Reality Bites! And Then You Get a Ticket

My mom watches a lot of true crimes on TV. In fact, I’m pretty sure she’s tuned in to Investigation Discovery the better part of her waking hours. And when she’s not watching these horrific tales, she’s having me look them up to see if there’s anything current with the cases. Admittedly, some of these cases are fascinating but when you’re flooding your brain daily with such awful examples of humankind, it’s not good for your own mental health. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “people are evil” over the past few weeks and at one point, she even suggested I get a gun to take to work with me. (I work from home most of the time and the merchandising gig that I do every week is in Target.) And yesterday, she made a special point to tell me that about a woman in Atlanta that killed her wife after they had been together “a very long time”. (Not sure what you’re getting at here, Mom.) But mostly she likes to warn us about the neighborhood we live in, how unsafe it is, and how someone might just break in on us at any time.

Now, let me reassure you – our apartment might not be the definition of luxury (despite the fact that the word luxury is on the sign at the entrance) but it’s pretty safe. At least from criminals. But my mom was right about one thing – at any moment, something could break in and attack any one of us. I know because it happened last Friday.

At 5:30 AM last Friday, Angie woke me up with the most dreaded words you can hear when you’re half-asleep, “I think something happened”. My first thought – oh, God! Not Caesar! He is almost 18 years old and not the healthiest cat in the world but I’m certainly not ready for him to cross the Rainbow Bridge. My next thought – something had happened to one of our moms. Never in a million years would I have guessed that the “something” that happened was that Angie was attacked by a wasp IN HER SLEEP!

For a few weeks, we’ve had red wasps randomly sneaking into the apartment. We usually hear them in the blinds and dispose of them quickly. We did not see or hear this one. Angie actually thought Caesar was brushing her face with his tail and reached up to swat it away. In reality, she swatted a wasp that was crawling across her face and he double-tapped her right in the eye – once on the eyelid and once in the corner, just above her tear duct. Her eyelid was starting to swell. It looked awful and painful but since she is not allergic, she took a Benedryl, applied ice, and told me to go to work. (I had a gig in Bowling Green, KY that day.)

Before I left for work (ignore the bedhead)

A few hours later – she looked like this.

So I tried to rush home. Except that you don’t rush through Portland, TN. Trust me. The only two times in my life that I’ve ever gotten a ticket were in Portland, TN, and one of those was on Friday. I was apparently going 62 in a 45 and that’s a no-no, despite the fact that your partner is starting to swell like a balloon and you have the only car.

When I got home, we went to the walk-in clinic (since our “awesome” insurance has a $1,000 co-pay for the ER and a $100 co-pay for the clinic). After passing the COVID-19 protocols, we got to see a nurse practitioner who told us her childhood story about getting stung, gave Angie a shot of Benedryl and a steroid, and sent us on our way.

Folks, if you gain nothing else from this post, here’s what I hope it will be –

First, don’t spend your days watching true crime. It’s really not good for you. And second, if a wasp stings you in the eye, your life is going to be ruined for a really long time. Your face will swell to the point that your head feels like it might explode. If you’re lucky, it won’t extend to both eyes. In this case, Angie wasn’t that lucky. She was blind for 2 full days. You’re going to be in pain and you’re going to want to go to the ER, despite having such a ridiculous co-pay. Resist the urge, unless you are truly allergic, at which point you would have already been in the ER.

We ended up going to the ER that night because we were scared of the swelling. We were afraid Angie’s eye was damaged. We knew next to nothing about wasp stings in the face, and apparently neither did they. They basically turned us around and sent us home, but not before noting how “fascinating this case was”. Want to know where we gained the most insight into this situation? Facebook. We asked if anyone had experienced the same or similar and got a whole lot of useful information that we did not get from the professionals.

We haven’t received all the bills for this little misadventure yet. The ER did say they would give us the cash price rather than file insurance as it would definitely be cheaper. But irregardless, one tiny little intruder is likely going to cost us a lot more than that vacation we were thinking of going on later this year. Ugh!

Why We Wear Cheap Socks

A few years back, Angie and I started seeing a lot of posts about how frugal living isn’t the same as cheap living, and I even wrote about the concept on a few occasions. Frugal living (to us, anyway) is about living on less than you earn, using your resources wisely, and not purchasing things that are unnecessary. Cheap living, on the other hand, tends to conjure up images of subpar goods, less than ideal living conditions, and things that are constantly in need of repair. You can be frugal and still have quality things. In fact, a lot of fellow minimalists will tell you that making a quality purchase that may cost more in the beginning far outweighs buying cheap things that will need to be replaced more often. Not only is it better for your wallet, it’s better for the environment as well.

Except when it isn’t.

Folks, I honestly don’t think that anything is made to last these days – be it “quality” or otherwise – so we may just be better off going cheap. For example:

In 2015, we purchased a quality brand name sofa from a local furniture store. Around that same time, my mom bought one from Big Lots. Ours cost 4 times what hers did. We use ours daily to sit and read or watch TV but hers has been slept on, jumped on by toddlers, walked across by a teenager, and lounged on for hours on end by kids and grand-kids alike. Our cushions are as dead as the pet goldfish I had when I was 10. Her cushions are just now starting to sink a little when you sit down. But, hold on…I have an even better one for you. Our good friend has a sofa that has been moved to 4 different apartments in as many years. It has been slept on, jumped on, and is used for hours of gaming every single day and yet, it is still comfy. Did I mention that it was used when she bought it??

And then there are the socks…

About the same time that we were buying our quality sofa, we decided to switch to wool socks. We read that they were the best socks for hiking since they wick moisture better than other socks. We bought a few pairs at Dick’s Sporting Goods and they lasted for about 2 years, which I consider to be a good life for a sock that gets used all the time. When we went back for more, we found they no longer carried that brand, nor could we find it anywhere. So we bought a pair of SmartWool brand socks and a couple of pairs of Columbia. After a year, the SmartWool is starting to get a little ragged. Want to know where the Columbia socks are now? In our rag bin. They make excellent dusters. The Columbia socks did not even last a few months before they started getting holey (yet, they cost $15 a pair!).

If I had to guesstimate, I’d say we spent about $160 on brand name wool socks over 3 years time. You might be thinking, that’s not so bad, but I’ll beg to differ. A sock is designed to protect your feet from moisture, keep you warm, and stop your shoe from rubbing a hole in your foot. In an unintentional (and unscientific) quality test, we found that cheap socks do this job just as well, if not better, than expensive ones.

Our “everlasting” cheap socks – mismatched on purpose.

I purchased these socks BEFORE Angie and I met in 2011. In fact, I was still living in TN when I bought them (at Big Lots). I moved away in 2006, so they are at least 14 years old. They cost $5 for 6 pair back then. When we “upgraded” our wardrobe to wool socks, we moved these to my mom’s house so we could use them in the yard. We still wear them every week, at least twice a week, and they still have no holes in them!

We have applied our same unscientific method to dishcloths, bath towels, walking shoes, manual can openers and even underwear and found the results to be consistent. Cheap lasts just as long, or longer, than more expensive “quality” items. The $20 can opener we got as a gift lasted about 3 months before we had to replace it with one from the Dollar Tree (that one has been used daily for 4 years now). The $18/pair Ex-Officio undies that we thought we needed to have for travel are unraveling just the same as the $2/pair undies from Walmart. And the $10/3-pack of eco-friendly dishcloths we ordered online – well, they are in the rag bin with the Columbia socks, while the $4/6-pack from Target are still washing dishes every night.

So why do we wear cheap socks? Because there’s no financial benefit to buying more expensive ones. When the so-called quality socks wear out faster than the cheap ones, there’s no environmental benefit either. Being frugal is always good but being cheap might not be such a bad thing either. Just think, if we had back the money we wasted thinking we were buying quality items, oh the savings we could have banked!

Have you ever purchased something expensive only to find it did not last very long at all? What items to you routinely cheap out on?