Monday, June 25, 2007

who’s laughing now?

Luke Jennings was an attorney in New Orleans trying to get a loan from the Federal Housing Administration for a client. He was told the loan would be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of property his client was offering as collateral. It took him three months to do it, but Jennings eventually was able to trace the title to the property back to 1803.

He sent the information to the FHA, and a month later, he received the following reply:

Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we are impressed with the able manner in which you have prepared and presented the application, we must point out that you have only cleared title to the proposed collateral back to 1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear the title back to its origin.

Jennings wasn’t just frustrated, he was annoyed. It was like the time the IRS had disbelieved his claim to be the father of thirteen children and had required him to provide birth certificates for each one. (The worst part, he reflected, was that Anastasia and Sebastian had decided to pretend they didn’t know who he was, and he’d spent three weeks in jail until his wife had been able to straighten the whole thing out.) He took pen to paper and wrote the following response:

Your letter regarding title in Case No. 847965 has been received. I note that you wish to have title extended further than the 204 years covered by the present application.

I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the property area, would not know that Louisiana was purchased by the United States from France in 1803, the year of origin identified in our application.

For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the United States took title to the property from France, which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from Spain. The land came into possession of Spain by Right of Discovery in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the then-reigning monarch, Queen Isabelle.

The good queen, being a pious woman and careful about titles, almost as much as the
FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the pope before she sold her jewels to fund Columbus' expedition. Now the pope, as I'm sure you know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that he also made that part of the world called Louisiana; therefore the property can be assumed to have originated with him. I trust you will find his claim to be satisfactory.

Now, can we have the lousy loan?

Jennings smiled as he placed the letter in an envelope, and as he dropped the letter in the mailbox as he went out for lunch. He was still smiling a month later, when he got the response from the FHA, which said:

Application denied. Who’s laughing now, smartass?

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