My Christmas Carol
In my family it was okay to be poor but unforgiveable to be cheap.
So I’m always teetering, because I want to be neither poor nor cheap. This makes me a lousy gift giver. Take the time Leigh Ann wanted a Sony Walkman. I wanted her to have this, but did I just go out and buy one? No, too expensive. Instead I went on eBay, which was then new and to me very unfamiliar, and she ended up on Christmas morning unwrapping a CD player that was not only from Korea, it played only Korean CDs. There are more examples like this than I care to recount. I teeter-totter between poor and cheap. The Unimaginable (and Irrational) and the Unforgiveable.
It’s now December 14, and I have bought one gift.
Two Mondays ago I’m in Los Angeles to be with Leigh Ann after she has arthroscopic surgery on her hip that will keep her on crutches for a month. They assure me she will be putting weight on that leg the next day and be driving by Friday. She just can’t twist.
I cannot take a week off work and am determined to be productive. This entails getting up at 6:30 (still on East Coast time, so not so bad), working for about five hours, then squeezing in more hours while she naps or has friends over or is otherwise preoccupied. Since I don’t own a laptop myself and didn’t feel like lugging Dan’s cross-country, I figured I could use her laptop. One of those ubiquitous, white Apple laptops.
I thought I would lose. my. mind. This laptop is six years old. The mouse pad doesn’t work, the cursor skitters all over the screen like an ant on speed, the wireless mouse can’t seem to track the ant on speed, and the hard drive is slow. If you have one of these laptops, or maybe any Apple product, then you know about the Spinning Color Wheel of Doom that pops up whenever the hard drive is searching, searching, searching for the one thing you want or need. The screen is one-quarter the size of my desktop monitor, the device doesn’t have a backspace-delete key, and I’m not familiar enough with the software to know how to easily jump from, say, Gmail to Word to Google Drive to websites.
And I have work to do!! A newsletter overdue for Client A, a report on the last nine months’ work for Client B, an end-of-the-year fundraising appeal for Client C … and as I’m cursing the accursed machine, Leigh Ann is patiently lying on the couch tapping away on her iPhone, probably wishing I’d plug the laptop into her TV because she doesn’t have cable and would like to watch a movie. The kind of thing I thought I’d have time to do once I got this work done.
Four days go buy; way too little work is done. I am scheduled to fly out the next afternoon. I wail and curse. “How do you get anything done on this damn thing?” She says, “I told you it was slow, but I haven’t wanted to complain.” She does work for me on this. She gets paid to write a blog on this—a big part of her income. She’s writing scripts on this, trying to edit footage on this, researching auditions on this, sending out headshots …
I text Dan. How much money is in our bank accounts? He texts back the amounts in personal checking, business checking, savings. I text back, I can’t stand this. I’m buying her a new laptop. He texts back, Whatever you need to do.
I say to Leigh Ann, who, besides the crutches, is back to her old self, “Where’s there an Apple store? I’m buying you a new laptop for Christmas.”
She sits bolt upright. “What? You’re kidding? What?”
“I can’t stand this. I still have work to do. How far do we need to drive?”
“Ohmigod, ohmigod.” She taps frantically on her phone. “The mall! Of course! It’s really close. Are you sure?”
“Let’s go before I change my mind.” (Teetering, tottering)
“Man, if I’d known this ploy would work, I would’ve tried it a long time ago!”
She hobbles out to the car, still tip-toeing on that right foot. We get to the Apple store. We stand with the salesman for 10 minutes debating the merits of the Apple Pro versus the Apple Air. Finally she asks, “Do you have something I can sit on?” He apologizes and brings her a tall stool. More debate. I’m getting tired. I weigh in. “Get the Apple Air.” At long last, she chooses the Apple Air. I whip out the business credit card and say, “Can I pay for this and go get coffee while you-all do the registering and whatever?” He says sure. I sign. As I head out to the food court I hear her say to him, “I keep thinking this is the Percocet and it’s a dream and I’m going to wake up.” He laughs.
I’m reading Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk when she comes walking toward me, the new laptop in a plastic backpack slung over her shoulders. On crutches, she’s beaming like Tiny Tim. And for once, I don’t feel like Scrooge.