Character Assessment via Wallet
I just emptied the contents of my wallet on the kitchen table in an effort to locate a business card shoved into the crevices months ago. It’s time for propane set-up at the new house and I could have sworn I grabbed a card from the propane place the last time we picked up hay. (Cuz, remember, you get hay and propane AND a carwash all at the same joint in our ‘hood).
What I found in the grimey depths of my old battered wallet was pretty eye-opening. I’m a very interesting person apparently, or so it would seem, if you do a snap judgment based on what I choose to store in there. Sure, there’s all the usual suspects like the rarely-used check-book, miscellaneous credit cards, most of which we opened just for the build. (If you’re gonna spend a ton of money, you may as well earn 5% cash back on pedicures and dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack, right?). Then there’s the year’s worth of receipts stuffed into a pocket, placed there out of guilt after some purchases I shouldn’t have made, hoping I’d convince self to return the things. And the old id’s (I WAS 21 ONCE?!), the college id, the grad school id. The gym membership id. Let us all pause and laugh for a moment at our woefully forgotten, and shamefully hidden (expired) gym memberships. You know you’ve got one in there.
The bottom pocket is crammed full of a colorful assortment of business cards: cards for shops I loved so much I wanted to remember (O’Brien’s antiques in Lockhart!), cards of friendly people met in the spring milking class (why didn’t I ever give that chick, Laura, a call?), cards for professional folks met at old jobs who I thought would be handy members of my network (that sounded less pretentious in my head), and the punch cards of good intentions – punched only once. These are the: “buy 10 loaves of bread and then we’ll donate the cost of your 11th loaf to the local foodbank,” or the “buy 10 sandwiches, and we’ll donate the cost of your 11th to the Nature Conservancy,” or the less charitable, “Buy 10 cups of coffee, and get your 11th upgraded to a vente grande XL super duper oversized cup – for free!”
On top of the pocket crammed full of these incredibly essential cards, I’ve stuffed four wilted and bruised old fortune cookie fortunes. At one point each must have really struck a chord, since they somehow enjoy the honor of display in my crumb-filled wallet. The first fortune is just a fact I must have felt quite proud of. I remember pulling it from a cookie during a period of my life while I was simultaneously completing grad school, working as an analyst full time during a legislative session, and feeding cows: “Your ability to juggle many tasks will take you far.” A funny “fact” to read now as I sit at the kitchen table at noon in my pj’s feeling stressed at the prospect of grocery shopping. The second, among my favorites, “Allow your curiosity to lead you to the answer you seek.” OOOHHH!! So true so true!! But what does it mean?! It’s deep and lovely in a way I can’t articulate. I think it makes me feel philosophical. Or metaphysical. Or something. The third is a “duh” statement, but made the cut anyway, “Luck helps those who helps themselves,” and the fourth, which I probably pulled out of a cookie when I was feeling like I didn’t have lots of choices, “Life is about making some things happen, not waiting for something to happen.” Oh, how clever. Take THAT, life! I won’t be bullied.
And in the pocket with those shameful receipts, folded into the tiniest triangle, is this letter I got from a kid I used to mentor waaaay back when. During my Americorps service. After college when I still thought law school was in the cards. And I was going to work for Legal Aid. And save the world and right wrongs, and all that. In the letter, this student wrote some sweet things about what I meant to her in such a way that I can’t bear to open the note without literally shaking and crying. Maybe because she meant a lot to me too, and maybe because I didn’t end up in law school, and I haven’t saved the world.
It’s not that I cherish all this stuff, but I just can’t make myself throw it away, no matter how dirty, overstuffed and battered my wallet becomes. Also, it seems the anatomy of one’s wallet is, in and of itself, a tiny ethnography of your own cultural self. What snap judgments would someone make if all they know of you is what they see in your wallet? I’m saying this today because of all that’s been going on recently and how life can somehow cause you to go all introspective. Am I a good person? Do I make good decisions? Based on what my wallet may say, and despite any ugliness and frustration occurring in our current endeavors, I’m still pretty confident that I’m decent and, basically, doing ok.
That incredibly annoying line in that incredibly annoying credit card commercial just took on new meaning, and here it is to annoy you : What’s in your wallet?