What I learned from a Homeless Man

The Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons keep arriving. It’s alpha mail and I can’t get enough. I live in a big old house divided into apartments. Our mailboxes are not secure, just tin boxes on the porch. No keys, just old fashioned American trust. So when the coupons arrive I pluck them all.

Last week my neighbor Hank got a fresh issue of the New Yorker. Or I should say I got it. It’s great fun, that New Yorker. The cartoons ring even funnier when you’re not paying that ridiculous subscription price. I love free. My kitchen cabinet is filled with tiny half& half creamers that I getat convenience stores whether or not I buy their coffee.  I love complimentary.Last month enjoying a free breakfast at Holiday Inn I was told by management it’s only free for guests.Live and learn.

I didn’t give these proclivities any thought until this morning; my car was stolen. Some guy felt like having it, complimentary.He steals cars; I steal Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons.I’m a white-collar 600 thread discount thief, a metrosexual bandit.

At the Santa Monica precinct station I told the clerk I’d left the car running, went upstairs to get my last suitcase, and when I came back the car was gone. She asked, “Did anyone have a spare key?”

I recited the facts again: The car was running! I started it for them, had it packed and ready to go. Free! She asked me if I knew of anyone who might have stolen it. I thought for a moment. Lenny Dykstra!

I was about to miss my plane and lose more money. She went on with questions that bore no relation to the pure stupidity of leaving a car running, unmanned and unlocked, when you live across the street from a homeless shelter (careless can be very close to car-less).

Somehow, I made it to the airport in time to catch the next flight. On the plane I read Hank’s New Yorker and enjoyed a cartoon about a cat missing the kitty litter with the caption, “My cat thinks outside the box.” Now there’s a joke I could use in my act.

Wow! I suddenly realized I was a thief, too. I’ve been living a petty life, greedy and unethical. On top of that, I’m not really being very smart or frugal. If I stopped going to Bed, Bath and Beyond I’d save 100%. And the final irony:last month I found a way to save a bundle on my car insurance by taking off comprehensive and theft. Live and learn.

A day after the great heist the police found my car. By law they impound it using a towing company which cost me $283 plus $52 a day for storage and a $96 fee to pick it up on a Sunday. I wanted to torch the tow yard (after I got my car).

The thief had gone through my luggage, taken a pair of my shoes and pants and left his. In one pocket was a pamphlet for a course titled “Improving your Marriage.” I hoped he wasn’t the instructor. He also left his name on paperwork from the homeless shelter. Ethical considerations prevent me from stating his name, Eric Sowell. No grudges, Eric. I understand what it’s like to walk in your shoes–literally.  I wish you, your wife, and my pants well. I have always wanted to help the homeless and thought I didn’t have enough time. Well, apparently I did.

When I got home I placed the New Yorker and the coupons back in my neighbors’ mailboxes. I felt lighter. By 20%.

for Paul’s latest video click here: Making Mistakes

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