“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” I know that line is from “The Fly,” but it’s also very appropriate to my life right now. No, I’m not slowly morphing into an insect, not that I can tell anyway. (Editor’s note: There are quite a few benefits actually, but the company only covers this for editors and above.) The reason I’m so nervous is my favorite 4x4 swap meet is almost here, and I have a sizable chunk of cash squirreled away just for the event. It’s not quite enough money to bring home a complete, running Jeep, but I could probably spring for a double-tarper. For those of you not familiar with the term, it refers to a project Jeep covered with two tarps. One tarp goes on top, as usual, for protection from the weather. The second tarp wraps underneath to catch pieces falling off.
The scary part, of course, is that some unexpected expense will arrive before my Jeep fund can be properly spent on Jeep parts. I already went through this last year, as detailed in my September, 2012 column. As I count down the few days remaining until swap meet heaven, there’s no way I can relax.
With less than a week left as I write, maybe I could ease my troubled mind if I knew where the money will actually end up. Perhaps the transmission in the family car is about to suddenly go. Have you ever worried about how many precision (read: expensive) parts make up an automatic transmission? While there are a few components that can be replaced externally, most require major disassembly, at which point it’s overhaul time. Poof! Bye bye, Jeep fund.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Maybe the ancient water heater in the basement will finally give up the ghost. Not wishing to waste any money that should legitimately be spent on Jeeps, I’m ready for this one. Who needs a hot shower anyway, right? I can just heat water on the stove and give myself a sponge bath. I don’t see a problem with that, other than the mental image I just left for you.
I’ll simply have to man up and prepare for the swap meet as if nothing bad will happen. For any wives reading along, that’s about it for the month. Maybe I’ll throw in another editor joke, but for the most part, there’s nothing left worth reading this month. Say, isn’t that an Oprah special on TV right now? Hollywood hunks, is it? Don’t those guys ever wear shirts?
Did it work? Did all the wives quit reading? We guys need to have a talk about swap meet accounting. Amateur husbands will foolishly include all related expenses when discussing an item’s purchase price. This is so wrong, I don’t even know where to begin. A Jeep enthusiast, if cornered, must be able to say with a straight face that (insert latest Jeep purchase) cost only (insert swap meet bargain price). You’ve more or less satisfied the legal definition of “telling the truth,” so don’t volunteer any more fiscal details.
For example, this swap meet is about 200 miles from my Jeep ranch. That’s 400 miles round trip in an 11-mpg pickup. Under no circumstances should any husband ever fess up to something peripheral like the fuel bill. Fill the tank before leaving home. Plumb a spare drum of fuel in back to avoid stopping for gas. If your wife doesn’t see you spend the money, the expense never existed.
In years past, despite my best intentions, I’d still get up at the crack of noon and miss all the good stuff. I’m doing things differently this time. My wife and I are staying the night before in a hotel. And yes, just to clarify, the hotel is near the swap meet. That way, we can be there as the gates open. This is when you find the rare goodies, even if the prices are still high. Although the selection drops as the day goes on, prices drop even faster. With a hotel nearby, I can take an all-important nap after my initial rounds, and return energized for those end-of-day bargains.
The only downside? Hotels aren’t cheap! Since my lovely wife is enthusiastically tagging along, this severely limits my choice of hotels. I have no other option than to pick a place that qualifies as “nice.” Guys, pay attention! This means no hourly rates or crime scene tape anywhere on the premises.
So far we’ve covered transportation and lodging. What other expenses need to be swept under the rug for a successful swap meet excursion? Since it’s a long trip, I’ll need to plan for food, but has anybody honestly ever said the following? “Mmm, I’m really glad I ate that swap meet burrito!” Although gourmet food carts may be all the rage in some cities, I’ve never seen one on the inside of a swap meet fence. And knowing the Jeep parts at a swap meet have been scrounged from the back corners of warehouses and garages, you can’t help but wonder where the food vendors find their supplies.
That’s why my wife and I will be leaving the premises and driving somewhere nice for lunch. After all, I want her to look forward to this trip each year. I’ve even heard it’s extra romantic when the man does the ordering at a fancy restaurant. I suppose I don’t have much choice, though. The menu is always on the driver side.