Flashback to the mid-nineties – I had it made. I know that in retrospect, many people revert to the “good old days” syndrome. I know that I am an old lady and as such, I am prone to this bias. However, in one respect, I deserve to retain a blissed-out memory of the times I could evade the spending police, even the greatest of all of them – my husband – the Cerberus of all things monied.
Before the days of debit cards with chips in them, there existed such a thing as checks, and credit cards, of course. However, if a credit card was used to make a purchase, the paper bill (in my case, the paper trail) didn’t arrive for a while, so there was a decent interval before the Inquisition started. The same as with writing checks, because information regarding an account balance also had to rely on snail mail. Sigh – the good old days…when I figured out how to beat the system. No more.
From his hollowed-out perch in front of the computer, he can now track my progress on any given day – “Oh, she went to Zippy’s for lunch, dammitall, she spent $15.92. What the hell cost that much? Does this include the tip?” – and so forth. He can see that I then visited Macy’s, The Cat Café, and Old Navy. He can see, much to his roiling horror, that I also went to Walmart and proceeded to do some damage there. He picks up the phone to call me, but surprise, I have blocked him for the day. I need some peace and quiet to be able to concentrate on spending his vast personal fortune at CVS.
In the good old days, when I used checks, I had a little piece of cardboard that I kept between the check and the carbon copy. This is how I used it: I would write the correct date, the amount, but slide the cardboard under the place where I wrote the name of the store, so this part would be blank. Once home, gliding surreptitiously to the bathroom, I would lock the door, take out the checkbook and pen from under my shirt, and, using another sheet of paper, write “Kroger’s” or the gas station or whatever, so that is what came through on the carbon. But then I had to make sure I thoroughly destroyed this piece of paper. Another trick that I would bring into play was writing two checks, thereby splitting the purchases in half, supposedly. It passed muster, anyway. No cashier ever questioned it.
Innocently, I would hand him the copies from the checks later on that day. I would stand there as, flipping through them, he would smack his lips and consider an Inquisition to punish this potential destroyer of his society, the heretic, the blasphemer, the witch. However, there would be no expression on my face – none. Go ahead and light the fire, I would think. You’ll never catch me. Why, I could have been a famous poker player, or the best spy the world has ever seen. The ultimate double agent! I betrayed nothing. I always got away with it.
The second most famous coup occurred after I discovered he had been looking at ladies in their lingerie on the computer. He had several sites saved as favorites. Now, I must admit, I have enjoyed gazing at the male underwear models in the Sears catalogs, but I never saved any of the pictures. I considered revenge, planned it, and then the very next day, I did it.
I went to the perfume counter at a prestigious department store. When the girl came over to help me, I asked, “Do you work on commission?” She affirmed this, so I then told her, “I am angry with my husband and I’m going to spend a lot of his money right here, so let’s get started.”
She danced with glee, and told me that she had once taken her boyfriend’s credit card and abused it in retaliation for something he had done. Neither of us spoke in specifics, but it was like we were talking in code. Only one thing could piss us off so much.
We had a wonderful time trying out the different perfumes, the most expensive ones. We almost became inebriated and several times had to sniff coffee beans to restart our sensory perceptions. I finally decided on a package deal of perfume, lotion, and scented soap. My accomplice rang up my purchases, humming under her breath. I asked her if she had wreaked a proportionate amount of damage to her boyfriend’s credit card. She said she had, but even worse. This bolstered my nerves, which were starting to fray, just a tiny bit.
When I returned home, there was his car, the fancy sports model convertible. I parked my KIA next to it and entered the house, to face the grinch of the checking account.
“I have something for you,” I began. His gaze perched precariously, suspiciously, on the bag from the store, with its logo brazenly shining. (I usually hid the packages in the car until he fell asleep in the recliner.) He knew something was up. His eyes began to glow slightly red. At another time, I might have faltered, but I had hard evidence; all I had to do was pull up his new “favorites” on the computer and point wordlessly to them. Now he began to look apoplectic; he had been found out. I waited until his face turned a darker shade of red, then I handed him the sales receipt and the carbon of the check. To hell with the fakery.
“The next time you feel compelled to look at ladies in their fancy lingerie, remember what it will cost you,” I said. As I exited the room, my peripheral vision caught him deleting the website URLs.
But still, his idea of spending money always went straight to food. I disagree with this perception, even though the names of Kroger’s and Piggly Wiggly saved my ass many times over. Of course, I acknowledge that you have to buy food, but what a waste when you are going to shit this out an hour later; compare this to the same amount spent on a purse that you can enjoy over and over. And I refuse to have to adorn myself with sad underwear while he chows down on a big Costco bag of Lay’s Potato Chips. It’s just not fair and after 35 years, there is still no middle ground.
The number one coup, the most successful, and the most daring escapade that is told and retold at family reunions, truly rivals the adventures of Beowulf. Relatives from all across the world have recited it – in front of campfires, in expensive restaurants, at parties, and it has been passed down to their friends, as a tale to be best enjoyed while tipsy.
It began with a very big mistake on his part. He had taken a few days off work, and had brought a certain item home, among other things, but he left it behind when he inevitably had to return to the office. The thing was rubber and had only one use; I couldn’t think of any other purpose for it. Then the mail came, and I opened up a handwritten envelope and imagine my delight when I saw a check made out to him! At this time, the rubber object, left on the kitchen counter, was put to use. I picked it up by the edges, gingerly, carefully…
And then I stamped, hard, on the back of the check!
He had left his rubber signature stamp at home.
I called to the children, and we piled in the van and went first to the bank, where I endorsed the check with my signature under his, and then to the mall. We meandered through the shops, and when one of the children pointed to something that he/she wanted but cost too much for everyday spending, I said ok. They all looked disbelieving, then fearful, as if I had lost my mind. Surely there would be an Inquisition, a terrible one, when the bank god came home. No, not this time though; this was cash! There wouldn’t be a paper trail for some time. At least not until he questioned one of his patients about the overdue bill.
That’s what I thought. But if he had made an error in leaving the rubber device at home, I had my own hamartia. Well, no crime is perfect, otherwise there wouldn’t be the proliferation of crime shows on t.v. Because I was dizzy over my incredulous run of good luck, I had left the savagely torn open envelope on the kitchen table. Minus the check, of course. Thank God this was before cell phones.
Everyone received their hearts’ desires that afternoon; we even went to a restaurant and I paid a great deal for food that would be, well, discarded, fairly soon after. I didn’t care. This was the best day ever. And I even brought back some change. That was to make up for the $20 bills I routinely swiped from his wallet. I would have made an excellent pickpocket (in addition to being a superb poker player/spy/double agent/witch/heretic/blasphemer/enemy of society). I thought he would appreciate the dollar bills I handed him. He took them, of course, but then he handed me the ravaged envelope.
The kids scattered like roaches, clutching their packages, of course, and ran upstairs to their rooms. All alone, I felt like Custer at his Last Stand. Maybe my husband felt that he had a superior I.Q. because I had mistakenly left the evidence. Or maybe the joy of seeing my face become apoplectic assuaged his indignation. All I know is that I got away with it. But I never saw the rubber thing again.
Well, nowadays, there is always the question that I am asked at every checkout – “Do you want cash back?” Hell, yes, because he doesn’t examine the receipts, and this doesn’t show up on the online bank accounts. For the time being, I am existing on this. He has taken to hiding his cash at work. Big deal. The cash back thing is working for me.
Because he can never be bothered to look at any of my writing, I have another secret I will divulge – when I am too busy to clean the house, I put a small piece of paper soaked with Pinesol behind the front door. When he enters, he exclaims, “Oh, you must have been cleaning!”
“All day,” I say.
It is what I do.