Thursday, October 11, 2007

How Tight Is Too Tight?

My mother is tight. Very, very tight. One way in which she cuts costs is that she used to take some dirt cheap flight from Vienna to Baltimore via London, in which you had to transfer by rushing from Gatwick to Heathrow within an hour. Frankly the stress would have killed me, but there is no amount of discomfort she will not put up with to save money. And I just do not feel the same.

Any of her money saving activities could win her a place in the Guinness Book of Records, but this incident stands out in my memory. A couple of years ago, my husband's fifty year old uncle, Uncle Sean, who had been a heroin addict but was cleaning up his act, decided to take a five day package holiday to Vienna. A few days into the trip, my husband's dad phones me from Ireland and says that Uncle Sean died while staying at the hotel, and that the family have been trying to talk to the Viennese police to sort out releasing the body (they wanted it shipped home for a Catholic burial), but weren't making much headway, since the police only spoke German etc. etc. Could I call my mum who lives in Vienna, and get her to sort it out?

So I tell her the story and she is happy to get her teeth into the project. She goes round to the hotel and discovers that Sean spent the first three days of the holiday locked in his room, and, she notes, did not partake of the free breakfast, nor of the clean sheets and maid service. After a few days of no one going in or out of the room, apparently the management opened the door and discovered the body. Doctors concluded that he'd died from a methadone overdose, probably taken purposely. And while this was all very sad and tragic, mum had a few unanswered questions she wanted answers to. Such as asking the hotel manager,

"His body was removed from the hotel on the third day, but he had paid for a five day vacation, correct?"

The manager looked at her blankly. "So?"

"Well, it is obvious, is it not? He should be given a refund for the two days he did not stay at the hotel."

"But he's dead," the manager pointed out.

"Nor," she went on, "did he use the hotel facilities while he was staying at the hotel, so he should have a refund for those days also. Your behaviour is outrageous. Do you really think you are going to get away with this?"

Apparently, she went on and on until she got the dead guest's package holiday refunded.

Amazing, what? But there's times when I wish she wasn't quite such a spendthrift and enjoyed herself a little more. Or let me enjoy myself a little more. The situation that has arisen, is that my husband and I have been invited to go to Madras in February for an Indian friend's wedding. I am actually really excited to be going and I don't get excited about much. The guy getting married is of the top caste in India and there will be 1,200 people at the reception so I reckon it will be quite a swanky do. I even told him I would wear a sari for the occasion. I know in some ways that seems like an embarassing thing to do, because Hinduism is not my religion, only I thought I would look even more stupid wearing western clothing and standing out like a sore thumb. Really, I have always been fascinated by India. Just, the people, the colors, the sounds, the scenery. Everything. And John's parents have even agreed to stay here to look after the kids while we are away!

But in any case, I'm not going to tell my mum about it right now. It's just so boring to always have her rain on my parade. She will say, "But it is so expensive to fly to India!" And I will say, "So what do you suggest, going by camel?"

I admire her ability to squirrel away money, but for God's sake, what is life for, if not for living?

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Misssy M said...

Your mum makes me howl with laughter.

As for the sari- please do not worry, it is not a religious thing, just a cultural thing- like wearing a kilt. I have Sri Lankan friends and they insist I wear my sari whenever we meet up because they know how much I love it, and they love that i make the effort.

I got it in Kandy in Sri Lanka and it is one of my favourite things ever. I defy any woman not to wear a sari and look completely hot in it.

Getting it on properly is till a nightmare though, so get help.

Anonymous Boxer said...

First, I want to wear a sari!

Your Mom should work for the U.S. Government in purchasing - I'm sure she could shut down the "$300 toilet seat" crap that's been going on for decades.

I think,it's just a generation... My Mother and MIL both went through the depression and they just CAN'T/Couldn't stand waste.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Your mum sounds formidable. If I were the hotel manager I'd have probably offered Uncle Sean a further free stay at his convenience or offer to do him a nice funeral tea, I'd be that scared.

I want a sari. It would make me feel like a beautiful Bollywood star as I vacuumed around the house. I expect it would probably make me feel like having an affair too, with all that silk all over my skin.

electro-kevin said...

I agree with your attitude to life, Emma.

In a similar vein I was giving evidence at a coroner's court re a 16 year-old lad who'd been killed whilst pedal cycle despatch riding in central London (I used to be a cop there). The despatch company manager was being cross examined and was clearly trying to abrogate himself of any responsibility:

Coroner "So the child was employed by you."

Manager "No, Sir - he wasn't"

Coroner "But he was carrying documents with him belonging to a client of yours"

Manager "But he was not employed by me."

Coroner "How so ?"

Manager "Because he was never paid by us - he didn't complete a full day's work."

The mother nearly throttled the man outside the court - I (being the officer in the case and in uniform) had to stop her but I really wish I hadn't.

electro-kevin said...

Your Mother isn't as tight as my in-laws with their own grandchildren. These people go on four exotic holidays a year and spend all their remaining cash on a flash custom car that they own. Sam and Jake (my nine year-old twins) get £25 between them for birthdays and Christmas - but worse ...

If ever we go out for a meal together at the end of it out come the spectacles and pens and they go through the bill to itemise exactly what Sam and Jake had to eat and drink so that they don't have to pay for it.

Well they can fuck off if they think I'm looking after them in old age.

Stupid STUPID people.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

You could write a book about your mother! I want a sari too, so pretty

lillipilli said...

On reading the first 2 sentences, I thought this story was going in a whole other direction.

Betty Boob Hug said...

"...going by camel?"

HAHAHAH. This is another hilarious post. I feel like I know your Mum already :)

I hope you get to that wedding in Madras in style and comfort and not a spare penny to be saved in sight. I'm like you - just spend the money and have as relaxing time as you bloody can!!

Betty Boob Hug said...

electro-kevin: your in-laws make me want to slap their silly, tight wadded mouths in as well, and they aren't even in my family!

I despise people like this. They are their grandchildren for fucks sake.
You have my sympathies, that must be hard to sit and watch.

Sailor said...

Your mother reminds me of my grandmother. Take her to dinner, and she'd be putting the extra dinner rolls into her purse, "for later", because they were paid for after all.

Of course, she would forget about them, and two or three days later there'd appear hard-as-a-rock rolls and a bewildered expression.

Wear the sari, by all means, and enjoy it! Oh, and take pictures too! ;)

Gorilla Bananas said...

How sweet of her to fight for the interests of a dead man like that. If she did that for me, I'd come back to life and cover her body with bite marks.

I hope you enjoy the Indian trip, Emma. You'll look great in a sari. Please post a picture showing us your sexy bare tummy.

madamspud169 said...

I married a Moroccan (I divorced one as well lol) & when I got married I wore the full Moroccan traditional clothing. The guests really appreciated the fact I tried to fit in, even if I did fail miserably. And more importantly I didn't upset anyone by going against long-held customs.
Hope you have a great time there

EmmaK said...

to all....thanks so much for all your comments. My mum is now on her plane headed back to Vienna and in two or three weeks I am hoping the pain in my shoulders due to tight muscles will have relaxed and I will be able to chill out and laugh at the fun times we had during our vacation. Until then I think I need a large one.

A Liquid Blue said...

Eeeeek! Madras! The most uptight, uncool city of them all! Emmakins, do yourself a favor and get on a flight to Bombay.
About the sari: you wont stick out like a sore thumb if you dont wear one, you arent expected to, but you will be regarded with anything ranging from warmth to amusement if you do. try it as a one-time experience. i must warn you it looks pretty but is difficult to carry if you arent a regular wearer. i try to get out of wearing one as often as i can!
also, 1200 guests is about usual for an indian wedding (given that at least half that number consists of immediate and extended family) so dont go in expecting a royal bash. that said, most indian weddings are loud, chaotic and glittering, so youll have fun.
what is a picture of vikram chatwal and priya sachdev doing up on this post? :0) they live in new york!

EmmaK said...

A Liquid Blue...Ha ha Madras is an uncool city. I don't care. We are being put up in a hotel and will be away from the kids so that is cool. Also, the guy who is getting married's parents are getting me a sari. next time I go I will check out Bombaby definately. is that where you live?

Jin said...

Emma are you sure we're not sisters (lol) cos your mum sounds very much like mine! She says she's just "being careful" with money - we say she's just fucking tight!
I've yet to wear a sari, but I do wear shalwar kamees' regularly, thanks to a Paki mate insisting I'd look good in one. I get strange looks from expats (i.e. Westerners) but compliments galore from Pakis & Indians. Try it sometime!