I'm not always the most practical, logical person. And so, when it comes to the sorts of things that most people are just sort of born knowing, I often need a little help...a guide to the mundane, if you will. In other words, I have this tendency to take practical advice--good, practical advice--and adopt it. And when I say adopt, I mean...
When I was maybe 14 or 15 years old my mother started allowing me to buy my own clothes. When I asked her for advice on what is considered a 'good price' on something, and she rattled off a list of prices, ending with, "and never pay more than $40 for a skirt."
About 15 years later, I was starting a new job, and I needed some professional-looking clothes. After a long day shopping, I came home utterly discouraged. Talking to my mother on the phone that night, I said, "I saw a lot of really nice stuff, but it was so expensive! Like there was this one blue skirt that would have been PERFECT, but it was almost $70!"
"So? That's not so bad for a skirt. Why didn't you buy it?" she asked.
I was stunned. "Because YOU told me never to pay more than $40 for a skirt!" I protested.
My mother sounded genuinely confused. "I did? When did I say that?"
Um. Um. "1979?" I replied.
Is it any wonder that the only place I feel comfortable shopping these days is Goodwill?
I have a similar story regarding gasoline. Because I didn't start driving until I was 29 years old (loooong story that can be shortened to this: I'm crazy! You knew that!), I had to ask for advice on a lot of stuff that teenagers normally absorb just from hanging out with their friends. For instance: Does it make a difference which brand of gasoline I use? Absolutely, said my friend Ro, to whom I went with all questions auto-related. Chevron is the best gasoline, bar none. OK, I said, and proceeded to fill my tank with Chevron...and only Chevron.
That was all well and good for that time, because I was living in an apartment with a Chevron station on the corner, and working in a building with a Chevron station less than two blocks away.
A couple of years ago, Ro--who, in the intervening years had moved back to New York--was out visiting. We were in my car, and I was low on gas. I had passed at least three gas stations when Ro finally asked, "Where are you going?"
"To the Chevron station," I said. "It's a few miles away, but there aren't any in my neighborhood."
She looked at me like...well, like I was as insane as I clearly was.
"Hold on!" I protested. "YOU are the one who told me that Chevron was the best gasoline!"
"That's true," she admitted. "But that was at least a decade ago! And you're ALLOWED to use other types of gasoline! Especially if you're on fumes and the nearest station is five miles away!"
I can? I can go to the Shell station down the block? It was an actual epiphany. I was 40 years old, and it had never even OCCURRED to me that it was OK to go against Ro's original edict.
Nowadays, I still hit the Chevron station when I'm nearby, but sometimes I use Shell, and sometimes I use Mobil, and sometimes--you might want to be sitting for this--I fill up on Arco. I KNOW. I am a gasoline REBEL.
Hey. At least I can laugh at myself, right? Someone has to.