How NOT To Live

Some Current Starbucks Offerings: Real Vital Stuff

During her long exercise walks, Martine frequently finds strange things that have been thrown out, including credit and debit cards, requests to appear in court, and bank statements. She calls these her “tiny treasures.” This post is about one person’s American Express card statement she picked up that I find startling for (1) how much is owed and (2) what types of expenses are charged.

I have chopped off any data fields that would identify the person whose statement this is.

Account Summary

A few years ago, I owed upwards of $16,000 on all my credit cards combined—and I was appalled. Fortunately, I paid off every cent owing before I retired. The Amex user above, whom I will call X, owes $26,315.67 on a single credit card. For the period covered by this statement, X spent $547.08 on new products and services, and $404.45 on interest.

On the lower left of the summary above, note that X would pay off the whole amount in 28 years—assuming that he/she would not add any new expenditures and that the minimum payment is made. (But that is not likely to happen, is it?)

Now let’s look at the expenditures:

Amex Card Expenditures for the Period

Apparently X is a millennial, given the nature of the expenditures. Other than the AT&T Mobile and Chevron Service Station charges, almost all the expenses are for Uber, Starbucks, or Postmates (a food delivery service)—all lifestyle-related. Absent are groceries, rent, auto repair, healthcare, clothing, utilities—in a word necessary expenses.

And yet X is in hock for $26 grand and apparently making minimum payments, while running up the bill on mostly frou-frou charges. This is not a good situation in which to find oneself. If X has other credit cards with similar expenditures, I would consider getting counseling.

We have located X and passed the bill on to him/her.

Too Much Self-Esteem

The Whole Package for Guys Who Believe They’re Special

The worst thing about living in Southern California is that there are too many people—particularly males—who have been told all their lives that they are special. The result is a population that thinks they deserve all the good things in life without having to work for them. One sees on the road all the BMWs, Lexuses, Mercedes Benzes, Maseratis, Bentleys, Jags, and other high-priced vehicles that are the trademark for guys with tiny weenies who at the same time are big dicks … and who have to prove it several times each mile.

At the time I was sent to school at the tender age of five, I was not told I was special. My friend András and I were considered as little freaks who attacked our teacher because she refused to understand our Hungarian, which, after all, was the prevalent language of the Buckeye Road neighborhood in Cleveland where we lived. My teacher, Mrs. Idell, retaliated by sending me home with a note pinned to my shirt asking what language I was speaking. From that point until the fifth grade, when I finally knew enough English to get good grades, I was thought to be something of a retard. In Second Grade, Sister Frances Martin, the Dominican nun who was our teacher at Saint Henry, would come up to me, pull my nears hard, and call me “cabbagehead.”

When I came to Los Angeles in 1966, I encountered a widespread plague of high self-esteem. Everybody had to pretend to be richer, more handsome, and more of a stud than they in actuality were. I think that one result of all this is that many of my fellow students put themselves in debt up to their ears. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them are living on the streets in homeless encampments.

It reminds me in so many ways of many Honoré de Balzac novels, such as Lost Illusions, in which a whole society tried to live beyond its means. Some managed to do it; others fell hard by the wayside.