed a giant comic book style font with highlights and outlines around his name. In fact the Underwriter is like an evil comic book overlord bent on causing strife throughout the lands of mortgage lenders. The closer we got to the closing date the more frantic the lender sounded. Strange requests begin to flow my way. Sign this, provide that, please adopt a frog and mail me its tongue, travel to the Amazon, kiss three capuchin monkeys so I can see your passport and you can recite the Canadian anthem in German.
As the requests got stranger I finally broke my silence and asked my lender why. The response was along the lines of, “just trying to get into the Underwriter’s head and stay a step ahead.” There was a quiet fear in his voice, a slight quiver as he spoke. The word “Underwriter” was barely a whisper. I pictured him sitting at his desk, glancing around nervously, sweat beads forming at his temples, fearful as he spoke to not upset the omnipotent being above.
I began to imagine what the lender’s office looked like.
Rows of sterile cubicles, identical down to the last dull brown stapler meticulously placed on the rear left edge of every faux wooden desktop. Row after blue-gray partitioned row of misery with the only discernable difference being the tone of fearful voices murmuring into phones. The matted-blue carpet is worn short in the mile long aisle between the cubes, but beneath every desk was a bare patch of splintered wood where the lender’s feet swung daily. The identical intercom sits center of every desk, rested against a corkboard of successes and failures of corporate life. The intercom has a giant red light sitting atop, like a beacon of despair warning ships you have traveled to far into rocky waters and you shall soon sink to a watery grave. This is the button of the almighty, he-who-sits-in-the-office-above. When it goes red, all works ceases for a microsecond as every lender glances towards the cubicle of the doomed. The poor soul slowly stands in his workspace, the heads of others quickly turning away to not make eye contact in case he doesn’t return. He gathers his paperwork and folders, quickly taps them on the desk to grant the appearance of organization, and staggers slowly down the aisle.
After a brief walk through the business jungle he comes to a low hanging fog that sets an eerie tone. Stumbling through the fog in a haze of confusion the office noise dies slowly until the only sound is his rapid breathing. Through the fog a dim light shines. Like a moth to a flame he feels drawn to the light. Clinging to the mortgage packet like a safety blanket he creeps towards the light which glows brighter with each passing second. The fog breaks and before him is a plain white block wall with a single golden elevator illuminating the area with its brilliance. As if self aware of the intruder’s presence small ding acknowledges his arrival and doors swiftly open. Stepping into the elevator a soothing warmth overcomes him as he glances nervously about the reflective gold walls of the box. His reflection distorts his gaunt frame, withered from tedious hours gathering useless facts and tidbits of data used for reasons unknown. A single button, lit by one dim bulb is waist height along the right side of the doors. One word is engraved above it, “Underwriter”.
This is a small sampling of what I imagine it must be like. I could go on by let us just say, the upper floors are areas that Milton would be wary of including in his masterpiece.