I recently e-mailed my friend Patrick who is living the high life in Hong Kong about how I managed to live off of $70 for eight days. Sound familiar? Would you feel a certain sense of camaraderie with me if I were to admit that my dialogue commonly includes the words "overdraft", "consolidation", "sesame snaps for lunch" and/or "sold my last bike in order to pay for it"? Or would you feel dissonant from my world, being that you are either: a) a Trustafarian b) a dealer of illegal substances c) a lottery winner or, d) were brought up learning how to budget. If you are any of these, you may find the following a bit foreign to your current/enviable state of affairs, and may want to stop reading now. It's a bit pathetic.
I know, I know. Being in debt is something you learn to accept after you acquire possessions and equity over time. I've also been told by some of my financially savvy friends, as well as various loans officers, that there is such thing as "good debt" and "bad debt", but I have yet to decipher which has proved to be good or bad, and why? But like most of life's indulgences, I'm quite certain that I've dabbled in both. To have studied in foreign places, to have travelled parts of the globe, to have just purchased yet another black hat (it just fits so perfectly) I should really feel indebted to the infrastructure of getting in debt itself.
I just finished the last day of my eight-day Living-by-the-Skin-of-my-Teethathon. My journey ended by driving below the red zone on my gas gauge from Function Junction to the bank to deposit my paycheque and back again to Creekside to fill my car up with gas. After two days of driving below E, I thanked the sweet angels above that I managed to get away with driving below the mysterious "on empty" zone. I have to admit that it's a bit of a thrill seeing how far you can actually drive. Last week was 15 kilometres, will it be 25 this week? Why don't the Car People ever tell us these things?
I suppose I could save money by taking the bus while also contributing to Whistler's sustainability initiative. But then I would be breaking a promise I made to myself five years ago. I am referring to mental note 12.19.99 (circa Dec. 19th, 1999) made at 8:15 a.m. on the Function Junction shuttle: "NEVER TAKE BUS AGAIN" after an inebriated Aussie leaned over his plastic blue seat and offered me a Twizzler. I believe I purchased my 1987 VW shortly thereafter.
Admittedly my car isn't much of a step up from the 40-passenger limo. Only two of the four doors open from the outside, three open from the inside and one only opens in the summer and locks itself solid through the winter. The back right window slides down on its own (thanks to Barclay the Dog) and requires a manual push & slide with the palm of my hand. The right windshield wiper has a tendency to fly off from time to time, which makes for an adventurous journey to and from Emerald on a snowy evening. And if you happen to be behind my little silver Jedi at a stoplight, you will quickly see and smell why the current goals of the Kyoto accord have not yet been met. Again, a strike against our sustainability initiative.
The passenger's side seatbelt requires a bit of patience pre-buckle. You can't just yank at it like most standard seatbelts. I give all first time passengers a thorough explanation of how the buckle needs to be slowly lured from its lever, like a mistress seducing her new lover: "Breathe with the belt and on your next exhale experience how well it co-operates." I have to say that this whole pre-departure process makes my passengers feel quite special, like they've accomplished something.
The stereo can be a bit moody. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It all depends on the weather and the turbulence of the road. Turbulence has been an increasing problem ever since my shocks disappeared. My car has officially become a low-rider like those wannabe truck-cars. The hood of my car tilts towards the sky like a speedboat. All I need to do now is install fluorescent blue "light effects" to transform my car into a Las Vegas hovercraft. A car bra would go along nicely with such a feature. I'd fit right in with those kids who hang out in the outskirts of Vancouver.
But I digress.
My mom once told me that being in debt helps build character. I believe her words promptly arrived sometime after my 18th birthday during a payphone conversation from my university dorm. I would also like to add to my mom's statement that being in debt has helped develop my current "svelte financial know-how". That is, being able to locate anything round and silver in between the mystery crevasses that exist between all car seats and seatbelts. I suspect this feature was designed by Ford himself, specifically for parking fee emergencies and 6 a.m. coffee runs when your debit card has been denied.
But somehow, even though most of the time I only have $10 that I can personally claim once the bank, government and muni parking ticket lady have taken what they are owed, I still manage to splurge on at least one sushi feed every two weeks, a bottle of red wine to share (or not) and a handful of quality skin care products. (As well as the most recent phonebook-sized edition of Vogue that could knock the wind out of a small child, random flowers for friends, a few rainy day rentals and a new pair of pink Wonder Woman underwear to go along with a day of watching rainy day rentals).
You see, I have learned to follow my mom's other set of wise words (also backed by the most recent issue of the New Yorker) advising me that its okay to throw your budget to the wind when it comes to three important things in life: Eating properly, filling up on (alcohol based) anti-oxidants and investing in high quality skin care products. After all, the most important thing in life before your bank account balance is good health. Wouldn't you agree?