Dysfunction is relative, and probably one of my relatives: Part III, Expense reporting a postage stamp


(If you’re just coming by for the first time, please be sure to check out Part I and Part II!  Ya know what, screw that!  Check out the whole damn blog!)

If you ever want to know where to get the cheapest possible deal on pretty much anything, let me set you up with my father.  If you can find it cheap on eBay, he can find it cheaper some-freakin-where.  You will notice that I said cheapest possible deal, not best possible deal.  For all the engineering type brains he did get, he is tremendously short-sighted when it comes to purchasing things.  Basically what that means is that rather than pay $100 for something that will last him a year, he’ll instead pay $10 for a cheaper version that will only last a month.  He sees $10 vs $100 rather than $100 per year vs $120 per year.  That is only the beginning.

If there is a corner to cut, he will hack it off as though it were a cancerous growth.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m as broke as they come and have nothing against saving some money.  Pot and hookers really do not buy themselves just like the button on the right says over there (that not a goddamn one of you has ever pushed –  I’m just sayin), so sometimes we have to skip the T-Bone and grab the Ramen Noodles and be glad we’re eating them, but there is a point where ridiculous is just that.  We work hard all our lives so that at the very minimum, we can be comfortable.  Apparently my father has added “in the afterlife” to the end of that last sentence.  I’m pretty sure he thinks he’s taking it with him.  Let me be clear.  I was not raised in poverty.  My father did well for himself and his family.  We had a nice house and food and precisely what we needed.  It is not that he couldn’t run the heat or A/C or whatever, it was that he wouldn’t.

Problem is, I’m not sure there’s an eBay in Purgatory.  That’s where he’s gonna be.  Heaven won’t take him and he’ll drive Satan batshit to the point that dad will get kicked out of Hell and be stuck in Purgatory with his piece of shit GPS that he’ll just ignore anyway.  We can make it just like Hell for him and keep sending him Hell’s heating bill.  He needs to be sedated before anyone turns on the heat in his house as it is.  If there was a bill for oxygen, we’d all die.

Dad:  “You’re just a little blue.  You can still wiggle your fingers.  You’ll be fine.”

You think I jest.  Here are just a few examples.

On running the heat in the winter:

Dad:  “Just put on a damn sweatshirt.”

Me:  “I can’t move my fingers.”

Dad:  “Gloves.”

In the long run, it doesn’t save money at all because if I ever need a testicular exam it’s going to require an ultrasound.

On watching TV:

Dad:  “Why don’t you turn that damn thing off and read a book or something.  You’re just running up the electric bill.”

Me:  “I tried but it was hard to turn the pages with mittens on.”

On pretty much anything:

Dad:  “How much did they screw ya for that crap?!”

Me:  *points to scar from life-saving surgery*  “The doctor said I would have been dead in 2 weeks if I hadn’t done this.”

Dad:  “I know a little Vietnamese guy that does that shit out of the back of his van.  Would have cost you less than half what you paid that doctor.”

“I remove your spreen! Three dolla!”

There is no length this man will not go to squeeze a penny.  If you happen to be the Federal government and he can find a way to get it for free or at a greatly reduced rate, he has figured out how to get it from you.  Legally.  So there is nothing you can do about it.  I don’t care if it is a single 1994, shiny dime; he will hold it to your face and grin with personal satisfaction.  If you are a salesperson, go ahead and kill yourself now.  Save yourself.  If you are a waitress, request another section.  If you are one of his children, blog – it’s therapeutic.

My father recently went with my mother to get her a new car.  Lemme correct that statement.  My mother recently went with my father so he could torture every car salesman within 100 miles and finally decide for her what car she wanted.  (Why my mother didn’t smother him with a pillow years ago is beyond me.)  Needless to say, this process took about a week.  There were several dealerships.  Several cars.  Several nights of internet searching for owner ratings and lifetime mileage projections and investigations into the backgrounds of the guys on the assembly line that built the cars, etc.  I’m not 100% sure about this, but I’m pretty sure there were probably a couple of salesmen that went “Fuck this” and walked off the job.

Eventually, mom came home with a really nice, brand new Nissan Altima.  I was stunned.

Me:  “No way in hell he actually bought anything foreign!”

Mom:  “Salesman told him that most of them were made in the US anymore anyway, by American workers.”

Me:  “a) Dudes got balls; I like him and b) Dad believed him?!”

Mom:  *big smile*  “I guess so.”

Me:  “He is clearly ill.  Let’s hope we can keep him that way.”

Dad took the 400 page owners manual down to “The Cave” and read it.  Cover to cover.  Twice.  He still doesn’t know how to work any of the new technology on that car.  He’s obviously not ill enough.

At this point I want to move into the part of the story where I tell you he brought me the manual to the car and asked me to program the built in bluetooth to work with mom’s phone, but I can’t do that without tossing in the part about the new cell phone he had to buy for mom because the one she had didn’t have bluetooth.  She didn’t have bluetooth because dad gets his cell phone service from Tracfone.  You know the ones.  They are the ones in the heat shrunk packages in the electronics department of WalMart that you get for $20 and then you buy minutes every time you run out.  I know you know which ones I’m talking about because you bought one for your 9 year old so they would shut about wanting a cell phone.  (Don’t worry, my dad is an equal opportunity Jew.  He has the same kind of phone for himself.  It’s on a tether that he hooks to his belt loop with a D-ring because God knows you don’t want to lose that little gem.)  He managed to find one that had bluetooth for $15.

Boy was he proud.

Yep, that’s it.

I also have a Nissan that is only a couple of years older than hers, but it has the same bluetooth system in it.  I don’t really use it much anymore since I’m never in the car all that long but when I was working as a courier up in Michigan I pretty much depended on it, so I have an idea as to what is going on.  My father dropped the instruction manual for the car and the phone on the counter in front of me and said “Program your mother’s bluetooth in her car.  I got her a good phone today that has bluetooth.”  (Yes, he did emphasize the word “good” to describe his incredible $15 WalMart find as well as point out his wickedly savvy consumerism.)

Me:  “Sure.”  *I grab mom’s shiny new toy phone and car key and walk outside, intentionally ignoring instruction manuals*

Dad:  “Here, take the instructions!”

Me:  “I don’t need them.”

Dad:  “Yes you do!”

Me:  “I have the same exact setup in my car and I’ve had it for almost 3 years.  I know how it works.”

Dad:  “Well, I just bought the damn phone today.  How do you know how that works?!”

Me:  “For the same reason I know how a bicycle works.  They’ve been making those for 200 years as well.”

Now I will admit, it’s probably been a year and a half since I screwed with the bluetooth in my car and the instruction manual might have been useful for some review, but that would have stripped me of the sick pleasure it gives me to leave the manual behind and make it work anyway and annoy the living shit out of my father.  Which I did.  In about 5 minutes.  When I got done, I brought mom out to show her how it worked and dad came following out (to be sure I had done it right because he read the manual and could have done it himself but he didn’t feel like having to call Nissan and LG to clarify a few key points that he read that just didn’t sound right).  I whipped out the old iPhone and called mom so that she could hear what it sounded like in the car and she could find the button to push to start talking and end the phone call, etc.    I showed her how she could just push the button and then say “Call Eric” into the air and it would just dial me up.  Mom was all excited and saying “how cool!” and asked a couple of questions about the volume buttons and that kind of stuff.  Dad stood there watching, his chest all swollen.  He was so proud that he made this all happen . . .

. . . .by buying that goddamn $15 phone.  I swear, he thinks he invented Bluetooth now.  No, I’m not kidding.  He is the Al Gore of Bluetooth.

The latest issue is that my mother offered to take a friend of hers to the airport in Greensboro.  About a 90 mile drive one way.  No biggie if you’re doing a favor for a friend and you’ve got a nice, new, dependable car to make the trip in, especially since your friend lives in Florida and doesn’t have a car up here.  The car has less than 3000 miles on it and it gets 30 miles to the gallon.  Hell, even if mom’s friend hadn’t asked, mom probably would have offered anyway.

Dad is beside himself.  “Why would she do such a thing for free?”  “You know how much that is going to cost in gas?”   “And that’s not even counting wear and tear on the car!”

He figured out that it costs 14 cents per mile in wear and tear to drive her car.  That’s before gas.

Who the fuck even knows how to figure that out?!  Seriously?!?!

There is another connection going on here that I am still trying to work out.  The man is paranoid.  I don’t know if he is paranoid because he is obsessively frugal or if he is obsessively frugal because he is paranoid.  He believes everyone is out to screw him out of money or steal it from him.  The government.  Salesmen.  Microsoft, Apple, Warner Brothers, Disney, WalMart, Exxon, the toothless lady that lives in the refrigerator box behind the gas station, my son’s guinea pig, everyone.  I’ll give him Microsoft. . . and the guinea pig.  That furry little bastard is shifty.

Yes, my name is Stephanie and this card is TOTALLY mine!

Of course in these days of internet fraud and identity theft, we need to be a little more cautious, but the man is over the edge.  Earlier, I mentioned “The Cave”.  This is a little office in his house and it is his.  Period.  End of story, no gurlz allowed, keep out, do not enter, HIS.  It is a part of the house but there is no entrance to it from inside the house.  It has one door on the exterior of the house and it has a different key from the rest of the doors.  It is where he spends all of his waking moments except when he is out doing something “stupid” that he has to do.  If he is not in it, it is locked and it stays that way.  I do not have a key to it.

As far as he knows.

Nobody knows what he does in there, but the best we can figure is that he finds new ways to scrape change out of wherever he can scrape it out of.  He came out of there recently looking unusually justified.  I tend not to ask questions, but dad tends to lay down upon us tales of his greatness without provocation, so I got it anyway.

Dad:  “I sent in a $3 rebate a couple weeks ago and the bastards sent me a check for $1.50.  So I called them up and asked ’em what the hell was going on and today I got a check from them for $3!  I came out $1.50 ahead on the deal”!

and then he laughed like he just pulled off an armored truck heist and got away with millions.

Today I saw him come out with an expense report that he was going to turn in to the Disabled American Veterans, that he occasionally volunteers for.  It was for $8.88 that he has shelled out over the last 2 months.  He wants his $8.88 back.  For some faxes that he sent.  For Disabled American Veterans.  Over the course of 2 months.  Am I the only one taking issue with this?!

I have reached the point in my life where there is little to no reaction anymore.  I look at him like I look at a 4 year old that is excited about the frog he just found in his pants.  These are the things that happen in “The Cave”.  It is in “The Cave” that he devised the idea to scratch the security code off the back of his credit cards and draw a fake one on there “just in case”.

Because nothing says Credit Card Fraud like a MasterCard with a security code written with a Sharpie.

I suppose the thieves with a cart full of Budweiser will need something to laugh about as they slide it through the reader at the WalMart register.

My parents went on a cruise a few years back and I still wonder where he cut corners on that, because I KNOW he did.  It may not have been readily apparent, but it was there somewhere.  We would have known right away if the boat had sunk.  All the passengers would be on the life boats save for two.  At least they would be easy to spot.  They would have been in these:

I knew someone would save my mother.  She would have been the one near the guy screaming about the boat being a piece of shit into the $15 phone still tethered to his pants.


Favorite Facebook post of the day:

I have asked her to start a blog. It would be good and I would brag that she is my friend.

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