Monday, March 19, 2007

SOLD! To the girl with the white knuckles and the cold sweat!

At first I swore I would not blog about this, because the regret, guilt, and sheer forehead-slapping idiocy of my very own self felt too painful to display. But after a couple stiff drinks, a good night's sleep and a long yoga class, I have unclenched just a little, just enough to maybe tell you what I did this weekend that burned a fresh ulcer into my stomach lining:

I accidentally bought a $5,000 trip to Cancun.

Yes, an accident. No lie. See, I go to a lot of fundraisers with my husband, who writes about them for his column in the newspaper. These events often have live auctions for things like fancy jewelry and exotic vacations. Sometimes I think it's fun to be the very first bidder on an item, especially because the first bid never wins. Well, at Saturday's auction there was this cool Hawaii vacation valued at $14,000. And obviously there's no way that would sell for a really low price, so for fun, Sal and I agreed I could bid up to 5K. We were right, and it ended up going for around 10K. Oh, well! But a little while later, another interesting item came up: seven nights at a four-star resort in Cancun, plus first-class round-trip airfare, valued at nearly 10K. I leaned over to Sal and whispered, "Pssst! Wanna try 5K on this one, too?!" "Sure!" he says. So I do.


You really cannot imagine how I froze, how the shock and fear coursed coldly through my veins when the grinning auctioneer pointed in my direction and yelled "SOLD!" And then came the clapping and cheering, and people coming up to thank us so much for the donation, and then I nearly toss my cookies because I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING. Five thousand bucks? Five thousand bucks -- and here is the part that really makes me puke -- on a credit card!?!

OK, admittedly, we are in relatively good shape as far as credit cards go. And for the record, Sal isn't freaking out about this at ALL. He points out that we already had plans to do a big vacation this year, so this is money we would have spent anyway. Plus, it's for charity. Plus, though it might seem like bad timing to buy this trip now with house-hunting and all, it actually could be the last best time for us to do something like this. I bet after we land ourselves a nice fat mortgage, and later a kid or two, it won't be cool for mommy to suck down a couple martinis and run around waving paddle No. 241 in the air.

But I just couldn't stop kicking myself. The queasy guilt was turning my stomach inside-out. And it made me realize that a reaction this violent doesn't have anything to do with houses or vacations or anything like that. It comes from a deep understanding of what it's like to live with unmanageable debt. I'm not talking about the kind of debt that tells you it's time to cut down on four-dollar lattes. I'm talking about the kind of debt where, one afternoon in college, I stared down at the credit-card bills and realized that even with BOTH of my part-time jobs, I didn't have the money to make my payments. So I got up from the desk, put on a skirt and heels, drove to the mall, and got a third job at a costume jewelry counter at Foley's department store. See what I mean? That kind of frightening, nauseating debt that keeps you awake at night. And over the past five or six years, I have been able to shake that off and become a responsible adult, with a savings account and great credit and financial freedom that I try to never take for granted. So to go five grand in the hole in rougly 45 seconds, well, it felt like a fist smashed into my gut.

But like I said, I'm starting to get over it. Me and money have come a long way, and I know one teeny auction blunder isn't going to send us into financial ruin. And seriously, OK, I don't think there are too many horrifying mistakes in life that come equipped with a week of relaxing on sunshiny white beaches of the Caribbean Sea.

1 comment:

Gamy said...

I JUST put your invitation to the Mitty Auction in the mail this morning. Will you be psychologically ready in time?

Maybe you can get a job at Olive Garden to pay off Cancun...