This is a spec humor column I wrote … Not enough pain though to make it funny enough for Funny Times…
Budget for Lunch
“Is that all you’re having for lunch?” my friend Sylvie said as I sat down with my latte at the Grove’s outdoor picnic-style table.
“Of course not,” I responded as I extracted from my purse a peach, a packet of almonds, and a protein bar–some marketing genius’ name for a candy bar with protein powder and brown rice syrup that lets you convince yourself you’re eating healthy.
She still looked skeptical so I took a deep breath and said, “I’m on a budget.” I immediately wished I would have lied and said what is more than socially acceptable and always elicits sympathy, “I’m on a diet.”
“I would have bought you lunch,” she and our other day-tripper said in stereo.
“I know, but I’m enjoying some of my favorite things. This latte is a huge treat for me. For five bucks, I even got to tip the barista.”
Sylvie had already provided the transportation from Long Beach and the free entertainment—tickets to watch Bill Maher run through his monologue and other comedy bits before taping his show.
Maher’s conviction and delivery made me laugh so hard that I forgot all about my budget for the rest of the day. And although I am really good at it, it is hard to feel sorry for yourself when the government shutdown had closed the doors on Head Start, stranded soldiers killed in the line of duty overseas, and unemployed hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens.
Trying to shed expense is like trying to shed pounds. Unlike the government, you have to examine all of your consumption and all of your habits and be willing to change.
Two days later I met up with my friend Emily at my office, which others insist on calling McDonald’s. Emily the dynamo, a former sales manager for a national company that formerly had budget for provocative prime-time commercials, has run the Marina Pacifica Job Club for the last four years while juggling several part-time jobs.
Participating in her job club helped me land my current job. Twice a month her job club hosts speakers, conducts workshops, facilitates networking, offers mock interviewing, and provides plenty of protein bars.
Emily scrutinized her tray and said, “How did I get to seven dollars? I thought I was buying a snack.“ She lifted her burrito as if to weigh it and added, “My eyes must have wandered from the Extra Value menu.”
I sipped my one-dollar iced tea as she continued, “Leslie and I are bringing our own coffee to Starbuck’s and sneaking onto the patio to job hunt online. Isn’t there something wrong with that?
“And forget service. I don’t dare step foot into a restaurant with service. I haven’t had a professional job in five years. I can’t afford service anymore.”
“Neither can I. The only way I get service is when I bribe my kids with extra media time.”