Weird Weekly Prompts, #2: The Dangers of Thrift

Posted on Fri 16 August 2013 in Weird Weekly Prompts by Aaron McGuire

maybe i should just do this with it

This writing project is courtesy of everyone's good friend Angelo. I'll let him describe it:

A friend challenged me to a writing contest. The basic premise is that for two months, she will send me a writing prompt twice a week. 750 word response. I will do the same with her. The point is to get some experience/feedback writing a bunch of different, unusual things with odd prompts that you don't expect. Would you be interested in doing one a week for the rest of the offseason?

Fun times in Cleveland today. (Cleveland!) Now, that said, we started this exercise a month ago and only recently finished our first contributions. He's posting his on Goodspeed and Poe, everyone's favorite blog. I'm posting my contributions (apparently!) on Gothic Ginobili, everyone's favorite basketball. No, I didn't mean to type "basketball blog." Gothic Ginobili is not a blog. Gothic Ginobili is a basketball. If you disagree with this particular assessment, you just haven't experienced this place properly yet. Here are the previous prompts:

Here's this week's prompt, alongside my confessional.

• • •

PROMPT #2: Your next prompt, if you choose to accept it, is to write about the stupidest thing you ever purchased. Why did you buy it? How has it affected your life? How would your life be different if you had that money back and could choose to invest it more wisely?

A little bit of background on me: I'm thrifty. Full-blown penny-pincher. Cheap, on any given Monday. I value my money and it values me. (It does not value me. Money is not a person. That sentence was untrue.) For me, retail therapy involves going to Costco and finding a great deal on snacks I'd buy anyway. Clipping a coupon and applying it at the exact perfect moment. Example: I cook a LOT of soup. Every few weeks, I make a ton of soup and I jar it into Ball jars and I eat the soup as a side for the next few weeks. It's neat. Thing is: I only got a ladle two weeks ago. That's right -- for two years of my life I made soup every 10-15 days, but I never thought to get a ladle to serve it. I'd just tip the pot and use measuring cups for soup disbursement. Seriously. My friends made fun of me for it, but I'm not in the business of changing my life just to accommodate the naysayers and people named Gerald. Gerald can find his own way.

I'm thrifty and generally prone to making best with quite little. And for this very reason, I had trouble thinking of any particular purchase that was too large and too stupid. This is hardly just me, of course -- most people remember their purchasing successes long before they recall their purchasing failures. Hindsight is usually 20/20 for your triumphs and cloudy for your failures. It's the way of things. I had to think back hard to remember the poor investments I'd made in my life. My college education was a bit of a poor investment -- I could've gone to a state school on a full ride, but I chose to go out of state for slight added benefit. My first (and current) car -- a used 2009 Toyota Camry -- is serviceable. But at the price I paid for it, I should've just bit the bullet and gotten a new car. Used cars lose most of their value the second you take them off the lot, despite the fact that you still have 6-7 years of paying for it. Come on, Aaron. Get it together. I could also talk about my enormous book collection, one of the few things I collect. Dropped many ducats on the craft, for sure. Do I need it? Perhaps not. Perhaps so. I do not know.

None of those things are the stupidest purchase I've ever made. The stupidest purchase I ever made defines me. It's a scarlet letter. It's a flashing neon symbol of cheapness and thrift-over-blood that I should've figured out from the start. I have been trapped in this hell for years, my friends -- I must confess and seek absolution for this sin. It's one thing to buy multi-use kitchen tools so that everything stays in your cooking rotation. It's one thing to buy bulk items from Costco and freeze extra things in the freezer to keep them longer. It's one thing to eat slightly-maybe-a-few-days-expired food as long as it doesn't look or smell disgusting. It's one thing to take your garbage to the dump by hand because you haven't gotten the motivation to purchase garbage service for your home yet.

It's quite another to ever buy the cheapest toilet paper. At Costco.

I don't want to give you the gory details. Nobody wants to hear that. Ever. What happens in the bathroom is humanity's grandest secret. There is nothing to be said, no words to be shared. I stare silently at you, you stare silently at me. You turn up your nose. I shake my head and stare at my feet, ashamed. This is the way of things, and this is how it must be. But you know exactly what I mean when I say that this -- this -- was the stupidest purchase I ever made.

Look, Costco sells things in grotesque bulk. You know this. In a moment of weakness, two years prior, I chose to go with the cheapest of all possible toilet papers. I am not a wastrel. If I waste a single pea on a plate of prepared food, I feel bad. So I knew going in that I was going to have to use all the damn paper if I intended to ever move up in the world. But what the doomed never realizes is just how long that take__s. I also did not realize that the questionable luxury of good toilet paper is only truly possible to understand when you experience its absence for several years of your life. I also did not fully comprehend my impending shame. Imagine: friends come over. They need a restroom. You watch helplessly as your friends and family enter the valley of the shadow of death. You cringe. You shiver. You know the truth.

Might as well just dab it with cyanide and get it over with, huh? Death by toilet paper only seems impossible until you buy the worst toilet paper. Then you know. Then you are made aware of the possibilities. It is horrible, to buy the worst toilet paper. It is unnecessary. Why did you do it, Aaron? "Oh, I saved a quarter." Stop. Cease. You mortgaged years of your life away. You became the evil you sought to conquer. You sold out for twenty-five cents. Even Judas Iscarot got thirty. You are a fool, McGuire, consumed by thrift and reduced to dust. "You are a toilet seat that smokes a cigar."

... Now, uh, that said, I don't really know what I'd do with that money if I hadn't bought them. I mean, Christ, guys. It's like two dollars. I'm going to assume I would have put it towards toilet paper that didn't make me want to skydive without a parachute. My life would be improved, and I would be twenty-five cents poorer. I would be infinitely wiser, although without this prolonged suffering, I may never have properly learned this lesson. Perhaps it's all for the best.

(No. No it is not. Never do this.)