People Can Surprise You
My father is one of the cheapest men in America. Much of my childhood was spent going store to store, brandishing an assortment of coupons in order to accumulate absurd amounts of a variety of products. Getting a good deal is a mark of honor for my father, and I was his accomplice in the endless pursuit of a sale.
There was the time he got a deal on cheese puff balls. We saw those in our lunch boxes about every day for a year. Or the time that he discovered a sale on chicken – $1 per pound. This just happened to coincide with a coupon for $1 off of a pound of chicken. After spending hours clipping hundreds of these coupons and purchasing an extra freezer, we were the happy owners of enough chicken to last several years, all purchased for the mere price of the tax on the chicken.
Dinner every night included chicken. Roasted chicken. Fried chicken. Chicken wings. Chicken legs over rice. Rotisserie chicken. Barbeque chicken. Oh, and don’t forget the leftover chicken sandwiches and soup.
Let’s just say that I was really happy when a hurricane made us lose power just long enough that we lost about six months’ worth of chicken. I only recently started enjoying chicken again.
Remember when Burger King came out with their new French fries recipe and offered everyone free fries for one day? Well, that was the one occasion where I was permitted to miss a day of school. We traveled to every Burger King in the tri-city area to gather free samples.
Growing up, I didn’t think that my dad was cheap. I thought we were poor. I mean, I paid 25 cents for my lunch at school, whereas all my peers paid $1.50. I wouldn’t qualify for reduced lunch if we weren’t poor, would I? In hindsight, I realize that my dad probably, um, fibbed a little on the qualification forms. Or maybe it was an honest mistake. He probably left off a zero on his salary or something. Totally accidental.
Of course there was also the time that we moved from Germany to New York (my dad was in the Army), and had to stay in a hotel until we found a new home. No biggie, right? Well, we were given a daily budget for our hotel. Said budget included two hotel rooms – there would be four people staying in the hotel, after all. I think you can guess where this story is going. In order to pocket half of our “per diem,” my father booked only one hotel room. He told the staff it would only be him and my step mother staying in the room. Then, for the next two weeks, my sister and I had to sneak unnoticed up a back stairwell into the hotel room and sleep on the floor.
I have about a million of these stories. My dad is a character. It’s endearing. Sure, the fact that our garage always looked like a grocery store – well, a grocery store that only sells about five products at a time – was strange, but at least we always had plenty of food. And his antics provided me with lots of stories to tell at parties. Most importantly, my father taught me the value of a dollar. While I don’t often clip coupons myself, I can find a mean sale and I’m pretty darn cheap.
When my uncle died, my dad inherited his condominium in Washington, D.C. On Father’s Day this year, we were cooking out (thankfully not chicken), and we learned that my father had an offer on the condo.
“You know what you should do with all that money?” I asked my father, jokingly. “You should take us on a family vacation.”
We have never been on a family vacation. Are you kidding me? That stuff costs money, people. My dad doesn’t spend money if he can help it.
“The only place I’d take you is…” he started. I awaited his sarcastic response. Where might he say? Sam’s club for lunch? This was a favorite of his – he’d offer to take you out to lunch and then you’d realize “lunch” was free samples at Sam’s club.
“…Hawaii,” he finished.
Once we picked our chins off the ground, we started to talk about it. My father was once stationed in Hawaii, in fact, my sister Natasha was born there. I hadn’t been born yet when the family was there, and I’ve always been jealous of the pictures of my mom, dad and sisters wearing leis. What I haven’t been jealous of is their harrowing tales of flying cockroaches, but don’t get me started on that.
That Father’s Day was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve ever spent with my dad. We spent the entire day talking about where we would go, if we were to go to Hawaii. He told us about how he used to make doughnuts for my mom and all about their favorite beach. He talked excitedly about all the places he’d love to show us, and my sister and I looked up flight and hotel costs. I’ve never seen my father so excited about anything.
On the way home, I realized that it would never happen. I mean, my dad is too cheap for a trip to Hawaii. Nevermind that getting to Hawaii is incredibly expensive from the East Coast. So, I all but put the idea out of my head.
The next day, my father called and asked if I could get about two weeks off from work in January. Could I? Absolutely!
And that night, my dad booked a trip for him, my two sisters, my step mom and myself to Hawaii.
Now, don’t you go thinking that my dad is a changed man. Remember my theory: people don’t change. Although, I do think that his recent cancer treatment has impacted his life view. But, he’s still as cheap as ever. When we are in Hawaii, he has big plans of going to the commissary (the military grocery store) for most of our meals, and he’s adamant that we are going to save money everywhere we can.
I’m not complaining. I’ll be in Hawaii. Not much can faze me if I’m on a beach in Hawaii. In fact, I’ve been dying to be on a good beach since I cancelled the honeymoon. And, the trip falls during my birthday. So really, we’re all going to Hawaii to celebrate my birthday. Isn’t that sweet?
And don’t you worry – my dad got us two rooms this time.
People can surprise you.
Has anyone surprised you recently?
Copyright 2011. Simply Solo blog by Catherine Gryp. All Rights Reserved.