Sunday, June 03, 2007

Frustration by the numbers

  • Number of times my mother has accidentally locked us out of the house in the last two days*: 2
  • Amount of time I spent last night sitting in the back garden at 5 degree temperatures (41 F): 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Amount of money Mum has spent on locksmiths and glaziers (at weekend rates): over $200
  • Amount of money Mum could have saved if she had only been prepared to wait a couple of hours (in a friend's warm house) for a neighbour with a spare key to get home: over $200
  • Amount of time she would have had to wait today if she had chosen this solution: 1 hour 30 minutes (Yesterday, less than an hour)
  • Number of other locksmiths and glaziers she called to compare their prices: 0**
  • Number of times I suggested that maybe she couldn't afford to call someone out and that I didn't mind waiting: 2
  • Number of times today that Mum has complained she can't possibly live on the money she is getting from welfare: 2
  • Number of times she hinted to me at the grocery shop this afternoon that maybe I should pay for the food: 4
  • Number of times I bit my tongue to stop myself from saying, "If you hadn't called a locksmith and a glazier, you might be able to afford to eat": too many to count.

And that illustrates the problem I have with my mother and money. I (mostly) respect people's right to treat their money the way they want to. In the past, when my mother had a middle-class income, I never said anything about her needless spending (although I admit I totally judged her silently in my head). But now she is trying to live an upper-middle class life on a poverty-line income.

I know how hard it is to be poor. I did it for years myself. But I also know that when you are poor, you wait a few hours to be able to get into your locked house for free, rather than calling out a locksmith at weekend rates. When you are poor, you comparison shop for EVERYTHING. If you have to pay a locksmith, you call every locksmith listed in the phone book and take the cheapest. I do also know that, when you are poor, you sometimes get frustrated with not being able to do what you want when you want, and you spend money that you can't really afford to spend. But when you do that, you cannot then turn around and ask other people (who DO manage their money carefully) to cover your basics.

Or am I just heartless and stingy?


*Last night while I was over at the university library for a couple of hours, Mum decided to go down the road to visit a friend, and locked us both out. (I had taken a key, but she had set the safety chain on that door before leaving). I waited in the garden for her to get home, assuming she had a different key with her, but no such luck. Then this morning I drove her to church, and unbeknownst to me, when she ducked back into the house to get something she had forgotten, she set the deadlock on the back door for "extra safety", then left through the garage, which can be closed manually from outside, but not opened without a remote control that is currently at a repairman's. And of course we didn't have the deadlock key, nor any key to a door other than the one with the deadlock.

**My mother is a big fan of the "call the first name in the phone book and don't ask what they charge" approach.


geekman said...

Before she rang the locksmith, maybe you could have said: "Okay, I'm going to offer you some casual work. I'll pay you $200 per hour, you don't have to travel anywhere, and all you have to do is sit here. Do you think that's a good deal?"

Maybe that would have given her a different perspective.

StyleyGeek said...

Well, not $200 an hour, since it was just over $200 for the two incidents, and the time we would have waited for both put together was about 2 hours 30 mins. But yeah, the principle is still the same.

Of course, you are presupposing that my mother is able to reason logically. I wouldn't necessarily assume this. Yesterday, for example, she bought 15 metres of draught excluder to stick up around her windows and doors. It came in 5 metre packs for $10 each, in various widths, and since she didn't know what width she needed, rather than go home and measure the gap under the doors, she bought one pack of each, guaranteeing that she had wasted $20 and would need to return to the shop later to buy another 10m anyway. She said the reason she didn't come home to measure the gaps was that her time was "worth more than $20".

Play spot-the-logic-flaws with THAT.

Badaunt said...

She should live in a house like ours, which has a front door that is barred and bolted like Fort Knox, and a back door that doesn't even close properly and you have to negotiate a skinny jungle down the side of the house to get to.

Or else get her one of those fake rocks you can hide a spare key inside, for the garden. We have one of those, too, and call it the 'slug key' because when you pick it up in the dark the first thing your searching finger encounters is a slug. Eek! It's a great memory aid, that slug. Do that once and you're determined not to have to do it again.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Hubby locked himself out of his house in Red State and called me in BN state in a panic. He didn't call the locksmiths because he wasn't the homeowner -- instead he had to call the homeowners in the UAE to have them tell him that there was a fake rock....

At least he is unlikely to make the mistake twice... but, a hidden key may be a good idea :).

shrinkykitten said...

You are obviously in hell.

badaunt's story of the slug totally caused traumatic flashbacks in me...

When I was a kid, we had a key hidden in an old vicks vapor rub jar that was kept underneath the back deck. I was terrified of "underneath the back deck" because of slugs/snails (yuck) and other potential creepy crawlers. It was terrifying each time I forgot my key.

RageyOne said...

Oh my, how awful. How much longer do you have there?

Bardiac said...

It says a lot that you aren't in jail on some major charges, yet!

StyleyGeek said...

She actually DOES have a spare key hidden in the garden. But she couldn't remember what plant she had buried it under, and it was pitch dark the first time, which didn't aid our search. But I'm pretty sure I found a lot of slugs and spiders (hard to be sure exactly what is scuttling over your hands in the dark, but I think that's what they were). And the second time the buried key wouldn't have helped, because it was a key to the door with the deadlock on.

(If each door in your house has multiple locks, burying ONE key is almost never going to help you.)

StyleyGeek said...

Rageyone: TWO DAYS!

I'm going to try and be extra nice and overlook all the irritations for the rest of the time. I'm feeling a bit guilty.

Weekend_Viking said...

Okay, there are several things I can say here:

1) Never rely on keys or spare keys. Always rig one or more entrances to your house that you can use without a key - Louvre windows are the easy one, otherwise use manholes under the house, or loose windows one can open with a bit of wire or string. You don't need to worry too much about these entrances being used by burglars, as burglars tend to just go round the back and smash a lock or a window anyway. Note, most french doors are easily opened with application of a little leverage. Deadbolted doors need a sledgehammer (Shoulders do not work, unless one is Patrick shaped).

2) Most suburban door locks are between 4 and 6 tumbler locks. These can be picked relatively easily, and the tools for doing so made in an average suburban garage using a propane torch, a grinder, some files and and bits of old hacksaw blade. The instructions are widely available on teh intarwub.

3) Fake rocks are, speaking as a geologist, really easy to spot, as is any under or behind an object near the door sort of key drop. Instead find a location well away from the house where a key can be taped, screwed or stapled behind a weatherboard, hollow treelimb, etc. Conversely, have a lot of real rocks in your garden, and put it under one of them.

4) I think your mum may need a copy of "The Impoverished Student's Book of Cookery, Drinkery and Housekeepery" by J. F. Rosenberg.

StyleyGeek said...

WV: (1) My mother is way too security conscious to have any entrance get-into-able. Every door has a deadlock and safety chain as well as the normal lock. And all the windows have locks and safety bars. And I doubt she is up to sledge-hammering anything. I agree with your logic about burglars, but she does not.

(2) I did say to my mother: If WV was here, he'd be able to pick a lock for you. Unfortunately, you weren't, and the instructions on the interweb were, well, on the interweb, which was locked inside the house.

(3) Since most burglars are unlikely to be trained geologists (unless there's something you aren't telling me), I don't really think people need to worry about that too much. And since my mother's hidden key was too well hidden even for HER to find, I think we can have an extra serving of no worries.

(4) Yes.

liz said...


How has she survived this long?