Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's not the money...

As a child I lived in a world of financial dissonance. I had a mother who loved to spend and a father who questioned every purchase, hoarded every cent. Money was at the root of 95% of family squabbles, and it continues (albeit to a lesser extent now that their kids are on their own) to this day to varying degrees.

I remember being around15 and going with my dad to the local store. I had just seen Back to the Future, and loved the version of "Johnny B. Goode" from the film, the one obviously sung by someone other than Michael J. Fox. This was in the day when a cassette tape was still around $12, and singles of the song were not generally available. I had my gas cutting money/allowance with me, ready to go. My father spent approximately 30 minutes in the car using various reasons to dissuade me from purchasing the album. His contention was that the original version of the song was superior (and free on a copy of the American Graffiti soundtrack LP we already had at home), and it was silly to buy an entire album just for one song. While I tried to explain to him that 1) there was more than one song on that album that I wanted and 2) I actually liked this new version rather than the old one, it nevertheless didn't deter him. At some point, I capitulated and didn't buy the album. I actually never bought it and ended up finding it on a yard sale rack for $1 years later. That cover song remains my favorite version to date, notably because I grew to dislike Chuck Berry over time. I guess you could say in the end I came away $11 richer.

His lesson did not have the desired effect, because for years I would buy CDs for just one song, and once the age of MP3 and iTunes came about, I could easily just buy the songs I wanted. I also realized that his perspective was a combination of growing up poor, undiagnosed ADD and a general cost/benefit analysis to his purchases. If I had chosen to spend the $12 on fishing lures, he would have no doubt applauded my efforts, but would nonetheless try to steer me to the clearance rack. To this day it remains the reason why I refuse to discuss financial matters with him.

His other passion was gun trading. He spent untold amounts of money and time going from show to show, buying and trading shotguns, rifles and pistols. I think my moment of moral relativism came when I found out he had in hand two places selling the gun he wanted, but one was 40 miles more away and was $20 cheaper. He then spent $10 in gas and almost 2 hours getting this cheaper gun, and in the end spent the day applauding himself for saving that money. I guess I only look at it as shortsighted, because to me it was an awful lot of legwork and time to go through for such a meager payoff, and unless it was something you did on a regular basis. I didn't see it as him being a cheapskate, just miserly and very much convinced that it is indeed the principle of the thing, not the money, that brought him the most satisfaction. He should have been a bazaar owner in Marrakech.

If only he could have saved the self-congratulations for his own purchases and let the rest of us fend for ourselves, I think a lot of the financial turmoil in the house could have been lessened.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Image du Jour

Image du Jour