Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cheap man walking

“You need to stop reading that, immediately.  It’s going to ruin your life,” my buddy Chunks told me over the phone.

“Dude, I can handle it,” I assured him.

I’ve been reconnecting with old friends over the last few weeks, calling them in the evenings when I walk our dog, Memphis, who politely invited me, in her own quiet way, to reinstate our nightly constitutionals, by destroying our house if I don’t. 

“It’s cool.  We don’t have to walk tonight.  I’ll just shred the wool carpet in the dining room while you’re at work tomorrow.  I’ll have plenty of energy for it, after all,” she says, every night.

So I have free time each evening when my legs are engaged in the preservation of our household flooring materials and my head is doing nothing productive at all.  It’s just perched there in the cool night air, watching houses go slowly by, freeloading on the rest of my body. 

Some people do their best thinking at times like these, when they can step away from the demands of the world and have a few moments for quiet reflection.  For me, this is the time I use to repeat the only words I can remember from that Lady Gaga song I heard on the way home, spinning over-and-over for forty-five minutes.

“My my my poker face.  My my poker face.” 

“Honestly, brain, can’t we think about the mid-term elections, or how we’re going to insulate the attic better this winter, or how I can be a more effective parent?”

“My my my poker face.  My my poker face,” comes the reply.  This is when I’ll pop in the earphones and start dialing. 

I’d just explained to Chunks that I’d happened upon a very interesting blog called Mr. Money Mustache, written by a guy in Colorado who retired at the age thirty, with a wife and son, after working for nine years as a software engineer and saving almost everything he made. 

“No, no, no,” Chunks replied.

“What?  You don’t think it’s empowering that a normal person can retire very early just by being mindful about wasting money?  Even if early retirement isn’t realistic, you can remove some anxiety out of your life just by doing some simple things,” I said.

“You’re already the cheapest person I know.  Reading stuff like this is going to create a cheapness vortex, where every dollar is stretched to infinity and fun can never escape,” he said.

He had a point.  At that moment, on my kitchen table, sat one of my two-year-old son’s blinky Superman sneakers, crunched by two C-clamps to hold it in place while the glue dried.  Does a normal person attempt to glue his son’s cheap sneakers back together?  From there, it’s probably just a hop-and-a-skip until you’re asking your fellow McDonald’s patrons if they’re done with their fries. 

Incidentally, I used to have some qualms about buying blinky shoes for my sons, since they put unnecessary batteries and lights into landfills when your kids outgrow them in three weeks.  But blinky shoes appear to be quite environmentally friendly, especially ones that have pictures of superheroes where the brand name is supposed to go, since they start to biodegrade almost immediately after going on your kids’ feet.

“Seriously, for your own good, stop reading that stuff,” Chunks said, and I appreciated his concern. 

After we hung up, I started to think about how, as a kid, I’d stash Halloween candy behind my laundry basket, saving each piece so that it would last until St. Patrick’s Day.  I began to wonder if some habits start at so young an age that your adult behavior is predetermined in elementary school, but then, instead, I thought: “My my my poker face.  My my poker face.” 

You can locate Mike Todd by his blinky shoes at

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