Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, and I’m just an idiot. And, oh yeah, illegal fireworks suck.

It turns out that the mortgage company, USAA/PHH, debited our checking account for the old mortgage which was paid off at the end of last month. We could kind of use that $1500, you know? Especially when July was supposed to be a skipped month so far as house payments were concerned. Now I get to try and unravel this mess on Monday since the office is closed for the holiday. Like I didn’t have enough problems with the escrow snafu (though we did receive the closing check via FedEx yesterday).

Those of you who remember my previous adventures with USAA/PHH might wonder what I’m doing going back to them for another go-round. Good question. They messed up our first closing to the tune of $2300, they screwed up both the PMI (in our favor) and the escrow account (not in our favor) during our first refinance, and this time, well, I have no idea how this is going to end, but it’s a ship headed toward the rocks, that’s for sure. At this point, I’ve got to get back the $1500 they shouldn’t have taken from my checking account then figure out how much money I have to throw into the escrow account which they underfunded at closing. That’s not even to mention the title company not showing up to their first appointment and us having to reschedule. These mistakes don’t strike me as issues of malevolence as much as competence. Go ahead: Ask me how much better that makes me feel. USAA has been great about everything else—we’ve done our banking and insurance through them for years—but they really don’t know what’s up with mortgage stuff. They don’t charge a lot of the “junk fees” ($50 for a fax, for example) that a lot of other lenders do, but it’s hard to recommend a company that takes three swings at your loan and doesn’t do any one of them perfectly. I don’t know who I’d recommend for home loans, but USAA isn’t them.

Speaking of feeling just spiffy, today is, as US readers know, Independence Day. Welcome to what is now my least favorite holiday. May I say for the record that I’ve nothing against celebrating the country’s birthday (see my Things That Go Bang in Essays), but a whole lot against illegal fireworks. We invariably see them in the park, and there is no easier way to make me nuts. I mean if you want to go blow off your fingers for America, fine. Just leave me the hell alone when you do it. All I need is to feel like I’m in downtown Dresden during a firebombing when I’m trying to get to sleep at night. This is the only time of year in which I absolutely hate living next to a park.

Mind you I’m not talking about the big professional fireworks causing me problems. Though I’m not a huge fan—seeing a display once every few years is adequate for my tastes—I have no particular objection or anything. And set to music, some of the displays can be quite nice, if not spectacular.

No, the ones I hate are the illegals that people buy and set off late at night in neighborhood parks. I’m as big a freedom-lover as the next guy, but somebody’s elses freedom ends at my property line. So M-80s at 11:30 at night kind of push my buttons. The way I see it we’re going to do things differently next year. Either we’ll (1) spend the holiday somewhere quieter (like maybe an airport tarmac); (2) hire a rent-a-cop security guard to spend the night in the park enforcing the three city ordinances that this year’s crowd violated; or (3) post all kinds of signs and stake out the park ourselves.

On the brighter side, odds are good that next year’s Fourth won’t be this bad.