Monday, October 27, 2014

Nibbled to death by ducks

Sept. 7
Nibbled to death by ducks.
It’s been a favorite phrase of mine for a long time. Recently, a friend sent an email that proposed an unattributed alternative: drowning in a birdbath.
But it just doesn’t work for me. I get the point: even the most effusive drama queen couldn’t really make a case for the perils of a birdbath. And it’s even less of a threat when you come from a long line of water babies who can float in two inches of water and do laps for at least a half hour even when you’re old and injured.
On the other hand, you actually could conceivably be nibbled to death by ducks.
I know. I grew up with mallard ducks that we considered our brothers and sisters. They flew with us to the school bus stop. They dive-bombed (and yes, ferociously nibbled) any unfamiliar dogs, cats or squirrels that strayed into our yard.
And they did occasionally nibble us — especially our bare toes, which I suspect they mistook for jelly beans. One of my siblings got our ducks hooked on chocolate pieces and jelly beans. (I never could get either my brother or sister to admit it, but it wasn’t me, I swear.)
The point is, given world enough and time, a convergence of unfortunate circumstances, and the right mallards with a jelly bean jones, you really might be nibbled to death by ducks. Especially if you liked and/or trusted the ducks, and were distracted by stress and other factors in life.
For many of us, this year has been shaping up as a perfect storm of duck-nibbling events.
I was taking stock the other day. This was the year I finally decided to do something about refinancing my mortgage. Originally, with a keep-it-local philosophy, I’d purposely chosen a hometown bank, who sold my mortgage to Countrywide, who sold it to Bank of America. Well, you get the idea.
After endless offers of quick, easy savings with only a few online and phone maneuvers, I decided to take them up on it. After all, I’d been a good customer for years. How tough could this be? But a process they promised would close in a few weeks, dragged on for several months, as terms changed, promises were revoked, costs escalated, savings dwindled and team after repetitive team called and emailed, demanding the same extensive answers to the same repetitive questions.
The final straw came when this financial institution, allegedly too big to fail, lost the first info I’d sent them and could not figure out how to reconfirm my employment at a place I’d worked for 20 years (ironically, on a day when I had five bylined stories in print and online, including two on the front page). And the whole hay bale collapsed the next day, when they mailed me someone else’s loan agreement and financial statements.
Just as the ducks moved in to finish me off, my trusty realtor superhero Elaine Socolofsky Szalay swooped in to the rescue. With one phone call and two short end-of-the-lunch-hour visits, my refinancing was all done within a couple of weeks, back at the hometown bank I’d started from. And with lower interest rates and considerably lower closing costs than any of the “easy re-fi” big boys had offered.
The rest of the summer has been filled with similar duck nibbling, a lot of it involved with the things that wear out or go wrong 15 years after you buy a brand new house.
The new washer and dryer didn’t get shipped in when they were supposed to and then couldn’t be installed by the delivery guy because the hookup faucets had corroded shut. But my long-time local plumbers lived up to their Pronto name, swiftly hooked me up and as a bonus, unclogged a sink that’s been frustrating me for years.
I have a lot of duck-nibbling stories, and feel grateful that mine all have happier endings than those of so many in the world who’ve faced more challenging dilemmas and disasters.
What’s the message?
The price of avoiding terminal duck nibbling is, as with liberty, eternal vigilance. And valor, determination and polite persistence. And let’s throw in the credo of Dorothy of Oz. When it comes to finding helpful amigos, there’s no place like home.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @DerricksonMoore on Tout and  Twitter or call 575-541-5450

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