I finally got around to uploading the photos from my writing presentation at the Tustin Branch library last October; you can see them below. If you missed the lecture, I converted my notes into a book that you can download on Kindle (hopefully also on Nook soon). You can read a sample or buy it here.
The Internet was full of articles all about ways to save during financially hard times. Diana emailed me one about people buying in bulk at Costco; it gave all kinds of figures about how much you would save by simply buying in bulk. “This would be the perfect place,” she wrote on top of the forwarded news story, “to buy a new TV.”
I think we were the only people who read stories about saving money, and came away with a plan to spend a few hundred dollars on a TV. She made a good point though—they had the best deals on TVs in the area.
We headed to Costco within the next hour before we had time to talk ourselves out of the plan.
The article had mentioned always going shopping with a set price, and never go over it. We had figured a new TV would cost $300 to $400 dollars before our monitor began to go bad; this price doubled when we decided to go bigger. “We can’t spend more than $800.” I told Diana as we headed for the main entrance.
The TVs at Costco decorated the front entrance; they were arranged in such a way that there was no way avoiding them as you walked into the warehouse. No matter what you came to shop for, you would see them calling out at you, and then you’d be forced to do your shopping thinking the whole time about how nice they would look in your living room.
The TVs alternated in what they displayed. The larger ones with brighter pictures tended to show high definition displays of things blowing up and football; the smaller ones displayed cooking and how-to type shows. I’m sure there was a man who made thousands of dollars for researching the perfect place to put the TV.
I took gallant steps towards the larger, 40 inch ones, and carefully read the specifications. As I made mental notes comparing and contrasting each TV, I noticed for the first time that Diana wasn’t next to me; she was several feet away, looking transfixed at the screen of a larger TV.
“I like this one.” She said when I walked to her.
“That’s 50 inches.”
“But the colors much prettier than those.” She said looking at the 40 inch ones I had been standing at.
I looked down at the price tag: $1,200.
“Come look at them closer.”
We both folded arms and did our best to admire the 40 inch screens, but as we did so our eyes kept wandering to their 50 inch neighbors. We had seen greatness, and now could not go back.
“It’s not that much more.” I said, quickly forgetting about never going over your set price.
Diana did the math in her head and said brightly, “Only $500.”
I nodded and furthered justified the purchase by bringing up the “saving money by staying in” excuse, “Going to the movies is about twenty dollars for both of us.” I explained pulling out my phone and inputting into numbers into its calculator, “If we went to sixty movies this year we would spend $1,200.”
Diana saw where I was going with my figures, “So if we don’t go to sixty shows, then this TV is paid for.”
“Exactly.” I concluded, not bothering to point out we had never been to more than a dozen movies in any one year.
“And it says it last for thirty years.”
“Yep. So it’s basically paying for itself after the first year.”
“What do you think?” Diana nervously asked.
I took a deep breath, forgot about all logic, and said, “Let’s do it!”
I went outside the store to get a large medal cart that was big enough for the TV; for several years I had come to Costco walking past the medal carts and getting the large plastic grocery cart instead; I always longed for the day that I would get to use the medal one and at last it had come.
I situated the cart next to the TV, and struggled to get the massive box to fit. As we did so, people walking by looked at us with disgust that we were buying a TV in such times. Less than three months prior, we had been in the store, and nearly every person was buying a TV; today the section was empty.
“I feel like the Great Gatsby,” I told Diana once we finally got the TV on the cart.
“Didn’t he die?”
“Yeah—I feel like the pre-death Gatsby—the one who lived large.”
I proudly looked around as we waited in line and nodded at each passerby in a way that said, “That’s right, we’re blowing $1,200 on a TV.”
“Do you think it will fit in the car?” Diana asked.
“We’ll make it fit.” I answered with determination.
Outside the store, we looked at my small Ford Escort and it started to become clear that there was no way it would fit inside. “I’ll call my mom, and ask her to bring her truck.”
Diana would not give up so easily. “That’s going to take forever. What if we put the seats down.”
I thought about it, and even used my hands to measure it, but there was just no way.
We looked helpless in the parking lot, stranded with our huge TV and tiny car as we waited for my mom to come.
“It’s a real nice looking box, huh.” I said looking proudly at the cart.
“Real nice.” Diana, who sat with her arms crossed in the front seat, replied.
From afar people pointed, whispered and gave odd looks. A man whispered to his wife what I’m sure was “That’s what they get.”
A number of the people were walking to the movie theater that was adjacent to the Costco. I smirked at them, and commented to Diana, “What a waste of money.”
Forty minutes later, my mom pulled up and was surprisingly upbeat. I had expected her to make a comment about how we didn’t have any money and what were we doing by such a monstrosity of a television. Instead she smiled and said, “You deserve this.” I think she was pulling for the TV because if we kept spending like we were, we’d definitely move in with my parents and that TV would go in her living room.
I drove behind her on the way to our apartment, and watched each bump carefully—silently praying that nothing would happen to our investment. I ran two red lines just so I didn’t lose sight of it. I had never been so protective about anything in my life.
“If you’re this protective about a TV,” Diana, who was used to me slowing down for green lights that I was sure would turn red real soon, commented, “I think you might just be ready for a baby.”
“Let’s just test drive the TV a few years. If I don’t drop it by the time it turns five, then maybe.”
“Maybe,” Diana nodded.
At the apartment, Diana complained how badly her back hurt attempting to move the TV from the box to the top of the dresser. “Put it down,” I said, “I’ll call my dad to help me later tonight.”
“No,” Diana snapped, “My back will heal—lift.”
The tone of her “lift” command gave me the added endurance that I needed to life the TV onto the dresser. I didn’t care if the rods in my own back were strained and bent out of place—I would get the TV on the dresser.
I went to work immediately hooking up the DVD player, and said when I finished, “Help me find the perfect movie to test it with.” I thought for a moment, “How about Mama Mia? We haven’t even taken that out of the wrapper?”
“Grow a pair! You just bought a fifty inch TV and you want to watch Mama Mia?” Before I could defend my position, Diana ran to the living room and returned with Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
“Perfect.” I said taking the movie, and then explaining, “And I was only thinking of you when I said Mama Mia.”
“Just hit play.”
As soon as the DVD loaded, our hearts skipped a beat as we saw its magnificence—the picture was glorious. We both had only one thing to say, “Think of how great it would look if we had cable.”
And because cable would encourage us to stay in, we’d actually be saving money.
In one of our few attempts at being non-conformist, Diana and I chose not to get a TV when we first got married. Like many newlywed couples, idealist notions about only needing each other and not wanting TV to take away from our aura of togetherness helped explain our rational in a way that sounded romantic—and by romantic I mean when Diana explained it people went “awe, that’s sweet” and when I explained it people said, “you are one cheap jerk, I pity your wife.”
We had a twenty inch computer monitor in the TV’s place that sat humbly on the dresser in front of our bed, and was attached to a computer; this afforded us the luxury of watching the occasional movie, and let us stream the few TV shows that we still liked to watch off the Internet.
The idea worked quite well—for about five months.
We both began to have withdrawals from TV, as Fall came along and reviews of the years “Must See” shows began to appear on blogs and magazines.
“Remember when we used to stay up late, and snuggle on the couch watching reruns of Seinfeld?” Our conversations would frequently begin. They were sweet memories of cuddling at the start.
The more desperate we got for TV, the less sweet our memories would get. They went from reminisces of cuddling to simply blunt proclamations like, “I’m bored. Need TV.” The more we lusted for TV, the dumber and more fragmented we talked. We both worried that if we held out any longer we would resort to lying in bed in near vegetated states mumbling “TV” as we let drool come from our mouths.
Our problem, of course, was we could not justify buying a TV while the brand new monitor still worked fine. A reasonable man might consider smashing in the monitor and then shrugging and telling his wife it just kind of happened. Diana wouldn’t have even gotten mad if I had smashed the TV; she would have probably bragged to her friends about the violent measures I would resort to just so she could get a new television. I, however, just couldn’t justify doing harm to an inanimate object that had never wrong me.
A week into the new Fall season, I was reading in bed while Diana strained to watch a poorly streamed episode of Gossip Girl from the Internet. “Did you see it?” She suddenly said excited.
I looked up confused. “What?”
“A flicker! There was a flicker on the screen!”
“It was probably just a glitch in the video.” I said not willing to believe that God could be so kind to us.
“No. Just watch it a second.”
I set my book aside, and inspected the monitor from bed like a scientist looking through a microscope hoping to find the cause of cancer; in that moment, finding a slight glitch in the monitor was on par to finding a cure for cancer.
Moments later it happened again. “Did you see it?!”
This time I had. It was a quick flash, followed by every red color on the screen dimming and then getting bright again. “Maybe it’s the video?” I stood, went to the mouse, and loaded a new page.
I went to Google, the site that knows all, and then took a step back, and waited for a new flicker. This time I waited on the edge of the bed so I could inspect the monitor even closer. I waited almost a minute before turning to declare impatiently to Diana, “See! It was just the video.”
Diana sighed disappointed but then nearly jumped out of bed and hollered pointing at the screen, “There! It just did again.”
“That's it then.” I said satisfied, “It is going bad.”
“I can't believe it. We haven't even had it a year.”
“No,” I announced with great confidence, “This is God’s way of telling us we deserve a new TV.”
Diana nodded. She was my go-to yes gal whenever it came to buying things with money we didn’t have.
I used my arms to measure the dresser, and then took a step back and studied my imaginary measurements. “What if we went for bigger?”
“Okay! Like thirty inches?”
“I was thinking more like forty.”
She nodded excited, and then said so soft I knew she was hoping I didn’t hear it, “Can we afford it?”
“No! But we have money set aside for times like these” I emphasized times like these to make it sound like losing a TV was on par with nuclear holocaust.
I could tell Diana was not fully comfortable with the idea, and I knew I had to present her with one more reason why this was a good idea; I thought for a moment and then finally asked, “We’re supposed to be saving money, right?”
I cut Diana off, “Having a bigger TV would help us save because we would be happy just staying home and watching a movie.”
Over the past two years since "Quiet, Please," I was engaged in several writing projects; many of these projects had me sketching out humor essays that eventually would be used for chapters in different books--some of the essays went on to be published, and others did not. They were all good, and so I have collected them (along with several others) into a collection of humor essays titled "Observations of a Life Not Yet Observed."
Essay collections are not an easy thing to publish; I hope one day that they do find their way into a bound book, but for now I am making them available on Kindle (which you can now also read on your PC and iPod). You can buy a copy here.
There are stories about being broke, stories about being newly married, and stories about being purposely electrocuted by my grandfather (it really is funny!).
Over the next couple weeks, I'll be writing about a few more projects I have on Kindle, so stay tuned.
Tomorrow and the day after, I'll post the first two essays from the collection for your reading entertainment.
"Observations on a Life Not Yet Observed" (and no, that's not me on the cover).
"Christian Obscenity" A collection of Christian humor, parody, interviews, and other essays I've published over the years.
I just got a few copies of "Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian" in. It makes the perfect gift for book love/librarian friends! If you want to buy a signed copy, just click the PayPal link below; also, if you want it personalized, let me know.
It's $20.00 with free domestic shipping. (email me if you live out of the U.S. and I'll tell you the rate...it won't be high). They will also be packaged with a few library-themed postcards from my wife.
If it's international, make sure and order this week and I'll do my best to make sure it arrives by Christmas.
Last month, I sold out in two days, so order quick to ensure you'll get them in time for Christmas...I'm not positive I'll have anymore to sell until after the new year.
Halloween is officially over, which means it’s time to start rolling out the Christmas gear! In honor of this, I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone in blogosphere land that my wife is selling library-themed Christmas cards (only $3.50) each and library-themed postcards (4 for $4.00); they’re perfect for anyone looking for a card for their favorite booklover this holiday season. Reduce rates are available to anyone making bulk purchases.
She also sells several library-themed prints, and will be expanding the bibliophile section of her store real soon. To keep informed on upcoming library related prints make sure you’re following her blog!