Saturday, August 27, 2005

Life's Taxes and Discounts

Life experience plays an important role in the fatherly advice I give my sons. You don’t want the next generation of sons and daughters to make the same mistakes you did. But they do anyway. Just lecturing them isn’t enough. If I had a nickel for every time I was told, "Don’t worry about it, dad," I could retire today. So I’ve had to make my lectures memorable by coining a phrase or two.

One such phrase is the "stupid tax." And I’m proud to say it’s one phrase that’s stuck with my boys. The upshot is that as you go through life, you pay extra in cash for the mistakes you make. If you have a heavy foot on the accelerator, you’re more likely to get traffic tickets. Count it as a stupid tax. Mess with your credit and you’re likely to pay more in interest for loans and such. Another stupid tax.

The opposite of the stupid tax is the "handyman’s discount." Bottom line there is that if you can fix it yourself, you’re going to save money Now before I go too far, I should say this. I am not a very handy man. My father is. If whatever is broken has replacement parts, he can fix it. Some years back a clip broke off my Nikon camera, so it wouldn’t close properly. The camera shop reported they would have to ship it to Nikon. Minimum charge: $100.

"For just this little catch?" I asked. The clerk said that Nikon technicians performed a full inspection and cleaning of every camera sent for repairs, regardless of the problem. So my father somehow constructed and attached a replacement piece to the camera. Handyman’s discount: $100. (Having a father who knows how to do that: priceless.)

My two brothers have more of my father’s fix-it genes. All four of us performed bathroom updates recently. My father installed a new shower as did my brother in Bay City. My brother in South Dakota bragged that his newly updated shower now had speakers for music as well. I replaced some backsplash tiles. Now the shower diverter doesn’t work, so we can only take showers as the water doesn't flow through the tub faucet now. Still, I was proud of what I did accomplish.

So I try to lecture my boys on the importance of becoming handy if not skilled. I recall my wife and I volunteered to help erect a large play structure in a city park. When I showed up, there were two lines of people: the skilled and the unskilled. When the woman in charge asked which I was, I didn't want to commit to either, so I said, "I’m semi-skilled, but also accident prone." It was a busy group. Even high schoolers pitched in on the wood lathes, the mitre saws and the claw hammers. Me? I shoveled wood chips.

Moral? Unless you want to go through life shoveling wood chips, become a handy man or woman.


Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

No, I don't think I will become a handyman. I wouldn't want to put your Dad out of business. Think of the joy he gets bailing out people like you and me.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Trucker Bob said...

"semi-skilled, but accident prone". Good line. Applies to most of us I think.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

Yep, I would be a "wood-chip" shoveler myself. I can't even walk and chew gum at the same time sometimes (LOL).

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can be skilled and handy and still shovel wood chip all your life.
B in L

2:23 PM  
Blogger schnoodlepooh said...

EXCELLENT advice. Thanks for returning to my blog. May I link you please?
I am a firm believer in the "stupid tax" and unfortunately, I've paid plenty of it. I've also not received much "handyperson's discount" becuase I'm no good at stuff. I used to have a friend that helped me out, but no more. Now my house just needs a lot of stuff done and when I attempt it, it takes twice as long and looks half-assed. Well, at least I do it.
Your boys are lucky to have that good advice from their father!

6:29 PM  
Blogger WordWhiz said...

Funny story!! Semi-skilled and accident prone. I love that line!! Can I borrow it sometime?

7:37 PM  
Blogger bornfool said...

I love the "stupid tax" phrase. Very true. I'm still paying some stupid tax for things done years ago. Good lesson.

8:28 PM  
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