Only When I Laugh
by Elouise Bell

THIRTEEN
Luxury on a Shoestring

 [p.50]Who of us hasn’t fantasized about what she’d do with a sudden inheritance? With all those giant lotteries, we keep seeing newspaper and TV shots of instant millionaires, all of whom swear the money won’t change their lives a bit. Three days later, of course, the new yacht is anchored off Acapulco, and the only thing old blue-collar Bob hasn’t changed is that lucky blue collar.

It is unlikely that many of us will come into a windfall like Bob’s. But do you realize that for a very modest cost, for a mini-windfall (maybe a week’s groceries or two), you can still buy yourself—well, not happiness surely, but convenience and even a modicum of luxury? And do not convenience and luxury contribute in their own way to happiness?

The point is that, for one reason or another, because of being reared by Depression babies or because of being Depression babies, because of genetic predisposition or whatever, many of us habitually make provision for just a little bit less of some things than we really need. (Not of all things. You can take it as axiomatic that you will always have ample zucchini.)

Let me illustrate. How many times around your house have [p.51] you heard the cry, “Where are the scissors?” The scissors. Because a great many of us—yes, even those with two cars in the garage and an RV taking root on the side lawn—have but one pair of scissors per household, usually Mother’s “good” scissors, which are then always guiltily borrowed to cut clippings in the living room or asparagus in the kitchen or cord in the basement. People with stock portfolios out to here, and a computer room that could oversee the flight to Mars, seem never to have heard of “paper shears” or “kitchen shears,” etc.

Let’s get even simpler. ‘‘Where’s the Scotch tape?” How long does it take you to find it? How much is your time worth? And just what would it cost to have a roll of Scotch tape in each major room? Maybe each minor room as well, if you have kids, because kids consume far more Scotch tape than they do vitamins and minerals.

In the interests of science, let’s be candid. How old is your toothbrush? And could you put your hands on a couple of totally new toothbrushes in case someone got stranded at your house overnight? A minor detail, but odd, considering how much expense we will go to for guests in the way of food, beverages, entertainment, and other major items.

While we’re in the bathroom, shall we just check the towels? I know people who have skimpy, limp little towels so thin you could spit through them—piled neatly right next to the five-figure hot tub cum Jacuzzi. Some day, pamper yourself and get some thick, luxurious towels that will make you feel sybaritic after each bath. You’re worth it.

Drinking glasses. After my last promotion (and it probably will be my last promotion, but that’s another matter), I decided that it was no longer necessary to drink out of recycled jelly glasses and Taco Time give-aways with Porky Pig cavorting on them. (Perversely, of course, the Disney glasses I had at the time I made this decision are surviving with a doggedness that is infuriating. Those two glasses have outlasted four cars. Honest truth. And I am not quite wanton enough yet to just throw them out. I always put them in the suicide slot in the dishwasher, though.)

But to return to the point: things people use regularly, like glasses and dishes and utensils, should provide a certain aesthetic pleasure. What good does your crystal do for your soul or your sense of beauty when it spends 360 days of the year out of [p.52] sight in a closet? I’ve taken to using my crystal a lot-even for such mundane things as lunchtime tomato juice or suppertime Jell-O parfait. I like it: it feels good to use beautiful things on a daily basis.

Stamps. How many times do you run to the post office for a stamp? Or at best, for enough stamps to send out the monthly bills, after which you are again out of stamps. Now I know the Post Office is threatening to up the cost of stamps again. But right after they do, I plan to buy twenty or thirty dollars worth and save myself all those trips and all that hassle for a while. It will be a source of quiet, yea, even smug satisfaction for me for months to come, to have those stamps on hand.

What price luxury? Less than you’d think, since like a lot of other things, luxury is in the eye of the beholder.