I’d say my mind was more in a state of disarray at age 40 or 50 than it is nowadays. I’ve always conformed to the stereotype of an absent-minded professor. In the thick of middle age I was pretty scatter-brained and sometimes wondered how I managed to function in the world at all. These days my brain chugs away more slowly, but I feel at least partially in touch with reality most of the time.
Of course, there are always exceptions. A while back we went out for brunch with our friends, Ellie and Sam. The waitress asked if we would like anything to drink, and Sam suggested a bottle of wine. The waitress brought him the wine list, and Sam said that he would like to treat us to champagne in honor of my retirement. He ordered and asked the waitress to put the champagne on his tab. When it came, I looked at the bottle and it said Taittinger’s. I recognized the brand from ads in Vanity Fair. “That’s the best champagne I’ve ever had,” I told Sam after tasting it, and it was. At the end of the meal the waitress brought the checks. Because she had mixed up our credit cards, I initially worried I might have Sam’s bill. But we compared our receipts, and the slip I had for our two fixed-price brunches was for $68 and his slip was for $148. Whew, I thought to myself, eighty dollar champagne. I marveled at Sam’s generosity. On our way home I mulled over the transaction and looked again at my Customer Copy of the credit card charge. I was startled to find that I had Sam’s receipt which showed that $68 had been charged to his American Express card. I realized that he in turn had my Visa credit card receipt, to which $148 (and our Taittinger champagne) had been charged. I’d inadvertently bought champagne for the table. I told Katja, and she asked what I was going to do. Nothing, I said. Then I thought to myself: I’ve just treated our friends to eighty dollar champagne. Who’d ever have thought I was such a big spender?”
We went home, and Katja took a nap. I went into the refrigerator to get some cold water. It was crammed with Katja’s purchases from Fresh Market the day before. I noticed several large containers of fancy deli salad. I pulled the water bottle out, and one of the salad containers fell off the top shelf and crashed on the kitchen floor, its contents splattering all over the place. I picked up the plastic container which was now empty. The price tag said $18.97. I looked at the mess on the floor. Katja will never know, I thought. She has must have bought this for my lunches. I will just salvage it and eat it tomorrow. It will be like camping. I shooed off the curious dogs and scooped up the salad fixings with my fingers. Soon it looked almost like new. At five o’clock I woke Katja up. She had to get ready for her bimonthly book club meeting. Her friend Carla showed up an hour later, and I went down to the kitchen to say goodbye. There was Katja putting the Fresh Market salad containers in a shopping bag to bring for her book club’s meal. “Have a wonderful time,” I said, waving feebly. I myself had suddenly lost my appetite.
So that wasn’t the best of days. However, all of our daily life isn’t usually this erratic, and we muddle our way through more often than not. It does give you pause for thought though.