I had just bought my house and moved in with P. Rex. We had been here for about a month. Everything was new and fresh. We didn’t have a washer and dryer yet – Sundays were spent at my mom’s house robbing her of hot water and electricity so I didn’t have to hang out with the poor people at the Laundromat. I guess I didn’t realize it, but I was the poor people I didn’t want to be hanging out with.
I made less than $27,000 a year at my entry level public service job. With that $27,000 I paid my brand new mortgage, student loans and credit card loans, while finding the money to buy cheap IKEA furniture and food. And gas!
But gas was no big expense. I drove my red 1989 Dodge Omni 5-speed 60 miles round trip to work, but gas was something like $1.25 a gallon, and although the car companies want you to think that cars that get over 30 mpg are a new thing, that friggin’ car averaged 35 mpg and it hauled ass. Finding money for fuel was never a problem, but finding money to keep that damn car running sometimes was. The paint would leach off and leave a ring around the car every time it rained, and the horn would randomly go off as I was driving down the road. Or pulling into parking spaces. Or sleeping (my neighbors loved me). I eventually unplugged the horn and prayed I would never get myself into a tight spot (safety first!). For the record, we were so poor that Prex didn’t yet own a car, and commuted 60 miles round trip (in the opposite direction) on his motorcycle. All. Winter. Long.
OMG. I SMOKED CIGARETTES! I just remembered that, when thinking about that damn Omni. The Omni smelled like a big mobile ash tray, because I refused to ever (ever!) throw a butt out the window. I much preferred to let them accumulate on the floor.
Clearly, in 1999, I was a slob. And slovenly. And lazy. And overweight. I had not yet run my first mile. I didn’t know the difference between a kayak and a canoe. I don’t even think I owned hiking boots. Yet, P.Rex and I fancied ourselves outdoorsy. Yeah. And delusional.
I also thought a good meal out involved Taco Bell or Macaroni Grill, the restaurant where they give you crayons to color on the table with. I had no idea how to cook food. I had yet to learn how to sauté, let alone knowing how to use garlic as a potent culinary weapon. I think our diet mostly consisted of pizza take-out, sub shop take out, then Chinese take-out, then Chinese leftovers. Guess you wouldn't be surprised that I was doing battle with acid reflux, would you? I couldn’t stomach medium salsa or anything that even remotely smacked of spice. Indian food? Forget it. Thai? I didn’t even know that was different than Chinese.
As we got ready to ring in 2000, all my friends from college still lived nearby. And I actually saw them on a regular basis. We partied like it was 1999 (with that Prince album someone miraculously found in a box somewhere). Except, I totally forget where it was that we partied. Seriously. Who forgets where they rang in the new century? Me, apparently.
And how did I make a special play list for New Year’s Eve 1999? By carefully selecting songs from my CDs and painstakingly transferring them to a tape (that’s right. I said “tape”) on my super sweet Sony RX 70 mini hi fi component system, after spending hours considering the correct sequencing. And once the tape was made, I could copy it with the high speed dubbing feature. High speed dubbing!
And, wherever I was on New Year’s Eve, I was taking pictures with my 35 mm camera. My 35 mm film camera. Remember those? You had to load the film in, then rewind it after taking 24 or 36 pictures. Take the film out, deliver it to the nearest drug store, fill out a bag for each one, wait a week and pray that there was at least one picture taken of you that didn’t make you look like a drunken crazed lunatic (p.s. there never were).
As we get ready to ring in a new decade, I am ten years older, twenty pounds lighter, totally smarter and way more funny.
I’ve been in my house for an entire decade. Prex is gone, as are the several thousand other boyfriends who saw action here. The walls have all been painted, many more than once. The basement is filled with way too much crap I never use. Gardens have been built, destroyed, and rebuilt. A new deck was built. Windows were broken and repaired (sometimes) and neighbors have come and gone. Its probably time to replace the washer and dryer we scrimped and saved for. And before the night is out, this starter house will have big girl sustainable wood floors.
Wood floors that I can pay for because I make way more than $27,000 even with the recent pay cut. I don't want to rub it in for those of you who don't have it, but expendable income is a really nice thing. Its something I definitely didn't have at the beginning of this decade. The cash, might I remind you, only exists because I never moved out of my starter house and I never popped out babies who like to be clothed and fed.
I did buy a new car though. And it likes to be fed. And clothed (yes, the car has a bra). And as the new decade begins, the new car is almost as old as the omni was last decade, and is starting to have just as many quirks. Still running pretty good for a 9 year old VW with 192,000 miles.
Yes. If you include the miles on the omni during 2000 and the first part of 2001, I drove over 200,000 miles this decade. That's 20,000 miles a year. And 6,666 gallons of gas (I'm not making that number up.) So much for my carbon footprint. And expendable income.
All my college friends moved away, to more exciting lives in NYC, Boston, Indianapolis, Utah... We are still great friends, but I miss the days where we actually hung out and did things without a month long planning effort. I was lucky enough to find really great local friends at work and in the neighborhood who have gotten me through the majority of the decade. But, with husbands and babies, even though they are geographically close, it still takes a month of planning to get us all together (or at least an intense morning of reply to all emails).
I quit smoking at some point, and started running. And bought my first kayak. And then second kayak. And third, and fourth... And despite talking about it for years, I still have yet to rig some pulleys to store them under the deck, or in the basement.
I learned how to cook. I learned how to eat and love spicy food. I learned that all white wines don't taste like ass, and learned that there was more to red wine than chianti and merlot (wine taste thanks to expendable income. See above).
And even though my iPod is circa 2002, at least I'm not making mixed tapes anymore. And the bad photos are gone. I learned the chin down, eyes up method. And learned how to use the delete button on the camera. The waterproof, underwater, digital camera (amazing!).
There's so much more that happened this decade. A cell phone! A laptop! Social networking! My first real international trip. And my second, and my third. And the whitewater kayaking. And the death. And growth. And learning how to be a good friend and a good neighbor and a good daughter. And finding myself. And then, finding the Prof.
(I know. I want to barf too, but it had to be said. Its really nice to be ending the decade with him)
I don't think that 1999 Susan could have ever imagined 2009 Susan. I hope she would be pleased.