Blog: $Money$

Burt Ross

The funny thing about money is that regardless of how much or little we have, we all spend it differently. I recently saw an interview with Warren Buffett on Public Television. Buffett made it abundantly clear that he could afford hundreds of houses, and much nicer houses than the one he has lived in for almost all his adult life, but his house is his home with irreplaceable memories. 

The way we spend our money speaks volumes about our values and even our idiosyncrasies, and I sometimes think I have more of the latter than the former. I have no problem spending money on a good meal or even sometimes on a not so good meal, and when I travel, I am willing to pay for a room with a good view. But (there is always that “but”), I am stubbornly opposed to spending money on things that other people haven’t the slightest difficulty paying for.

For instance, I object to paying for parking. Yes, you heard me correctly. For reasons I cannot explain, I believe that free parking should be a constitutional right. If I am going to patronize a store, I should not be charged to shop there. When I used to live in New York City during my 20s, I would circle the block for up to an hour waiting for a parking spot to become available. I must confess that on one or two occasions my date was so upset with me that the relationship ended immediately. A free parking spot was worth the breakup.

I am also dead set against paying for water. If you agree to pay for water, it won’t be long before they charge you for air. Malibu’s finest tap water is okay by me. My caring and generous bride buys bottled water, which she gives to the gardener, the pool cleaner, and any other workman who happens to be on our property for more than five minutes. I don’t know why, if tap water is good enough for me, everybody else should get bottled water, but that is the way it is around here.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I went to Pavilions to buy a handful of items. (Please note my very careful choice of the word “handful.”)  When we were checking out, the cashier asked me if I wanted a bag. Now, you can tell by what I am about to write that I don’t shop very often. “Of course I want a bag,” I answered. I have been given a bag at a supermarket checkout for almost three quarters of a century. Was this some kind of a trick question? I like a napkin when I eat; I like toilet paper when I go to the men’s room; and yes, I like a paper bag when I check out at the supermarket. 

 “That’ll cost you 10 cents,” she responded. She wasn’t kidding. Somehow this had something to do with saving the planet, and I probably voted for it thinking the store was going to give me 10 cents for using a paper bag. Life is getting so complicated. 

I did a quick inventory and counted eight items. For the first time in my life I wish I had been born an octopus.  Between me and my daughter we had four hands. Doing some quick math, which is what college is good for, I quickly calculated that if each hand held two items, we were money good—or at least 10 cents money good.

We held onto our goods for dear life and managed by some divine guidance to make it to the car without dropping anything. 

My daughter gave me that look only a child can give a parent when she knows the parent has left sanity behind.

“Okay, next time I’ll buy the damn bag,” I promised.