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08/16/02 Panic Attack
07/15/02 Unsolved Mysteries

Mo' Money

Oprah said that it's common for people to wake up and check their stoves at night. It's a neurosis, Can't-Stop-Fussing Disorder. I live with someone who takes it to another level. Every night, just as I snuggle into my goose feathers, Yahaira hits her checklist:

Did you check the stove? Yes. The cat's inside? Yes. Are you sure? Yes. Is the garage door locked? Damn.

Tip-toeing across the tundra that is our kitchen floor, I vow to ask Oprah if there is medication for this ailment. Not for Yahaira but for me.

I should go easy on Yahaira. She didn't scream once when she caught me peeing in the sink the other day.

But we are here to address something dearer to you -- your money.

I went to the movies Saturday, paid ten bucks to see a film that wasn't half as good as its trailer. And why do we call them trailers when they precede a movie?

I don't get out much, but I knew enough to bring my own sugar. I stuffed my backpack with Snickers and Mini M&Ms (the regular M&Ms were too big for me). Upon entering the lobby, I realized that I had forgotten a drink.

"Could I get a cup of water, please."

The clerk said they only carried bottled water.

"What about the water in the tap?"

"I can't give you a cup because we use 'em to count sales."

I wanted to pop that pimple on his forehead.

"Okay, give me a bottled water."

He grabbed a bottle of Dasani and said, "That will be $3.75."

Great delivery. Serious face and everything.

I waited for the clerk to laugh. He did not.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't remember dropping the soap."

Yahaira slapped me on the back of the head.

The clerk said that it's purified water, sir.

"Oh. Well, then. Give me two."

We had entered Bizarro World. There was nothing pure about this water. It was swimming with corporate sludge. I wanted to swipe the Dasani and run into a darkened theater. I wanted to stick it to The Mann.

But I did not.

I breathed. And casually appraised the other goods. Licorice, $2.75, Butterfinger Bites, $3.25, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, $4.00, all arranged neatly behind glass cover. I could hear Seinfeld saying, "I'd like to see something in a malt ball."

It was fouler than the 7-11 convenience tax; it was snack-food extortion. Imagine if you bought your car at this markup. It would cost hundreds of thousands of Bizarro dollars.

The movies are just a dropping of a bigger beast called "They." They push prices in their race against inflation, which is tied to their heals. They sit around tables deciding how to squeeze the consumer but not to death.

Wednesday, I was running errands. I saw the chiropractor, $40; got my haircut, $45; office supplies, $60; gas, $15.

As I drove from one cashier to the next, I made an awful mistake: I started to calculate how much money I was spending versus how much I earn. Yes, I definitely need to ask Oprah for medication.

Medication, $20.

I called Yahaira to hear her voice. It keeps me this side of breakdown. I reached the pay phone and found that it cost 50?. Aaaaahhhh. More extortion. Verizon had me in its little teleclutches. What was I going to do, use smoke signals?

To hell with the call. I took to the bathroom, where I like to regroup. The doorknob was attached to a coin slot. It cost a quarter to take a leak! Is nothing sacred? There was only one thing I could do -- pee in their extortionist hedges. It was a satisfying moment, but I couldn't shake the feeling that Yahaira would catch me.

I am naive. I work hard to stay that way. Inflation is driven by economics not easily understood by guys who pee in bushes. I tried to combat the madness by having less needs. I stopped getting haircuts, I fired the gardener, I even gave up paying taxes. Then my car broke down and the mechanic took everything I had saved.

I don't know. Life is like a box of chocolates -- expensive.


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