Purchasing Power

    Now that I’ve crossed the threshold of my eighth decade, I carry a kind of mental actuarial table with me when I go shopping. When I’m considering any major purchase, this table automatically causes me to question, “Are you really going to live long enough to justify this kind of expenditure?”

     This is not as morbid as it may sound. What is happening is that my practical side, developed as a child of the Depression when every penny was weighed at least twice before being spent, is manifesting itself.

     It also bears upon the always present guilt question of whether I’m  squandering my children’s inheritance, and the more worrisome question of do I have enough money to last me for the rest of my life without becoming a burden to my afore- mentioned children?

     My daughter and son show no signs of greed, and they consistently urge me to “Go for it, Mom,” but I worry anyway, because it’s my duty.

     Considering all this, if I decide for sound economic reasons, to replace my old electric range, which has required several visits by technicians and two expensive replacement of parts, all costing more than doctors’ house calls and major surgeries used to, then I’m confronted with another dilemma. Do I buy the top of the line, with its virtual lifetime guarantee, or do I settle for the cheaper utility model with a one-year warranty? I have to ponder whether my dear departed mother’s advice to “always buy the very best you can afford—it always wears better”—is applicable in this situation.

     Candidly speaking, I notice the ice is thinning underfoot. There has been decimation among the ranks of my friends and acquaintances, and I realize that life is more and more a day-to-day proposition. But, on the other hand, although my mirror image has quite a few spots and wrinkles, I was given high marks at my last physical examination six months ago…”for woman your age.”

     I fantasize having my picture in the paper someday with a headline: “Centenarian Still Producing Gourmet Meals.” I will, of course, be standing in front of the deluxe model stove, which has served so well over the years. Perhaps a lifetime warranty is warranted, so to speak.

     Furthermore, I also suddenly remember reading somewhere that the late J. Paul Getty’s advice about buying real estate was to purchase the best piece of property one could possibly afford in the absolutely best neighborhood. I realize that electric ranges and real estate are two different things, and that I’m in apples-versus-oranges territory, but quality and long-term return on investment are what we’re discussing here. My mother and J. Paul Getty both had the kind of financial acumen one must respect.

     The personable young salesman in the appliance store has no possible way of understanding that the white-haired lady, who is squinting at the price tags on each and every range in the showroom, is simultaneously waging an inner moral and philosophical battle, while bravely trying to look mortality in the eye.

     He gives no indication of thinking of me as an indecisive ditherer. He is the soul of patience and good humor as he demonstrates the features of each range. He shrewdly deduces that the one with the electronic display panel, comparable to the instrument panel of a large commercial airliner, is not suitable for this particular customer.

     With the air of a solicitous grandson, he confides that the model with Greatly Reduced for Quick Clearance sticker on it is really “just a piece of junk” He politely hustles me past it to the sleek, elegantly simple, high end model across the aisle.

     Of course, you know what happens.

     “I’m sure you’ll be happy you bought this range,” the young salesman says. “It will give you many years of fine service.” I am thinking it had jolly- well better last 18 years to fit in with my plans for my centennial picture in the paper.

     “It always pays to buy quality,” he says approvingly. He seems to be exactly in tune with my mother and J. Paul Getty. He should go far.


7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by margaret cheney on March 29, 2010 at 6:32 pm


    It takes me a while but….

    Yes! A charming introduction and I look forward to seeing much much more from you. Such talent, such wisdom–and so many impatient readers hungry for insight and humor.



  2. Posted by Mary Wood on March 24, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Thanks, Lucille! I love your blog and especially this one. Will pass your site along to my sister in Colorado. She’ll love it too.


  3. Meg helped me find your blog. It made me laugh out loud. Now I know why I fell in love with you in the first place. I’m so honored to be able to hang out with you. Maybe some of your writing talent can rub off on me. See you soon, Peg


  4. You have skills. Writing chops.

    I too look forward to reading more of your stuff.

    Read this out loud to my babe and she loved it.



  5. Posted by marion on March 15, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    What a wonderful essay! Let’s see more of em.


  6. Posted by Meg on March 12, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Lucille! I’m looking forward to more posts.


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