Monday, June 3, 2013

Fire Breathing Toaster: Pain in the A**

by Bill Adler

Guys, you know what I'm talking about. Women: You can skip this column, if you want.

I'm talking about wallets. I recently switched wallets to one that didn't feel like I was carrying a dictionary in my back pocket.

The change was inspired by a trip to a country where the government had the nerve to create paper money that doesn't fit in a standard American men's wallet. But inspiration wasn't the only thing that got me thinking about my wallet; it was the fact that my wallet had been expanding and expanding over the years, like the collective waist sizes of American males.

I admit that's my fault. Partly. I don't think that I carry an excessive number of cards, especially after removing my voter card, my library card, all my airline affiliate cards, organization membership cars, all photos, and fortunes from fortune cookies. That still left me with a hefty amount of ever increasingly specialized credit and identification cards. Plus cash: Until there's a way to tip hotel housekeeping with an smartphone app, we still need a place for cash.

I wear my wallet in my back pocket, where the thickness hurts, especially on long drives, or train rides, or plane flights. When the pain becomes unbearable I shift my wallet to my front pocket, but it's still big, bulky, and looks weird.

To achieve the dual goals of not having foreign currency shredded and not appearing lopsided sent me on a quest for a new wallet. I'd been using the same wallet for about 15 years.

I first got a bigger version of the wallet I bought decades ago. I thought that this wallet would accommodate oversized foreign currency (it did) and wouldn't make me feel like I was sporting a tool kit in my pocket. Total fail on the latter. Then I bought a trifold wallet which lets the credit cards pile up on top of each other in three sections (actually, two sections; the driver's licence got its own compartment) without any bulk-adding material in between the cards. That kind of worked, but I didn't like having all my plastic in a stack, like a deck of cards. The only way that I could know where a particular card was located was to memorize the order of cards in my wallet, like a card counter at casinos, only not as exciting. After three weeks, exit trifold stage right.

Not wanting to have the edges of my foreign currency frayed, and with only a week before my next trip, I was desperate. At the same time I knew that I was facing potential trauma, similar to when you realize that your one and only comfortable pair of jeans has fallen apart, and they don't make that kind anymore. Yes, it was that serious. I was so desperate and scared that I became a sucker for a place called Big Skinny,, which advertises super-thin wallets.

It worked. What can I say? Something that advertises as if it's some kind of bona fide magic actually did the trick. To be honest, my new wallet arrived just a few days before my trip, and I was worried that the first 24 pain-free hours with it was all in my mind. I was worried that my excitement clouded my skepticism. This wallet could easily have been like a new pair of shoes, great on the first day, unwearable thereafter.

But so far, three days into a trip to a country where money grows on larger trees than in the United states, my new wallet is pretty good. Because it's not the same size or configuration as my old wallet (and I am still sad about seeing that go), I don't always instantly know where everything is, but I will. And that's a minor problem: I don't mind if it takes an extra couple of seconds to locate my Visa card, as long as the card works.

I've written two conclusions to this short article, which could also be titled, "My Wallet and Me," for added ambiguity. Two conclusions because this article is really about two things. First, as hard as change can be sometimes, when you finally manage to do it, all is well with the world. Second, maybe you shouldn't believe everything you read --especially with advertisements-- but sometimes you should believe.

That's it for this week's Fire Breathing Toaster, which I'm writing from a coffee shop in Tokyo. I have to go now. As soon as I can find my credit card.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," and "Outwitting Squirrels," He tweets at @billadler. Fire Breathing Toaster is published on Mondays.

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