Choices, Things I Can

73. Things I Can Outlast: The Muzak

I do indeed want to receive the same high quality service you are currently providing other customers. Yes, I will continue to hold, thank you for asking so nicely. A wait time of greater than seven minutes is completely manageable.

Please don’t worry. I’ll stay right here on the line.

As you experience high call volume, I am enjoying the pleasant anticipation of severing any need for future attention from your eager representatives.

I do appreciate the musical distraction you’ve generously supplied. A goat hamstrung in the soundboard of a baby grand is fine accompaniment this evening.

I have 26 days remaining on my car registration. Please, take your time.

I opened this account when my son was in diapers and your advertised interest rate was the highest in the country. I was aware that you only paid out that jaw-dropping return for the first year. Those few extra bucks helped me piece together the down payment on this condo right here, my very first home.

After withdrawing the bulk of the cash, I kept a little stashed in the account. I left it open.

Because it takes seven minutes to do otherwise.

Seven minutes of goat torture.

And because each minute of my life engaged in just about any human activity besides calling customer service is a gift, I’ll only sally forth if the need is dire.

Baumeister named what we intuitively know: If you have a thing for chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and it’s in the kitchen freezer, you’ll either be eating it or trying not to eat it. The effort you expend avoiding indulgence taps resources better applied elsewhere.

If the ice cream is at the store, the thought of bullying through traffic to get it somehow renders the craving less acute.

And maybe if it’s always just a little out of reach all the time, you forget about wanting it for days and weeks.

Maybe years.

Which is how long I forgot about this money.

Seven minutes?

Seven minutes ain’t nothing, my friend.

The car I’ve owned since graduate school is coughing out its last breath. This little beater moved me to a new residence in every one of the time zones in the continental US, and when that road trip of a marriage finally came to an end, it ferried my son and dog and pile of suitcases and me back to the very same driveway it inhabited at my folks’ house a decade earlier. After all that huffing and hauling, it requires undetermined repairs with uncertain results at unknown expense.

It might be time to buy a new one.

Or rather a “new” one, as I harbor few illusions of gleam.

Alas, the cash reserves are tapped. Hard to believe. Every morning, I don the frayed cape of Frugal the Fierce, a proud and bleary-eyed single working Mom who walks 2 miles to the metro so she can save $5 on parking. I snip the corners from my paycheck and stash the bits in high-yield accounts.

Even an atheist can pray to the gods of compounding interest. They may still save us in the end.

We’re far from the end. It’s far from enough. Enough, yes, for groceries. And home repairs. And car. Far too little for GroceriesandHomeRepairsandCar, which is how these things plow into us: all the things in one upending swell.


I have reserves.

So I will hold the line until the next account representative is available.

It’s only a couple of thousand bucks. Which would have zero bucks if you’d made it easier for me to get through to your customer care specialists. With that money out of sight and out of reach, I could carry on with the myth that my poverty is what’s standing between me and a slick new dining table. Between me and a fresh wardrobe. Between me and Easy Street.

To blame for the tragic shortage of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in my freezer?


When really, it was foresight and small plate sleight-of-hand.

The wants ebb, the wants flow. But when a true need comes coursing downstream threatening to burst the banks, I want a PFD and a firm grip on a sturdy vine.

I’ve been patient. Months into years, saving and waiting. Those dying goats don’t stand a chance.

Seven minutes or seven days. My willpower is a force all its own.

When you close that account for me and put the check in the mail, I’ll know that each and every pint that someone else bought and someone else savored went to its proper home.

Because we’ve been saving a spot here for something a lot more nourishing

and so very sweet.

3 thoughts on “73. Things I Can Outlast: The Muzak”

  1. Mmm yes. Poverty can be delicious. Just ask Diogenes or Mr. Money Mustache. We’ve taken the Gone With The Wind approach, you know, “you’ll never go hungry again”. So at least there’s that we don’t have to worry about.

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