Not that I don't welcome a good thrifty attitude. I myself, as you know, am from the Tribe of We Who Do Not Waste, and regard spendthriftness and financial mismanagement as about the worst things you can do outside of breaking the ten commandments. Murder and adultery are worse than wasting money or spending money you don't have. But not much.
A friend is doing an estate sale for a couple who is losing their $1.1 million house to foreclosure. He is a stocker at a grocery store and she used to be a mortgage broker.
"But how did they get a mortgage for a house that price?" I gasped.
My friend looked at me. "Are you serious? She was a mortgage broker! She got her own loan."
I was still confused. "But how did they pay the mortgage without enough income?"
"They have thousands and thousands of dollars in credit card debt," my friend said. "They just kept borrowing."
I could never live like that. I could never sleep knowing that I didn't have enough money to pay my bills. I already have sleepness nights worrying about my 401k and how it has not done a thing in the past 15 years and thinking that I better keep Primo healthy and happy for at least another 20 years because if he dropped dead right now, there would not be enough money from the life insurance to take me to 97, my expected age of death, and it's sure not like anyone wants to hire me.
But Yves took thriftiness to the next level. Washed his clothes in the sink because he didn't have a washing machine. OK, he was in an apartment and there wasn't room for a washing machine, but at least take the clothes to a laundromat or a cleaner! Kept track of all our expenses during the trip through the south of France on a spreadsheet. When he wanted to see me on a business trip to Memphis, after he had broken up with me nine months previously, he asked me to tell him quickly if I would see him, as there was only one more cheap seat on the Saturday flight from Paris to Memphis.
Mind you, this was a business trip. Not that I am saying one should be a bad steward of an employer's money, but he was making the arrangements for this trip two months in advance. Two months. I think there might have been other seats available.
Not to mention that there were so many ways that company wasted money that an extra $100 for an international plane ticket wasn't even a flea on the tick of management that was sucking the shareholders dry.
Not that I'm bitter about having worked -and been laid off from - a place so badly managed that in the six years since my layoff - and the layoffs of thousands of other employees - the stock price has not gone up at all. Not that I'm bitter that even though the CEO presided over a 34% decline in stock price while I was there (which meant I never got to cash in my options, even though it wasn't my fault that the stock market hated the company) and even though he presided over thousands of job losses and even though there was no improvement in productivity, he still got a $1.2 million bonus.
So yeah. Ask me if I care that Yves might not get the cheapest ticket.
But the main thing he did that annoyed me to no end was when he came to visit me in Cedar Rapids. He had been to Memphis for work, along with his colleague Hubert. A month before he came to the U.S., he called to ask if he could visit.
Sure! I told him. I would love to see him!
This was before he sent me the e-card for my birthday and then broke up with me a week later.
"Just tell me when to pick you up at the airport," I told him.
Oh, that wouldn't be necessary, he assured me. He and Hubert were going to drive from Memphis to Cedar Rapids!
"Drive?" I asked. "Are you sure? It's really dull. Just a bunch of cornfields."
I didn't know what I was talking about, he told me. He and Hubert wanted to see America and this was their chance.
I shrugged. "Whatever. Don't tell me I didn't warn you."
Hubert would drop Yves off and then go on by himself to Chicago for a few days, whence their return flight to Paris.
Yves would stay with me.
"Better check the Cedar Rapids-Chicago flights right now," I warned. "There are only a few each day."
A month later, on Friday afternoon, they arrived.
"What a boring drive!" they told me. "Nothing but cornfields!"
I just looked at them. Really? They had thought I didn't know my own country?
We went to lunch, then, as promised, Hubert left.
"When is your flight? I asked.
"Oh, I'm not going to fly from here to Chicago," Yves told me.
Mystified, I asked, "Then how are you getting there?"
I was thinking maybe he would rent a car or take the bus.
"I thought you could drive me!" he beamed.
"What?" I demanded. "What are you talking about?"
"You can drive me! I checked the fares and it's really expensive."
"You're not even paying it!" I shouted.
"It's so expensive." His voice trailed off as I shook my head.
"It's 250 miles to Chicago! Are you nuts?"
"But I thought you would want to spend more time with me," he said.
"It's TWO HUNDRED FIFTY MILES! That's FIVE HUNDRED MILES round trip!"
I was so mad. The last thing I wanted to do was to spend an entire day driving someone to the airport and then returning home.
But it was too late to change his plans.
"It's two tanks of gas," I seethed.
I don't remember what we did on Saturday. Probably watched the lint fall out of his wallet and then found a penny and stretched it into wire.
Sunday morning, we got up early. I had called my friend Lenore, who lives in Chicago, to see if we could meet her for lunch. We left Cedar Rapids and drove for five hours over VERY BORING TERRAIN to Lenore's house. We walked to a small pizza place by her house. When we finished eating, the waitress brought the check.
It sat on the table.
I waited for Yves to pick it up.
I know. What we learn from history is that we don't learn from history.
I should have grabbed it. What was wrong with me? But Lenore beat me to it. Why didn't I offer to split it with her? What was wrong with me? I was probably distracted by my fuming that Yves The Self Proclaimed Millionaire wouldn't buy lunch for me and my friend after I had just driven him TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILES to catch a damn plane.
I owe that woman a pizza.
I dropped Yves off at the airport and drove back home. Another 250 miles, for a total of 500 miles in one day, in case you're not good at math.
Six weeks later, he sent me the pathetic e-card. A week later, he broke up with me. My only response to him was, "You own me gas money for the trip to Chicago."