For some reason, I feel extremely appreciative of stuff lately. It’s a very strange feeling, since I’m so used to bitterness and sarcasm, but it made me realize just how lucky all of us are, to be alive, to have shelter, Netflix, access to flushing toilets, and tiny jars of jam at hotel continental breakfasts. When all the craziness went down with the house-buying, I wrote a letter to one of my favorite restaurants, Columbia City Tutta Bella, whose staff are exceedingly nice.
“Dear Sir/Madam,” I wrote, “I wanted to write to commend your staff for being some of the quickest, friendliest, and most reliable servers I’ve ever met. Your olives are incredible, and your servers are uniformly great. I’m coming back frequently, and I’m telling all my friends.” A week later, the owner sent me a handwritten thank-you note thanking me for thanking him! “Dear Huy,” he wrote in delightful restaurant owner handwriting, “thank you for your note. The staff and I are thrilled to hear from you.”
I don’t know why that made me so happy, but it did. People are quick to complain about things. (“The lines are too long,” “It’s too crowded at this restaurant,” “Why don’t you find a real job? Writing a humor column is not a real job! Our rent is late yet again. I should have listened to that gypsy’s warnings.”) Many of us have forgotten how to be appreciative. But the gift of appreciation is one of the best gifts of all and it usually costs no more than some paper and five minutes. It’s sad to see how spoiled kids are these days. The act of writing a thank-you note is as foreign to them as not having a cell phone. Still, appreciation is irrelevant of technology. When I have kids, I’ll be sure to force them to send telepathic thank-you messages through their built-in brain computers.
Thinking of our future started freaking me and Jameelah out. So we went and talked to a financial advisor, a fast-talking shirt-and-tie type named Tim, to help us unravel the mysteries of retirement plans. Why? Because we have nothing in retirement. When I decided to go into social work and writing, I resigned myself to a life of a scavenger, dumpster-diving behind a Whole Foods and buying clothing by the pound at Goodwill. Retirement would be eked out by selling my collection of kitchen gadgets—you laugh now, but one day, this olive pitting machine will sell for thousands. Of course, I only planned for that to last until I found a Sugar Mama. Now that I’m with a teacher, the dreams of being a pampered stay-at-home husband is long gone, replaced by panic attacks induced by student loan companies as they simultaneously release their hounds.
However, we figure that if we start now, reducing our expenses by cutting down dinners to five nights a week and making our own toilet paper, we can start saving up so that we won’t starve later on when our good-for-nothing children, who never bring the grandkids to visit, refuse to take care of us.
Unfortunately, investing isn’t all that easier, either. Retirement is a nebulous, confusing system, and talking to Tim didn’t exactly help. This is what he sounded like: “Now, a 403b is different than a 401K. Based on the valence bond theory, if your orbitals hybridize in your Roth IRA, then you should be able to use your savings when you turn 59 and a-half, provided the Schrödinger equation works out in your favor.” After further confusion, we signed some paper, either to commit to a 403b account, or else to grant Tim power of attorney over our souls, I couldn’t tell.
In any case, I am appreciative. In an economy this bad, when people have been losing so much sleep over finances, we have no stock, bonds, properties, or money in general to worry about. I hope no one steals my avocado slicer.
More delicious Noodles: