Early Saturday morning, I was on my way to pick up YFU from her best friend's house, where she'd been for an overnight visit, when I heard the unmistakable thump thump thump of a flat tire. I pulled onto a side street and proceeded to change the tire, with the encouragement of a cute Hispanic guy, who spoke no English whatsoever, but who appeared to be there waiting for another guy to come pick him up for a job of some sort. I know how to change a tire, so I didn't really need help, but he seemed very interested in watching me and occasionally offered helpful advice that I couldn't understand. Anyway, I'd known I was driving on borrowed time, and I'd been wondering that very morning whether I'd have time to drive to Costco and get my tires replaced, but once I had my mini-spare on and had picked up YFU, driving all the way to Costco didn't seem like such a good idea, so I drove to Tires Plus where they offered to give me a new set of tires, change my oil, and align my car, all for the low, low price of $525.
And two hours of my time, which was the real problem. I'd handed over the keys to the car, so I couldn't fetch anything out of it to occupy myself or YFU, so we sat in the waiting room for a quarter-hour or so, and she watched TV, while I read the paper. Then she said she was hungry, and I hadn't had anything to eat, either, so we walked across the street to KFC, where she got a two-piece chicken meal, and I got an order of deep-fried cheese curds (yum!). But then we were sitting there in our booth with more than another hour to kill, and I knew that YFU was about to get very bored. YFU is an extremely well-behaved and whinge-free child, but 1.5 hours with nothing to do is beyond what any twelve-year-old should have to endure.
YFU and I get along very well, naturally, but there's only so much that she's interested in talking about with me, and we'd mostly covered that pretty quickly. If you're alone in a fast food restaurant booth with an adult, it's pretty easy to keep conversation going. With a kid, however, you need some stuff. Stuff to play with. So I asked her, "What do you have in your purse?" And she looked through, and -- in addition to uninteresting things like eight kinds of lip gloss and a cell phone -- she came up with five Dum-Dum pops and a Dum-Dum pop wrapper. I checked my pocket and found three quarters and a dime. She seemed disappointed with the haul, but I looked at the pile of stuff and said, "Great! Now we have toys."
With three quarters, a dime, and a smooth tabletop, you can try to get all four of your coins spinning at the same time. This task is harder than it sounds because spinning coins precess, and the dime is very small, so it's tough to get going in the first place. And with a single quarter, you can play a modified version of tabletop football, where you push the quarter towards your opponent's goal and attempt to make it hang over the edge without falling. The Dum-Dum pop is useful here because some calls are very close, so you can use the lollipop stick as an official Stick of Judgment to determine whether the quarter is clear of the edge. When this gets old (if, say, you're way better at it than your twelve-year-old child), you can stack the Dum-Dum tops into interesting shapes and then you can spin the quarter at them in a highly modified version of bowling. And then if that fails, you can fold the extra Dum-Dum wrapper into a more standard tabletop football so that you can play a game that involves both touchdowns and field goals.
What's amazing is how few pieces of stuff you need to have a good time. This is more obvious in other arenas, of course. If you're by yourself, you don't need any stuff at all to have a good time since every guy carries his favorite toy with him wherever he goes. And if you're with the right sort of friend, there are a lot of activities you can get into where no stuff at all is required. Like any good occasional dom, I have a supply of toys, but with submissives -- as with kids -- the need for stuff indicates a failure of the imagination or a lack of security. And often it's a perfectly reasonable lack of security. The piece of stuff that you most often need when playing with men is a condom, and you need that because you can't safely and securely play without it. It's necessary, but its necessity is regrettable. Sometimes, of course, stuff is very helpful. Restraints can be very helpful at times, but there's really no denying that a submissive who needs to be tied down is higher maintenance than one who doesn't.
I would guess that I share with many people a desire for less stuff. Or, more accurately, a desire to feel less of a need for stuff, because, really, I like stuff a lot more than I should. Sometimes when I'm feeling unsettled, there's nothing like a trip to Overstock to set me right. I recognize that this should not be so, and I do my best not to overdo it. Also, I'm much less of a shopper than many guys I know, but there's no denying that the pair of binoculars and the tripod I ordered last week in anticipation of our January vacation made me happy. Also, I give Amazon a lot more business than I ought, and probably for the wrong reasons. It's good to read, but it's certainly better to borrow the book from the library, right?
If the Judeo-Christian mythology is to be believed (a big if, I admit), then the happiest couple on earth were pre-eating-from-the-tree-of-knowledge Adam and Eve, who, one supposes, had no stuff at all. They didn't need any stuff: they were fully secure and had all their needs covered. But then they did the wrong thing, and suddenly they needed to collect fig leaves:
6: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
7: And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
8: And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
9: And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, WTF? Dude, you got stuff!
10: And then did the shit hit the fan.
We live in extraordinarily uncertain and insecure times. This cannot help but mean that the desire for stuff will continue to grow just as the ability to afford stuff will shrink. I predict a (further) explosion of dollar stores.
YFU's and my luck with limited stuff ran out when Tires Plus called to say that my power steering fluid needed to be flushed and that the cylinders for both rear brakes were leaking and needed to be replaced so that they would need another hour and an additional $500. YFU eventually got bored of beating me at Dum-Dum wrapper football, so we went walking around the shopping center, hoping to find a pack of cards. Sadly, the dollar store that used to be there had closed down. I had mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, it would appear to refute my hypothesis. On the other hand, it was one of those crummy dollar stores where almost nothing is actually a dollar. So they likely went out of business because people couldn't get enough stuff cheap.
Still, YFU kept the complaining to an absolute minimum, and we did get finished with the Tires Plus, and it only cost three hours and fifteen minutes and $1,093. Naturally, those expenses made me feel a little less secure, as did the copy of Sims2 that I bought YFU to make up for the last ninety minutes of our automotive repair adventure, but later in the day, I went to a real dollar store ("Everything, and we mean everything, is one dollar!) and walked out with some hella cool Halloween ice cube trays. So now my autumn beverages can be cooled with miniature skulls and pumpkins.
I also picked up some cheap (two boxes of four for one dollar each!) storage containers, some masking tape, and a sharpie marker so that I could freeze the chili I made to take for lunches. That was four dollars, and the chili probably cost me an additional nine or ten dollars to make, but I got fifteen lunch-sized servings out of the giant pot that I made. When I add in my homemade Greek-style yogurt, I'm at less than $1.50 a day for lunch, so I certainly saved enough to cover my dollar store purchases and Sims 2. I'm still out of pocket for the auto repairs, but sometimes you have to be happy with small victories.
I'm still worried about my stuff addiction, but I'm glad that I can attribute my (usually minor) purchases to concerns about the economic and political environments rather than to some fundamental dissatisfaction with my life. I think fundamental dissatisfactions with your life must manifest themselves in more significant purchases, like fast and expensive cars or jewelry or something. I drive a Taurus, and the only jewelry I have is my watch, which cost me $15, on Overstock, so I guess I must be happier than most people. Or at least happier than almost everyone of my income level. I'm sure that anyone who's taken a vow of poverty is happier still, having that close walk with their God(s) and not having any stuff to worry about.
I might be tempted to take a vow of poverty once the kids are through college. I thought about writing to these guys and asking them whether either 1) not being Catholic or 2) a constant attempt to get into most of their cassocks would disqualify me from joining the order, but I don't think my French is good enough to get me laid, so I abandoned the idea. I've been thinking about starting my own order, the Brothers of Perpetual Extasis, instead. More on that another time, perhaps.