December 14, 2009

Lives of Extravagant Waste

Have you ever spent a bundle of money and then suffered feelings of “was it worth it?” Or “why did I ever do that?” Or maybe you spent a bundle and didn’t even use the thing you paid for. Call it spender's remorse; It's related to but different than buyer's remorse.

I have been to a few extravagant weddings that must’ve cost six figures to put on, only to see the bride and groom call it quits after a short time of wedded bliss. You have to wonder what the bride’s parents thought of that – not to mention all the wedding guests. [Note: I have a daughter scheduled to be married in May and this blog has nothing to do with that. Besides, she has a budget to work with. And further, she and her beau – I’ve met him and sized him up – seem to understand the word “commitment.”]

I’ve seen tens of thousands of dollars poured into kids’ dancing or singing lessons, sports training and sporting events. Sometimes it’s spent on talent-less kids who don’t have a prayer, and sometimes it’s spent on talented kids who don’t care.

This whole line of thought arose Friday morning when I paid the bill for our one-night stand at the Grand Hyatt. Sue wasn’t really up to enjoying the place, and ended up in the hospital Friday afternoon. Maybe we should have stayed in cheaper digs?

I recently evicted some tenants who didn’t pay the rent for 3 months straight. Not one dollar. I then ended up paying some guys to move their stuff out to a storage facility. You never saw so much stuff in a two bedroom apartment. They were hoarders. They had three late-model vacuum cleaners and it was clear to me that not a single one had been used for the five months they lived in this apartment. They had three computers with flat screen monitors sitting unused and one hooked up on a desk. They had a refrigerator and a freezer full of great food. But they couldn’t pay the rent. No, I saw their pay stubs when we were moving their stuff; they could have paid the rent, but they didn’t.

Last night I saw some orderlies wheel a dead guy out of the hospital here. I don’t know how much treatment he’d had, or who paid for it. I can tell you that Sue’s going to spend close to a million dollars of insurance money on her own health care this year. It’s well documented that the great bulk of money that gets spent on health care gets spent in the last year of a person’s life. That’s true because so many people die from the traffic injuries or health problems that put them in the hospital where they incur horrific medical bills in the months before they die. This is not to say that Sue is going to die immediately, or even that I think the million dollars spent on her care could have been better spent. Since the insurance company paid for most of it, I have absolutely no remorse.

Still, it’s a lot of money. When you stay in a hospital for a few days you see where some of the money goes. A lot of it goes into a giant cesspool of waste. My list of specific examples could go on for pages.

And no one can waste money -- your money, no, our money -- like the government. Let’s give a trillion dollars of our taxpayers’ money to the poor failing banks so their big whigs can give themselves huge bonuses before they go out of business from their own stupid lending practices and then stick us with the losses from the inevitable market crash.

But enough about wasted money. I’m writing about lives of extravagant waste. Looking across the way last night, to the uncurtained windows of the 14 or so floors of hospital rooms on the Moffitt Hospital wing, I noticed televisions on in almost every room. You’ve seen this, flashing multi-colored images giving an eerie, neon-ish look to otherwise dark rooms. I’m talking televisions on 24-7. Not that people in the hospital have anything better to do than watch television. Still, there are people who watch way too much t.v. People who spend way too much time on their, er, computers, playing games, surfing the web, and, uh, blogging. This is getting a little personal, so let’s move on.

We waste our lives with mindless entertainment and then wonder why we didn’t accomplish anything. Why we didn’t see the world. Why we never knew what we never knew. Why we didn’t have time to do something nice for someone else who really needed nice.

I wonder about the dead guy they wheeled out of here last night. Is he, even now, standing in front of the Almighty trying to give an account of how he spent his time and money? Is he stammering out an explanation of why he spent millions of dollars for his own entertainment and only gave a few thousand to charity? Is he wondering himself if the heavenly graphs are wrong; Could it be that he spent 76.6 years of his 77-year life on his own pursuits and only 0.4 years on doing nice for others? And is it possible that he really spent 102,200 hours watching television and only 3,504 hours doing nice?

Ah well. Enough blogging about waste. I need another coffee latte. Time to walk down to Starbucks and spend another $5 on myself.

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