This I Believe

Consuelo - Morrisville, Pennsylvania
Entered on February 27, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe the benefits from shortcuts are temporary. At least, such is the case in my life. Take this morning, for example. I was all set to begin work when I noticed a photo of a smiling woman peering up at me through the clutter in my tote bag. I had no sooner said, “Wha..,” when I realized that I had swiped a magazine from my local public library. The red stamp on the magazine cover was in all caps: DO NOT REMOVE FROM REFERENCE AREA. The “under penalty of law” part was implied. I — a person whose mattress and pillows still bear the manufacturers do-not-remove labels — was a criminal, a thief.

“I know,” I thought, “I can drop the magazine in the night book-return.”

I grabbed the magazine and my purse and keys and drove pell-mell to the library. Once there I took a quick furtive glance around the parking lot. With no one around to witness my deceit, I returned the magazine.

Catastrophe averted, I decided to stop at a convenience store for a quick caffeine hit. I pulled into the parking lot, grabbed my wallet, jumped out of the car, and locked and closed the car door. My keys were in the ignition. Bye-bye mojo.

I had plenty of time to think over the next hour as I sat on the curb waiting for the Auto Club. In my haste to dispose of my contraband I had left home without a coat. As the minutes passed and the adrenaline rush from righting a wrong faded, I started to notice the cold — and what I was wearing. There was a stain on my sleeve. Toothpaste. But given the looks I was receiving from passersby, their first thoughts of me weren’t of my good oral hygiene. My shirt had a hood. I pulled it over my head and caught my reflection in the convenience store window. I looked like the Unabomber. At about the half-hour mark I noticed the cold, wet curb had turned the modest underwear I wore under my fleece pants into a quasi thong. I began to shift from buttock to buttock and thought of the old woman in Voltaire’s Candide. While she lost a buttock under entirely different circumstances, I couldn’t help but wonder: Can a person get frostbite, “there”?

Thankfully, before my mind could get too caught up in that twisted line of thinking, I was rescued by a puckish, flaxen-haired tow truck driver from ABC Towing.

It was then, as I was driving home, that this “truth” — that the benefits of shortcuts are temporary — hit me. How do I know this? Well, the magazine I inadvertently stole was Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. And, alas, there are no shortcuts to achieving financial security.