“Everybody has to pay the piper,” “You don’t get something for nothing” and “No one gets off scott free.” These are only three of the annoying sayings that get invoked over and over again by my family and have become the punch line to many of the sad, sick Larry David moments of karmic payback that seem to dog our existence. They also serve to insure that none of us will ever get too complacent if any good fortune comes our way because it will inevitably cost us more than we will possibly know.
I used to think this was just a neurotic Jewish thing – Woody Allen’s version of “the horrible and the miserable” from “Annie Hall” where he tells his girlfriend Annie we should be happy we’re “miserable” because we could be in that small class of people who have “horrible” lives due to some handicap, awful crime, or genocidal atrocity. Yes, this was before political correctness vis-à-vis the physically and emotionally challenged and anti-depressants but, anyway, you get the point. We (my family, I mean) are all inevitably doomed.
This all came to bear this week when my partner and I became what I always feared – people who buy washer-dryers and get excited about it and then get screwed by the system we should have been watching out for. My feeling is that it probably served me right for getting gleeful about appliances in the first place. How did this happen? When did I become my Mother? Grandmother? Aunt? God knows, my Dad didn’t care about this stuff – in fact, when he and my mother got divorced he used to buy cheap socks and throw them out so he didn’t have to do laundry. Sorry, Dad. It’s true.
As for my partner, myself and our washing machine (no, that’s not a new French film), our non-musical sheer glee at this sleek new toy was quickly replaced with anger, disgust and then murderous rage once we began the purchase of those gleaming new fangled “bargains” and soon found out that those three of the most annoying sayings in the world that have gotten invoked by members of my family for decades (two of which I think I actually started. Oops. © Rick Perry) are actually true.
Yes, I am here to report that the washer-dryer was expensive but on a major sale yet after the two year service agreement, delivery charge, gas hookup, tax and cart away fee for the other appliance from 1972, the sale price was actually 33% more than advertised and definitely above the sticker price were the whole thing not on sale at all.
Hidden costs or a sign of the times? Be more mechanical and hook up your own damn machine and, while we’re at it, cart it away, Mr. Lazy Bones, you say? Uh, I’d wait if I were you. Fifteen minutes after the delivery man left, the machine gushed water all over the laundry room, ruined the flooring, rendered the back door impossible to open because the wood floor swelled and, insult to hidden cost, the company two weeks later that sold us this lemon has not made good on its promise to compensate for losses despite me spending the equivalent of two 12-15 hour days harassing them in a way that I’m sure you, kind readers, could imagine only I, the Chair, could do.
An isolated instance? This happens to everyone? Grow the eff up? Gosh, I hope not. But maybe. Perhaps as Charles Barkley noted last week on “Saturday Night Live” is this is simply a WPP?
Actually, I think it’s a national (international?) trend.
Sunday night we go to see “Hugo” at a cool theatre in Hollywood where they charge $1 extra for movie tickets because it’s a flagship theatre. I’m not a 3-D fanatic but I get the fascination and, after all, it’s Scorsese and it’ll be worth it to see it under optimum conditions. And it’s a Sunday night. And it’s been playing for a while, so no line. We go up to the box-office. Cool. I’m excited. That’ll be — $39.50? Huh? No, how can that be? For two tickets? Well, it’s a 3-D show. But….how much….Well, we charge $3.50 a ticket for the 3-D glasses. Huh? That’s our policy.
FINE. We see the film. I hate those freakin’ glasses. It’s like having a small television resting on your nose, especially when you’re already wearing your own eyeglasses. And the movie – it’s beautiful to look at, imaginative but maybe my inner child was asleep during the first hour due to the extra $3.50 apiece because, well…okay, subject of another discussion. Still, it’ Scorsese, right? Until we leave the movie theatre and there’s a big basket and an usher with a sign that tells us you need to RETURN the 3-D glasses you just paid $3.50 apiece for. So — the extra $7 was a rental fee?
I now hate Scorsese and precocious French children even if they are orphans. But of course, that will inevitably cost me, too. Perhaps in new, politically correct French readers or maybe in ways the universe has not yet decided but is currently planning in its quest to level the playing field and make us all pay the inevitable piper. (It’s those European socialist ideas, courtesy of
Mitt Obama, I tell ya!) Bottom line…it won’t be pretty.
All this talk got me thinking about other hidden costs. Actually, the hidden costs of everything. Because truly, everything costs something even if it’s free. You can’t ever get back the two hours (three if you count traveling time) you lose when you go to a bad movie. Or all the money and lost time you’ve spent on counseling if you’re still in a bad relationship and dead-end job and do nothing about it. And you might have more valuably spent your time reading Proust’s “Remembrance Of Things Past,” Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” or even watching the entire series of “The Wire” (the show that everyone claims to be the best written show on television and which I haven’t yet sat through – though I have had an astrology reading) than spending 4, 6 or even 8 years of college if you can’t get a job in you field and are saddled with student loan or personal debt you’ll never pay back.
- What if the movie was great, even life-changing? Then those 2-3 hours might be among the best of your life.
- What if those counseling sessions were the only thing that has gotten you to make major changes in your world that have given your life unexpected meaning, joy and balance?
- Perhaps those 4, 6 or even 8 years of college taught you to think in a way you would have never dreamed possible and spurred you on to not only a job in your field but a creative vocation in life that has given you the kind of creative (and even financial) gratification that only a handful of people ever manage to get a fraction of after endless decade upon decade of existence?
I bring this up because the first 3 negative results and the last 3 positive results have all happened to me in my very short life so far.
Hidden costs? Always. Look out for them. Beware of the charlatans. And – watch your back (Especially at a Sears sale). But there’s another saying my family lives by, even though we don’t joke about it – “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Take a risk. Try it. Jump in. There’s a ying and yang to the world. No one gets off scott free. (I certainly don’t – and continue not to). But if you play it right, the piper can very much be worth paying. Even at, perish the thought, far above the full retail price.
Nothing says hidden costs, like your washer/dryer experience, as today’s (14) front page piece in the Los Angeles Times about the proud California union lobbyist, who was bragging about making the state pay union plumbers for putting pipes into buildings even though they were totally unnecessary for the new waterless urinals.