Mr. wOw on the credit card crunch, the deceptive power of lunch and having some fun … Cautionary tales and life lessons from somebody who should have known better. And does now. Kind of …
Once upon a time, Mr. wOw had credit cards. Three credit cards. He was flying high. Close friends warned him, “Pay up. Don’t just give the minimum. You will ruin yourself!” Silly friends.
Mr. wOw thought he knew best. He was being paid a handsome salary back in that day, and it looked like those good times would never end. He paid the minimum, spent stupidly and always had a hot pocket full of cash, too. Mr. wOw, a fearfully insecure type, liked to show off and buy people’s affection. He always was the first to whip out his credit card at dinner. After a while, nobody even bothered to pretend to reach for their own pocket. (This sometimes bothered Mr. wOw, but a precedent had been set.)
Mr. wOw felt like an adult. Like a success. Success was raising a hand and yelling, “Taxi!” Subways had become some ancient form of transportation he’d used as a youngster, before life elevated him to a career of foolishness and excess.
Then Mr.wOw, in a great show of hissy, quit his job. During his year of unemployment, Mr. Stupid realized he was in credit-card debt to the tune of $35,000. No salary coming in and a savings of … $20,000. (Which was pretty pathetic, as he was factually middle-aged at that point.)
Though it pained Mr. wOw – to say the least – he allowed himself to be intervened and, in the presence of friends, actually cut up his cards. It was a shocking ritual. Mr. wOw went blonde with grief. He emptied his bank account, and eventually returned to the job he had left so dramatically. (Any of you ever try to close a credit-card account? Scientologists have nothing on the these cultists – Mr. wOw had to threaten one company with harassment charges before they let me go for good.)
But Mr. wOw has never opened another credit-card account. He pays cash. It doesn’t seem nearly as glamorous or grown-up, but at least if Mr. wOw drops dead, nobody else will be in debt because of him. If it can happen to Mr. wOw …
However, Mr. wOw has not descended into total penury. In fact he still enjoys himself. He has lunch. Every day. He does not bag it. He does not trot over to the diner for a cheeseburger deluxe for less than $10.00. Nope. There is a favorite neighborhood boite where everybody knows his name. Years and years worth of building relationships with waiters who know Mr. wOw is going to tip extravagantly. They love the guy, hug him, remember him in their prayers. (Mr. wOw remains insecure and buys his affection, still.) While being hugged by waiters, he has a cocktail daily, which is lunch itself, somewhere else. OK, OK – sometimes two. Which is dinner someplace else.
In other ways, Mr. wOw is admirably restrained, but lunch is creeping up on him. Recently, he was once again intervened. A “friend” (still mad at her) added up what Mr. wOw’s average lunch cost, yearly. Staggering. Mr. wOw could buy Malawi. Hell, he could buy Madonna!
“wOw (real friends drop the Mr.), you have to cut out these lunches. What’s the matter with a hearty bowl of soup and crackers every other day?”
“Maybe when I’m in rehearsals for ‘Les Miz.’ Just forget it. These lunches are my escape from work. Everybody is so nice to me …”
“They’re ‘nice’ to you because …”
“I tip very well. So?”
“Don’t you think you’re a little old to be …”
End of conversation.
Oh, Mr. wOw will speak with her again. But will he take her advice? What do you think?
Mr. wOw had a friend who just died suddenly, in his 40s. Heart attack. Over and out. He ate carefully. He spent carefully. He tipped carefully. Waiters were polite to him, nothing more.
Well, Mr. wOw would rather go while being hugged by a server, thankful for his foolish generosity, than falling face down in a bowl of plain beef barley.
Life has taught Mr. wOw some lessons. And one of them is: it could end tomorrow. Have that cocktail. In fact, have two.