One of my defining character traits is thrift. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from not wasting things -- adding the end of Thursday's barbecue sauce to Sunday's spaghetti and meatballs, picking three pennies out of my pocket so that my change comes out even, reaching the low-price gas station as the fuel gauge warning light comes on, driving extra blocks to find cheaper parking or cereal, cramming one more -- no, two more -- appointments into my full morning, or hanging onto the dog-eared coffee card at the bottom of my wallet to obtain, at the end of several months, a free cup. I tell you, I sympathize with Hamlet's mom, using one caterer to handle the funeral and the following wedding.
I know that my little savings do not add up to much. If I bought cheaper coffee, drove less, or went meatless I'd save a lot more. I know that the amount of time I spend worrying about these things is wasteful too. (Not that I'd be solving Global Warming or bringing peace to the Middle East, but I might get more work done.) But I don't seem to be able to help myself.
So here's a good news story. I have been carrying around Season Two of The Office for months. Bought it in Vancouver on sale at the Rogers store near my hotel. A perfect Christmas gift for my daughter, I thought, back in October. When she told me that her new room mate had showed up with the same season of the same TV show as a housewarming gift, I died a little. Duplicate copies of a DVD almost defines my sense of waste. I resolved to exchange the DVD. But -- my point -- there aren't a lot of Rogers stores near me. I kept my eyes peeled, and the DVD (with receipt) in my trunk, but could not hook myself up. I'd bring the DVD with me when I went shopping, but would find myself in a mall without a Rogers store. Or I'd walk past a Rogers and realize that I'd left the DVD back in the car (parked cheaply, but eight or ten blocks away). Or I'd drive by a Rogers store, but not have time to stop because I was already late for that extra morning appointment. Never the time and the place and the girl all together, or whatever the phrase is.
And then, three days ago, a miracle. A last-minute cancellation meant that I had fifteen minutes between appointments. Luxury. I drove slowly, generously. When a parked car wanted to pull out of a spot ahead of me, I did not honk a warning and drive by. I braked and smiled and let the car in ... and realized that I was idling next to a Grand Opening banner. A brand new Rogers store had just opened its doors across the street, and I was in the right place at the right time. With the DVD in my trunk. I zipped into the empty parking spot, into the store, and made the exchange (for Season Three of The Office). When Thea unwrapped it yesterday, her eyes lit up. But her pleasure did not match mine. I was happy to give her a gift she liked, but more than happy -- overjoyed -- to have got rid of the wasted DVD. My thrift principle had been satisfied.