Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Throwing Money Away

The other day I was at Sports Authority picking up a baseball duffle bag for Son Number Three. They have a no-frills $20 version that has a long pocket for your bats, and a main pocket for your glove and helmet. I made sure the shoulder strap fit me comfortably, since he is five years old, so inevitably, if I want the bag to make it all the way from the car to the field, I will end up carrying it myself. It went over my shoulder just fine. Sold!

I went to check out, and the girl scanned the barcode on the bag. Beep went the computer, and she read the screen, then looked up at me and asked, “Would you like to buy a protection plan for this item? If anything happens to it in the next two years, we will replace it for free. It’s only six dollars.”

I looked at the screen in front of me. $19.99

I looked at her, to make sure she wasn’t kidding. She wasn’t.

I asked, “What if I lose it? Will you replace it, and all of its contents, including my cell phone and wallet?”

“No, the protection plan doesn’t cover loss, or other items. Just damage.”

Hmm… Let me think about this for a minute. You want me to insure a $20 nylon bag for a third of its value against the off chance that something might happen to it that you wouldn’t already cover in your standard returns policy? Good one.

“No, thanks,” I politely declined.

I left the store shaking my head. Could there be a worse use for my money? As it turns out, there is something worse. Something much worse, and I didn’t have to wait too long to find out what it was.

That night, cleaning up after dinner, I pulled the trash can out from under the kitchen sink and stopped dead in my tracks. There, sitting right on top of the refuse, was eleven dollars. A five and six ones.

“What the… Why is there money in the trash can!?!” I inquired rather loudly, holding up the sticky bills, my gaze fixed upon the likely culprit, Son Number Three.

My wife gasped, “Oh my gosh, no. That was me. I did that last night. Whoops.”


“I had a lot going on!” she explained.

“Huh!?! You had a lot going on? So, you threw money away… literally? Do I need to keep digging? Is there more? Should I go paw through the outside trash bin?”

“No, of course not,” she answered, slightly indignantly. “That was the only time.”

“How do you know!?!” I asked, exasperated, and marveling at the fact that she thought there was any room for indignation on the part of someone who was just found to have thrown money in the trash can.

I stood there in shock. A whole new world had opened up. I had never even dreamed it was possible to actually throw money away. I mean, literally throw it away, until now. A chill shot through me. What if we were rich? I never fully understand where all the money goes, but now a new scenario was possible. What if we could be rich, but my wife keeps throwing money away, keeping us in a perpetual state of “not even close to rich.”

After I got through shuddering at that thought, and regained some amount of composure, I asked the next obvious question.

“Are you pregnant?”

“What? Of course not!”

“I’m just asking, because of all the times I found the remote control in the refrigerator.”

“That only happened once!”

(Once per week, maybe.)

“I promise, this was a one-time thing. I just got very busy. Number Two owed me money for duct tape.” (The boy goes through a tremendous amount of duct tape. So much so, that we stopped supporting his habit.) “I got the money out of his piggy bank, and I was throwing something else away right after that.”

OK. I understand the mechanics of the accident, but that still doesn’t explain why you didn’t know that it happened. I mean, I have been incredibly busy. So busy that my head was spinning, in fact, and I still never came within a mile of putting U.S. currency in the trash can, let alone leaving it there.

My wife always makes fun of me for being a terrible multi-tasker, and she is right. Forget about two things at once. Anyone who can do one and a half things at the same time is a better multi-tasker than me. But I think she needs to cool it on the criticism now. No matter what you tell me, I am going to seriously doubt your ability to focus on multiple tasks after I find out you literally throw money in the trash.

This has been a fairly traumatic event for me, psychologically. It’s one thing when I come home and find out you bought an extended warranty for the couch. It’s quite another when I find out that throwing money in the trash is not only a possibility, but it has happened. I’m a wreck. It’s always in the back of my mind. I now stop and look into every trash can in the house when I pass by. I can’t even bring myself to look in the shredder.

Trash day is going to be interesting.

“Can you dump it in slowly? I want to watch. You know, just in case we’re really rich and I don’t know it.”

“Get the hell off my garbage truck!”

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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