Coming to America 7


Banking, American Style
Payday. I thought it would never get here. I didn’t have a bank account yet so I asked around and a couple of the new Filipino nurses told me that a banker had just given them a class on "American Banking". His bank was within walking distance of Baylor (a definite bonus) so they gave me his card.

That afternoon, I told my 'ride' not to wait for me as I planned on walking to the bank, opening an account and cashing my check. I would take a cab back home. When I made it to the bank, I couldn't find an entrance door for the life of me. Well crap, it was a 'drive-thru' bank. So, with my head held high and shoulders back, I walked up to a car bay and pressed the red 'call' button. "I would like to open an account" I said. The teller (who had to be stifling a laugh) said "I'm sorry ma'am, but this bank is a drive-thru only. If you would like to open an account, you will need to visit our bank office." There were two cars now, lining up behind me. I pretended not to notice. "Where might that be?" I asked. Trying my best not to sound sarcastic. "Just turn left on Hall then make a left on Elm. It's about 3/4 miles up on Elm" she said. - Easy for her to say, she was not the one walking alone in downtown Dallas.

That weekend, with cash in my handbag and a smile in my heart, I began my search for wheels. The used car section of The Dallas Morning News had pages of car ads and many dealerships were offering “No Money Down!” Perfect! I had no money to put down on a car anyway so, I’m thinking that this type of deal will work well for me. After calling several of the “No Money Down” dealerships, I soon learned that the “No Money Down” deals were for people who had an established credit history in Texas. My bubble burst. Was it a sign? Should I just pack up and go back to Canada?

On Monday, I contacted the banker whose card I had recieved earlier - 'Mr. Lou Bittner, Vice President, The Texas Bank'. I made an appointment to see him that afternoon "about a loan". The way I looked at it, if he was kind enough to help Filipino nurses learn the American banking system, maybe he would have a soft spot in his heart for a Canadian.

Mr. Bittner was a well-groomed, older man who looked very much the part of ‘the banker’. He invited me into his office and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. I took a deep breath and began my semi-rehearsed pitch… “Mr. Bittner, I am twenty years old, I am not an American citizen, I have no collateral and I have only been a nurse at Baylor for three weeks but I am trustworthy and could provide you with personal and professional references from Canada and Arkansas, I don't know anyone here. Anyway, I would like to apply for an unsecured loan to buy a car.” I had remembered being told by my dad that a loan without collateral was called an 'unsecured loan' and I thought that using 'banker-speak' would make me sound like I knew what I was talking about.

Mr. Bittner paused for a few seconds then looked at me intensely and said slowly, “I’ll tell you what... I will loan you $3,000.00. But first, you have to come up with $1000.00 on your own. When you do that, call me and you'll have your loan. Your car cannot amount to more than $4,000.00 including tax and title.”

We had ourselves a deal!   Part 8: Wheels!

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