Monday, April 8, 2013

Giving Up: the things I am learning to live without

First, let me say right from the outset that this has nothing to do with lent. I am not even capitalizing "lent", so complete is my disassociation from all things relating to church and religion in general.

No, I have been giving things up because I am a cheap, lazy bastard who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. (If there is such a thing as a healthy relationship with alcohol, I have not been able to develop one). In a burst of self-righteousness when yet another enormously inflated bill for a basic service came through our door, I called it quits. I cancelled, reduced, changed and otherwise adjusted memberships and utilities - and in the process I learned to live without a lot of things I thought of as "necessities".

Here, in brief (or not so brief) is a list of things I have been living without lately:

1. A second car. People still look at us incredulously when we say that we only have one car. They ask about it sympathetically, as though we must have fallen on the hardest of hard times: "You guys still down to one car?" I prefer to think of it as a positive change we have made in our lives - we spend more time together, plan our trips to town more carefully, and most importantly we save money on insurance and maintenance. Would it be easier to have 2 cars? Absolutely. Do we wish we had two cars? Rarely. I'll tell you what I wish for on a regular basis: public transportation that is actually timely and comprehensive. Public transportation on Maui is in its very early stages - which is to say inconvenient at best, and almost nonexistent the rest of the time. We currently live a block from the bus route that goes to our island's main town - but that is the only place it goes. The buses drive in big fucking circles, over and over again, with only one overlapping central bus stop for all the routes. So if I want to go to the village just down the road, I have to ride the bus into town first - which takes an hour. Wait to catch another bus, pay the $2 fare for a second time, and then ride that bus for another hour. A trip that requires a ten minute drive and half a gallon of gas in my own car, costs $8 round trip and takes 4 hours on the bus. So we have to have at least one car because obviously we cannot rely solely on public transportation. And every morning I drag my sorry ass out of bed and drive my husband to the van pool cheerfully in silence. I drive home and crawl back into bed for another hour, where I lie miserable and cold, wondering if it's worth it. I pick him up every evening as well: sometimes alone, sometimes with a screaming baby and an assortment of kids hanging out the windows greeting him enthusiastically. We didn't make this decision because we couldn't afford a second car. We didn't make the decision for environmental reasons. We just decided that we really didn't need two cars. For the most part, this has held true - there have been very few times when we actually needed a second car, and at those rare times (I can count them on one hand) a friend has offered to lend us a car, or we have rented one. It's been fine. Will we get a second vehicle again in the future? I don't know. Maybe?

2. Cable TV. When we had cable, Max watched SpongeBob every time my back was turned. In a remarkable freak of television programming, that show is on 24/7. You might have to change the channel, but you can always find an episode of that sodden yellow moron with his dopey pink friend playing somewhere. To this day, every time I hear the theme song I cringe. I thought that was as bad as it got - but then after we enrolled her in the local church's preschool, Lucy developed an interest in Veggie Tales. To get an idea of how I felt about that development, please see above re: lent. It's not just SpongeBob and Veggie Tales - I am not a fan of cartoons in general. I watch the Food Network almost exclusively, and life without Food Network was no kind of life at all, but I was surviving - barely. Yesterday I was very pleased to discover that Hulu Plus offers lots of programs from Food Network along with all of my other favorites like SNL and The Daily Show. We don't get local channels - even with an antenna on the roof - but we could get what we needed via the radio and the internet. Sure, I miss watching the evening news, and when something newsworthy is going on I have a momentary desire for CNN - but for the most part I have been able to keep us entertained with Netflix and Hulu. Now that we have Hulu Plus I am pretty sure cable - and that asshole Spongebob - will  never be a part of our life again.

3. Trash pick up. When we moved to Maui in 2002, trash pickup was once a week, and cost about $75 a year. Every Christmas we left a case of beer next to our trash can, and every year the crew of guys hanging off the side of the truck cheered and waved, and threw it in the cab. Then the price went up to $140 a year, and we cut the trash guys back to a six-pack. It's now $270 a year for trash service. A huge roaring truck comes twice a week at dawn with a single guy in the driver seat. The truck has an enormous automated arm and everyone has to use one of those huge county-issued rolling bins with a heavy lid so unwieldy that it precludes my daughter from being able to take the trash out. The whole thing is a total racket.and as far as I can tell this new system doesn't benefit anyone. We don't even have curbside recycling. Since we had to continue to drive to the dump with recycling and greenwaste, we just decided to skip trash collection altogether. Instead, we partner up with our neighbors and throw our stinky trash in their can, in exchange for mowing the strip of grass between our properties. And we'll probably give them a case of beer for Christmas. Speaking of which:

4. Booze. I haven't had a drink since December. Not even a sip of wine. Nothing. Nada. While there have been a few times that I have stared longingly at a bottle, or watched someone enjoy a cold, frosty beverage - and one particular afternoon where I went so far as to pull a nip of vodka out of the freezer - I have so far managed to avoid consuming any alcohol in 2013. It's been a huge adjustment for me - not drinking at all is much, much different then drinking less, or drinking just on special occasions. I can't drink less, and I sure can't drink on special occasions - the last time I got drunk was at a work party, which is the sort of special occasion that I should definitely have been drinking less at. I had to be helped to the car after dinner, and ended up with my dress around my head, peeing on the side of the road while my husband held me upright and tried to keep the passerby from getting a clear view of my naked ass. After all, it was only 8pm - can you imagine what kind of trouble I would have caused if I had not been too drunk to stand up? Then I went home and threw up all over our bed. Alcohol and I do not work well together. I don't judge others for drinking - I just prefer to keep my head on straight and my pants, well, on, for starters.

5. Walmart. A place where even a drunk woman with her dress over her head can feel at home. Though I fit right in with their crowd, I am trying to break up with Walmart. We don't have a Target, our KMart is kind of sketchy, and Costco - as much as I love it - doesn't have everything I need. Our grocery stores are not supercenters, our mall has as many empty storefronts as stores, and dammit, sometimes I just want to get all the stuff I need in one place without having to pay a premium. Which is why I am still finding my way on this one. I hate everything about Walmart, and I am looking forward to never shopping there again. Whenever I walk under that horrible blast of air and through the automatic door to hell I grit my teeth and vow that this will be the last time. It never is.

6. A clothes dryer. Even a cheap bastard has their limit. I tried. I really, really tried. And I failed. My underwear was scratchy and my jeans were stiff as cardboard. I felt like I was literally wearing a hair shirt - and since lent and Veggie Tales aren't on my radar, you can be damn sure I wasn't going to make myself suffer unnecessarily. Fuck THAT, man. No amount of fabric softener and sunshine can beat the results of laundry dried at a high speed tumble on hot. It's the American way.

There are lots of other things I have cut down - or cut out - but these are the biggies. We still eat fast food occasionally, and I have an Amazon problem. There is no way I am giving up internet at home, and I tried to live without a smartphone but failed miserably. I did drop the gym membership - that's because I never went - and maybe someday I will draw up a budget and actually stick to it. Not holding my breath on that one, either.

Five years ago, the idea of life without cable, a second car, alcohol, booze, Walmart, and a clothes dryer was just unthinkable. I truly was the ultimate consumer. And now, now that I have tried (and sometimes failed) to live without "necessities" I am learning that I had so much more than I - than anyone, really - needed. It is nice to know that I can rough it. Just as long as I have access to a functioning clothes dryer.

1 comment:

Leslie said...

Very interesting. I'm trying to do with less, but out of necessity, since we just can't afford much anymore. But no cable is not something I can give up - yet. I wish I could as TV is a big waste of time really, but that is HARD.
And along the lines of your no Walmart wish, I want to stop going to Target. Because I realize I'm tempted to buy other things, (shoes, clothing, etc) that I didn't go to the store for, but it's there so I can't help myself.
I lived on Kauai for a year and Oahu for 5 yrs, so I know what it's like over there! :)