I’ve heard it said that, barring any support from family members or close friends, missing two paydays would put most people into a completely chaotic life situation. Some estimates put it as 7 meals that prevent civil, functioning people from turning into wild, murderous sub-humans.
Now things aren’t that bad for me, yet, thank God, but I’ve had cause to think about these things a little because the Office of Veterans Affairs has not paid me several thousand dollars of educational benefits that I have earned and for which I’m qualified under the G.I. bill. They did the same thing to me last year, so I’m not surprised. I can’t get them on the phone (they’re sorry that all lines are busy at this time), can’t leave a message, and my e-mails go unanswered. We’ll see how things go in October. Maybe the money will shake free in the new fiscal year.
So to keep from dipping into money we’ve saved up for other things, we’re looking for ways to be more frugal. Not an uncommon impulse for most people these days, I think. One thing Margaret and I started doing was packing a lunch at home in the morning and bringing it to school. It’s worked out great. I bring my student self down to her office, we go get the lunch out of the fridge and, when the weather’s nice, we walk about 100 yards to the park and have a picnic. We get to breathe some fresh air in real sunlight, spend a little time together, talk about how the day’s going, make plans, talk about what the boys are doing, all the while saving big bucks.
So what were we doing before? Nearly always eating separately, going out to eat somewhere or eating lunch at our desks, which is more expensive and a whole lot less satisfactory. We didn’t really think about the brownbag lunch together option until we were forced to by economic necessity.
This whole thread goes along with something one of my profs was telling me this week. He told me when he was a grad student he found himself in a situation where he was a single dad of two little kids with no car trying to live and support his family on the graduate student stipend he was getting from the university. The kids were too little to be alone by themselves so when he had to go to the grocery store he’d put the 6 month old in a little backpack child carrier and the older child in a seat mounted on the back of the bicycle and take them to the store on the bike. He could only buy as much groceries as he could put into a couple of bags that he could wrap around the handlebars and shakily pedal home. When he got to the part of the story where you would expect him to to say, “It was terrible” he smiled and said, “It was the best time of my life. I’d go back and do it again in a minute.”
I think that thirty years from now Margaret and I will vividly remember the brownbag lunches in Spence park. Nothing extravagant. Not even anything romantic. Usually last night’s leftovers. Just people who love each other living life together. Just that simple. Just that perfect.
I’d still like to get paid, though.