Maxed Out 

The return of the bargain hunter

By G.D. Maxwell

One of the interesting things about living in a resort populated largely by refugees from the real world is hearing from people you used to know who still live in places you’d just as soon forget. One of the least interesting things is having those people ask to come visit. They don’t really want to see you. But they really don’t want to see the inside of a $300 per night condo.

Of course, it’s inevitable that friends of varying – lesser – degrees will eventually contact you just to "stay in touch." Funny how they think to call around the time they’re planning a trip. The conversation will graze around the subject of their upcoming vacation, taking tangents to update you on the status of people you’ve forgotten in the intervening years, until an opening occurs, a weakness is perceived.

If you’re anything like me – and for both of our sakes let’s hope you’re not – you’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding these openings by now. You can sense them coming. There’s a tentative but distinctly manipulative quality to the choice of words, the phrasing of sentences, the references to the grand times you shared in the past. It always makes me feel like a sheep being nudged inexorably toward the abattoir truck by a tenacious border collie.

It’s good practice to abruptly steer the conversation onto a new course at these critical junctures. If nothing comes immediately to mind, press the hangup button quickly and feign call waiting. "Hold on, I may be a winner."

One friend surprised me completely a couple of years ago. He called and the first thing he said was, "I’m coming to Whistler to ski and I already have a place to stay." I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Mike – I’ll call him that – was coming to Whistler and had arranged his own lodging. This was all the more amazing when you consider Mike may be the cheapest man in the world.

I worked with Mike in the old country... Toronto. Mike and I worked at a large financial institution I will not name because it’s part of my personal therapy to forget I ever worked there. I considered him a friend despite – or possibly because of – the fact he was the most parsimonious man I’ve ever met. Mike’s suits did not merely shine, they glowed. The glare from his suits far surpassed the shine on his shoes. I think that may have been intentional. I could swear there were days his two shoes didn’t exactly match.

Some people who are cheap come to their thrift by a penurious youth. Others simply reproduce beyond their means to support their eventual family. Mike, I believe, was cheap because it was the least expensive hobby he could find.


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