When your in-laws give you a present, you have to say thank you in the right way. If it’s a tie, you say thank you by wearing it every time you see them — to dinner, to the pool, whatever. If it’s cash, you say thank you and you tell them what you bought with it.
And that’s my problem. I don’t exactly have the cash anymore.
It was Christmas morning, and there were two matching envelopes under the tree. My wife opened her envelope. Got $150 in cash from her parents. Happy day! Even happier because I had an identical envelope waiting for me! Sure enough, there was my cash, too.
After the last presents were opened, and the wrapping paper was thrown away, I started recycling. I peeled the cardboard backing off the action figure packages. I unwound those annoying, industrial-strength twist-ties that keep the doll’s accessories in place so I could unencumber the cardboard. Into the recycling bin it all went. And in went the envelopes from the in-laws.
Because it was Christmas, the recycling schedule was delayed a day in my neighborhood, so I made sure to bring out the bins. They were overflowing after I missed last week’s recycling day, and it would not be a pretty sight in the garage if we missed yet another pick-up. I dragged the bins out, clapped my hands and strutted back inside. That was that. (It’s true what they say about men, by the way: We put some plates in the dishwasher and we act like we just cleaned the whole house.)
It wasn’t until the next day when my wife was going to make a bank deposit that she questioned me about the $300 in gift money. She could only find $150.
We searched high. We searched low. We emptied the cupboards. We checked every pocket of every piece of clothing any of us had ever worn dating back to 1984. But the money, a Benjamin Franklin and a Ulysses S. Grant (I can still see their cute little faces looking up at me, so proud to be mine) were lost. MIA. Gone. I know and you know that there’s only one place they could be.
The thing is, I double and tripled checked — I think — the envelopes, before I put them in the bin.
Anyway, I was devastated. We went for a drive, and I moped. I pouted. I felt like I had been robbed. I vowed to never recycle again.
And the worst part was when the kids Skyped with Grandma a day or two later. How do you say thank you for a gift from your in-laws? In this case, you run out the door and escape.
I have decided that whenever I get a bill that is larger than $20 in the future, I will duct tape it to my hip. I don’t have any hair there, so it won’t hurt it take it back off when I’m at the checkout, and because it’s very close to where I keep my wallet, no one will notice anything awry when I peel it off to pay for that tie for my father-in-law, or that picture frame for my mother-in-law.
What really set my mind at ease, though, is when I remembered a few days later that the lost cash was actually my wife’s. It was my Franklin and my Grant that she deposited, so I was $150 richer after all. I clearly remember taking the cash out of my envelope on Christmas, and I just assumed she had done the same thing. So, unfortunately, she is the one who suffers in the end.
As I explained the situation, she took it hard. She was in denial, saying that, perhaps, considering I’m the one who actually disposed of the envelopes, I should man up and accept responsibility. She’ll get over that eventually because I have the argument that will solve everything: Honey, baby, dearest, I can see you’re upset that the lost $150 was actually yours. But think of it this way: At least it was recycled.
You can rest easy at night knowing that your money is not filling some landfill, getting lodged in the throat of a baby squirrel and causing it to choke to death. It’s in the recycling plant, and for all I know, it could be turned into new money someday — new money that might make it into the hands of a poor person in another country, and they’ll use it to buy a sewing machine and support an entire village. All because of your money that you should never have handed to me.
Just whatever you do, don’t tell your mother.