Jo had given us some white peonies, despite having given us white peonies last year, and I was looking for a place to plant them.
I walked into the back yard and had a good long look at the Butterfly Bush and the St. Paul’s musk rose, both of which have gotten absurdly out of control. The next door neighbors have put their house up for sale and took all of the silver lace vine off of one of the trellis panels in their yard and, in doing so, pushed the rose bush into a forward heap. The silver lace vine is a menace. It grows very fast and pops up in clumps all over our yard and has strangled two forthysia bushes to death, damaged our back porch and has made an attempt on the lives of a white rose hedge and a thornless blackberry bush. It was planted three neighbors ago, by a landscaper who really should have known better, but I think he was going for maximum coverage in minimum time.
So I was circling the Butterfly Bush when I notice a large, Champaign colored minivan driving slowly down the alley in back of the house. Then it came to a stop behind the two lattice topped fence panels we put up after the garage burned down. As I inspected the Butterfly Bush the van idled long enough to make me very uncomfortable. I had decided to plant the peonies behind the railroad ties, under the windows, opposite the side yard garden so I headed back that way.
I grabbed the wheelbarrow down from where it was leaning against a wall, added in some topsoil, hummus and peat moss, and threw the lightest shovel in it and headed toward the beds. Just as I scooped up my first shovel full of dirt a short, square, Hispanic man approached me from the front of the house.
“Here,” he said, thrusting the familiar manila colored envelop at me.
“You need to call CitiBank,” he said.
I noticed the Champaign colored van pulled up at the front of the house.
“OK, thanks,” I said, setting the notice aside and waving him off.
“I have to take pictures of the house,” he said, “the back front and side. It’s a CitiBank requirement.”
“OK,” I said, more annoyed now, “I just can’t wait to be free from CitiBank,” and hoped he realized the string of muttered oaths as I went back to digging dirt wasn’t directed at him personally, but, rather, at CitiBank in general.
It wasn’t too unusual to get a notice but usually they’re just hanging on the door when I get home. Rarely do I ever have to interact with the delivery person and never to this extent. Because of the way our pay schedule is set up payday falls after, but within the 14 day grace period, of when the mortgage payment is due. It’s been that way for 15 years. My spouse always calls and sets up a payment date and the people are always unfailingly helpful and polite on the other end but then they send out the Stalkers.
“Do a search and see if you can find anything about CitiBank requiring that photographs be taken of the house?” I asked my son Max who was, as usual, on the Internet.
“Why’s that?” he asked.
“The guy who dropped off this notice said CitiBank required him to take photographs of the house and I want to know what CitiBank does with these photographs,” I said.
“Yeah, that’s annoying,” Max said, “But what’s worse is when they peep in the windows.”
“They peep in the windows?” I said.
“Yeah,” Max affirmed, “I’ve caught ‘em more than once peeping in the windows.”
Max couldn’t find anything relating to this policy on the Internet so went back outside suspecting the delivery people were required to take a photograph to prove they were actually there but I had deeper suspicions that CitiBank was keeping a database showing the plastic over the windows and the hunk of decorative trim that had rotted through and fallen off or the tarp over the back porch roof where it had been leaking near the old, disused chimney to use as evidence that we are allowing the asset to deteriorate and use the evidence to call in the loan.
Later, when I came back inside, Max told me he had the number listed on the card inside the envelope.
“They wouldn’t tell me much because I didn’t have the account number,” he informed me, “but they did agree it was inappropriate to be peeking through windows.”
That evening, when my husband, J., retuned from working late and visiting a hootenanny on his way home, I asked him, “Is the bank going to foreclose on the house?”
“No,” he laughed, “Where did you get that idea?”
His previous prevarications have made me distrust him when it comes to finances but I didn’t want to mention that so I told him about the encounter with the delivery man.
“They just want to make sure someone is still living here,” he said.
“If we weren’t living here,” I said, why would we call and arrange a payment, a payment we’ve made every month for fifteen years, instead of just taking off and pocketing the payment or just stopping the payments altogether and staying here until they evict us?”
“It is pretty silly,” J. agreed, “most other big banks have stopped sending people over to verify if people are living there just because of a late payment but CitiBank still does.”
“I guess we should be grateful that they are doing their part to keep unemployment in check,” I said, “but it was still weird and creepy and embarrassing in front of the neighbors.”
“The delivery people have always seemed to be nice people,” J. said.
“Maybe so,” I said, “but CitiBank is going to get one of those nice people shot by somebody if they keep peeking through people’s window.”
It’s one of my main goals is, by the end of the year, we are in a position to refinance the mortgage with a local bank; one of the ones that keep mortgages in-house. When my husband was unemployed we tried to apply to the Hope for Homeowners program in hopes of getting our interest rate reduced because if it were 4% instead of 7.85% the payments would have been manageable on just my salary. As it was, Citibank agreed to accept reduced payments for a while and tack the difference to the back-end of the loan. In a sense we are grateful in retrospect because J. worked with a fellow who CitiBank agreed to a modification and then told the person to stop paying his mortgage and when he followed their instructions they foreclosed on him and it was only a financial infusion from his and his wife’s parents that saved the home.
The afternoon was a Saturday. We were sitting in the living room watching TV when there was a great pounding at the door.”
“Who in the world is that?” I asked.
“I see a head peeking in!” Max exclaimed.
J. got up and answered the door. I could here him speaking to a person outside.
“We called them yesterday when they dropped one off!” J. said.
Returning inside he brandished the familiar manila colored envelope.
“I told her we got one yesterday,” he said.
“Did she take pictures of the house again?” Max asked.
“Yeah,” J. replied, “She did say that CitiBank is really screwed up.”
“That we already guessed,” I said, “As it stands now Citibank is making me feel paranoid and uncomfortable in my own home.”
“It’s the bank’s home,” Jay added helpfully although we’re in it about half-and-half now.
“Whovever owns it,” I said, not feeling up to a debate, “they’re making me feel like I’m living about one street over from Ruby Ridge.”