Earlier this afternoon, on the way to work, I saw a man smoking from a tobacco pipe outside the library. Normally I am one of those people who coughs loudly and purposefully when near a smoker, but – I can’t argue with a smoking pipe! It was a nice one, too, all polished and gleaming. I can’t say I wasn’t a little excited about this. For that moment it felt like I was in the 1800s. Oh, if only we pretended to use tobacco pipes all the time: what a classy, noncarcinogenic world we would live in. (Perhaps people would even start wearing pocketwatches again!!)
But I digress.
Tomorrow our February vacation starts, and as such I have major plans to spend all of next week applying for internships. The problem with this is that even if my cover letters read well enough to get an internship company interested in me, I will then have to have an interview. And I have a fear of interviews as deep and bleak as the hadal zone, where fish have to be bioluminescent just to see anything. It’s not because it’s a form of public speaking. I’m afraid of interviews for the same reason I’m afraid of soccer: because I have no bodily coordination. When I played soccer, I lacked the hand-eye coordination to prevent the ball from hitting me in the face. When I get interviewed, I lose the nervous connection between my mouth and my brain. The last interview I gave made me sound like friggin’ Oliver Twist.
I was studying in London and my effective interrogator, a British correspondent for CBS, was getting a little frustrated. You had to hand it to him, though; he did English stoicism proud. “Now that the exchange rate has dropped, what sort of items do you buy now that you wouldn’t before?” he asked me. I pretended to consider as I scrabbled for an answer. I’ve inherited my dad’s frugality and as a college kid in an expensive city, I hadn’t really bought anything besides Christmas gifts and groceries. But how could I say that? I would look like a Scrooge! I couldn’t exactly tell him I was stingy, could I? So instead I answered, “Well… um… I buy more food now. So I’m not, um, hungry anymore. Not as hungry.”
The reporter stared at me.
In retrospect, I don’t think that reporter appreciated the full extent of my answer. Maybe when you’re older and work for the international branch of CBS News and can afford things like (I dunno) rent and pocketwatches, groceries are not a big deal. But when someone who’s used to meal plans suddenly has to cook her own food – and when that food is kind of expensive – she ends up eating a lot of sandwiches. If I felt like a fancy Italian meal, I tossed some pasta in oil and grilled sandwich ham to add to it. But since the exchange rate had dropped, screw olive oil! I was buying jars of carbonara sauce for my sandwich ham and pasta!
“Right,” the reporter said slowly. “What things besides food do you buy?” And suddenly I felt as Sarah Palin must have, in her interview with Katie Couric. Yes, but what about non-food items? I imagined him asking. Give me one example, just one specific example, of your budgeting.