Hammer Time: Happy Birthday Cheapskate!
By January 15, 2017on
I wanted to wake up at noon. But I’ll be damned if two young teenagers didn’t have other plans for me on my birthday.
“Dad, I want to get a monthly pass for a gym!”
My son Darren, who is now almost 14 and growing like bamboo in year four, had already violated my tomb of quiet at 9:00 AM on the dot.
“Didn’t you ever hear of sleeping in Darren?”, I said to my lumpy pillow instead of “Bastard! Get the @$#@$$$%@!!!! out of my room!”
“Yeah, Dad. I kinda heard of it. But well, I’m going downstairs to play the keyboards you bought me at volume eleven. Oh, and happy birthday.”
That was my sad pathetic cue to pretend like turning 44 actually mattered in my household. 44? Damn it! Where did my hairline go? I schlumpfed my bald head and the rest of my middle-aged carcass out of bed and proceeded to make my unexciting plans for the day.
What plans you say? Well, after the dog across the street gave me his usual, “Hello! And fuck you!!!” morning greeting, I decided to live large by driving small.
I got in my 70 horsepower hot rod. chirped the scooter sized tires, and began to buy a laundry list of free food that can only be enjoyed on a birthday.
I was lucky enough to be a few miles away from what was once some really cheap commercial real estate.
10 years ago the tiny town of Hiram was only big enough for a Walmart. Today it has everything overpriced and mediocre – from Applebee’s to Moe’s to Waffle House. Along with about 80 other restaurants and superstores for everything from baby toys to Hooters.
Heck, we even have a real bonafide sex toy store out here. Like most of the Bible Belt, the once small town of Hiram had undergone a financial transformation from a sanctimonious dry town with too many churches, to a regional suburban commercialized metropolis whose only bell, was a Taco Bell. Sunday in Hiram also came with enough traffic on a post-church Sunday to make Atlanta roads seem almost country.
The first four places I would go to for my free birthday SWAG were all less than 200 feet away from each other, and then, there were seven more that followed. All within a half mile from each other.
Free wild wings. A free Starbucks Frappucino. A free burrito at Moe’s and a free chocolate brownie ice cream dessert at Chili’s would represent a unique event in my life that I now call, “The Four Dishes of the Gastrointestinal Apocalypse.” In honor of my dear old friend Hong Wang, who helped form the world famous high school debate team of ‘Lang and Wang!”, I decided I would be celebrating my birthday “Lang-a Wang-a Style” by eating the foods my eternally single debate partner still gets to enjoy.
I figured the next time I could do this on a Sunday, I would be over 50 and my stomach’s capacity to withstand this torture would be over and done with.
It was over in 7 minutes. One serving of fried chicken carcasses dipped in a satanic spicy sauce was all it took for my body to say, “Are you out of your fucking mind??? Fuck no Steve! You ain’t 30 no more!”
I broke out in a pound of sweat and drank a pint of coffee in record time. Then I sweated some more and shortly after visited the local Starbucks restroom and proceeded to remove the mushroom cloud that was lodged in my stomach.
I’m sure that bathroom is now welded shut with crime scene tape, and a big bold red sign that says, “Danger! Someone really did die in there!”
After quickly walking away from my intestinal wreckage, the rest of my birthday was far less troubling. I went to about a half dozen other restaurants and eateries you can find here, and brought enough back home to feed two of the three family members who can still consume processed foods.
Then I decided to do something myself for the car guy in the family. I would actually… spend… real… money.
I found a Craigslist ad for a Ford Ranger seat. No picture. Just $100 for one seat. I needed it, bad.
I had already spent nearly $1300 to put in a low mileage engine and a new clutch on a 2000 Ford Ranger XLT that I got for dirt cheap a month ago.
The seats on this thing were already down to the metal on the driver’s side and finding good Ranger seats is about as easy as finding a Navistar diesel that hasn’t gone through a river of denial from Ford and $4,000 in repairs.
The guy the next town over had no pictures, but a decent price combined with my imagination and free time was all it took for me to ride on over. With crappy junkyard seats already hitting close to $100 these days, I decided to take a 30 minute drive and see if this one seat was as wore out as all the other old mops I find at the crusher yards.
I went down a two mile dirt road before I came up to an older fella’ who had already given himself the southern version of an in-ground swimming pool. No It wasn’t a hot tub powered by farts. It was a garage with its own lift, and on top of that garage was an attic that stored about $10,000 worth of vintage-70s, 80s, and 90s truck parts.
“I bought these seats 12 years ago and I never got around to putting them in my old Ranger!”
They were immaculate. 12 years of darkness and a $100 investment from him back in 2005 yielded the most perfect set of seats I had ever seen for an old pickup truck.
They were two seats. A perfect set. I gave him $100 and whistled, “We’re in the money!” as we hoisted them on to the Ranger’s bed. We talked for a good half-hour and change, and I got the fringe benefit of knowing one more good soul in this life’s journey.
Now I’m back home and recovering from my self-inflicted wounds by eating an uncooked carrot. Like that Ranger, I’m still an aging work in progress that just needs the right stuff to keep going these days.
Those seats will help the both of us.