My mom used to say I have a champagne taste on a beer budget. Managing money has never been my forte. When we started talking about buying a house, I had to look at my bank accounts. Well actually, the bank people that we were applying for the loan with wanted to see both of our bank accounts, so I decided to take a peek first. I had never in my whole life looked at what I was spending my money on. I just figured, it’s expensive to live in Los Angeles, so I just will live paycheck to paycheck for the rest of my life or until I get my big break. I had never actually looked at a budget though. I had had multiple people, including a therapist who I complained about never having money to and that being why I was sad, tell me, that I should start a budget, but it seemed like a lot of work. So when we went to apply for a loan, I thought it would be wise if I looked at where all my money was going to, before I shared my bank account information with my husband and the loan dude, just so I could explain myself if things got weird. Turns out, I was spending a fortune every month on food delivery services, whether it be yummy.com or postmates, I was spending a LOT of money on them. I am too embarrassed to say how much but let’s put it this way, after not doing that for about 4 months, I had saved almost $5000, before that, I did live paycheck to paycheck every month, so you do the math. Can you imagine how much money I would have if I listened to that fucking therapist and started a budget ten years ago?
These food delivery services are very duplicitous, Sam would say to me, “babe, did you really just order milk from yummy.com, I would have gotten it on my way home from work.” And I would tell him that I really needed the milk and that it was only $20 (which looking at that in black and white, is really a huge inflation from the normal cost of a gallon of Milk). Then the next day, I would realize, I needed toilet paper, and order from yummy again. In my head, ordering from yummy.com was way better for my sanity then going to the Vons on Centinela and Washington and almost committing murder crimes every time I had to wait in the lines there.
When I got pregnant, my food ordering obsession kicked into high gear. I would have a craving for P.F. Changs and the closest one was in Santa Monica and we lived in Culver City, and it was 5PM on a Friday and traffic was going to be insane. Well, that’s why Postmates was invented! By the time my $30 order of Orange Chicken and Mongolian Beef had arrived at our house, after traveling through rush hour traffic on a Friday night, 3 things had happened; one, it was very cold. Two, it was almost 8:30PM and I had ordered it over 3 hours ago. And three, it cost $108. I won’t go into all the times I did this with you. I tried my hardest for my cravings to be close to home places, but occasionally they drifted across town. I justified it with, it’s only $50 to keep a pregnant woman happy and I’m saving poor Sam the trip. (There was one night that I had an insane craving for the salsa from Tito’s tacos at about 10:00PM and I begged Sam to go out and get it for me. If you have ever been to Tito’s, the line generally takes at least 30 minutes every time. By the time Sam got home with my salsa, I was puking and too sick to eat it. After that night, he didn’t take me too seriously when I said I had to have something, NOW). Anyways, I justified the $40-$50 for dinners with all kinds of different pregnant (double-meaning) excuses, but the fact is, that adds up when you are doing it 5 nights a week, and I saw that, when I logged into wellsfargo.com.
When I saw the numbers on that cold mechanical screen, I couldn’t hide anymore, I couldn’t ignore it another day. I had to quit. I had to give it up. I put a self-imposed moratorium on my spending. I stopped the online grocery shopping and the online dinner ordering that day. I relapsed once when we signed the papers for our house and I wanted a Boba tea to celebrate, so I paid $35 to have two $5 Boba teas delivered to our house (the only reason it was so affordable is because it was closer than P.F. Chang’s). Then at the very end, when I was put on bed rest and literally laid flat for 22 hours of the day, only getting up horizontal to shower and eat, I justified going back to ordering meals. My favorite place was the pizza place downstairs in our building, they truly made the best BBQ Chicken pizza I’ve ever had. They didn’t charge a delivery fee for people in the building which was rad, so I ordered that pizza almost every day. Every time the delivery guy would get to the door, I would be embarrassed because I figured he thought I was the laziest human on the planet. I would explain to him that I was 9 months pregnant and on bed rest and the elevators were broken and I couldn’t make the journey 4 floors down, my doctor wouldn’t allow it. I should tell you that only about 2 people worked at this pizza place and I told them this story every time they came up, just in case they forgot. The point of that story is, besides my one Boba relapse, I stayed clean from using any form of food delivery service up until I was put on bed rest.
I had saved a considerable bit of money and was planning on using some of it to decorate our house. Keep in mind, I was deprived of the almost cavewoman like need to “nest” in my home. I never got to do it. Every woman who has ever been pregnant knows what I’m talking about. I never got to for two reasons, I did not have a home until 12 days before Olive was born, and when we moved in those 12 days before, I was sentenced to the couch, so could not do anything. I wasn’t even allowed to decorate the nursery. Joelene and Andy came over the day we moved in and they decorated as I shouted orders from the couch...occasionally I was allowed to go into the room and check the progress but only if I laid on the floor to do it. I would try to sit up and Joelene would bark, “I’m not going to help you and I’m going to leave if you lift your head once more.”
So after Olive was born and we came home, I went a little off the deep end. I was making up for lost time. I think it started with a pair of boxer leggings. I decided that Olive needed a pair of leggings with boxer dogs all over them. I didn’t even know if they existed, but I googled them anyway. Lo and behold, there was a company that made leggings with boxer dogs all over them. I was checking out when I noticed they also had Christmas donut leggings and reindeer leggings, and sushi leggings, and leggings with dinosaurs and roses on them, and turkey leggings. I had to have them all. In my defense, during checkout, I took the turkey leggings out of the cart, she would only be able to wear those one day which didn’t seem too cost effective. After my order (which was placed a month ago now and I still haven’t received), I got a thank you note from the seller and she asked me to follow her on instagram, which I did. And shortly after following her on instagram, all the baby clothing sites started popping up in my feed and asking me to follow them and soon I was following over 30 different baby clothing, accessory, paraphernalia sites. When I was in college in psychology 101 class they taught us that, P.T. Barnum (of Barnum and Bailey Circus), coined the phrase, “there’s a sucker born every minute.” They were referring to the things people will waste their money on at circus’ and the like and the tricks of the eye and slight of hand things people will pay to see. I just researched this to fact check it and he is actually attributed with saying that, but it may have been another dude. It may have been a dude named Michael Cassius McDonald who was referring to the roulette wheel (which is interesting because it is another weakness of mine). My point is, whoever coined the phrase, I am the sucker. And boy am I a sucker for online shopping for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING at 4am when I’m feeding a baby and have only slept a few hours in the last few days and it seems that I may actually die of exhaustion but I must carry on for the child. So there I find myself, at 4am in the darkest online shopping vortex, realizing I have spent all my money. Not just on baby stuff but on a new mom wardrobe which is necessary because my maternity clothes don’t fit anymore and my pre pregnancy clothes will never fit again, also my shoe size has grown an entire size, and a girl must have shoes. And then there is the house decor, who knows where the most money went to, it definitely was not my mom wardrobe but the baby gear and the house decor are neck and neck. And then my savings are gone...but WAIT, there is that emergency credit card I had, that I just paid off from Sam’s christmas present last year...and I will be getting a check from the EDD in a few days.
Two days before Olive was born, I got a call from the EDD saying I was cut off. That was weird, I only had received one check. I called them and listened to a 10 minute long automated message and when I got to the end was told “we’re sorry, we have exceeded the amount of people who can be on hold, please try back again, goodbye.” I continued calling them until I finally got through, I memorized the numerical prompts and cut the 10 minutes down to 6. Finally I got through and was told it had been a massive mistake on the EDD’s end and this “never happens,” and they would send me my check and they were “very sorry for the inconvenience.”
A couple days after I spent my portion of the mortgage on the interweb, I got another notification, at 2AM on a Tuesday morning (yes, I was awake), saying they were cutting me off again, this time, it said I had been completely disqualified. I called first thing in the morning. I called 16 times and got hung up on every time. Olive was having a bad day and had been crying and inconsolable most of the day, I tried to call the EDD every time she got calm and meanwhile Sam was at work, watching the whole drama unfold on the nest camera and texting me saying, “I’m coming home to help.” I told Sam I had to learn to do this on my own and he needed to stay at work. Eventually he decided to not listen to me and came home anyways to try and be of service to the situation. Of course the minute he walked in the door, Olive stopped crying and went to sleep. I burst out crying at that moment, I considered throwing my phone through the wall, I considered going to the EDD and doing things that would probably get me arrested and although I don’t have very many readers, I am aware that we are all being watched so I won’t say exactly what I wanted to do to them on here.
I used to tune in to Ryan Seacrest every morning on my way to work at 8:10AM for the birthday giveaway. I tried for 3 years to get through to him and win that $10,000. I never even got past the busy signal. Sam used to get so much entertainment out of the fact that I did this, he thought it was very amusing. In the midst of my EDD nightmare he looked over at me and said, “babe, they are harder to get through to than Ryan Seacrest,” and I started crying all over again. A few minutes after that, I got an email from my work saying I owed $455 for my health insurance and Olive’s health insurance. If I was working, that would have come out of my paycheck and I would have never noticed it, but when you’re not working, that’s a lot of money. My phone started ringing and it was the cardiologist’s office telling me I needed to come in for an echocardiogram to rule out any problems because my blood pressure still had not come down, I let them know this was incredibly inconvenient at this time in my life and couldn’t it wait, like a year, they said absolutely not. At that moment, Sam suggested I go outside and meditate. Generally, a suggestion of this nature in the midst of a situation like this, would result in me exploding on Sam, but I went outside to meditate, as I had no idea what else to do. I cried and cried until my head was quiet and then I had some weird revelation. I had heard this in my secret society over and over again, but I guess you hear it when you want to…I was trying to control every aspect of my life. I was trying to control Olive’s crying, and I was trying to control the EDD phone lines, and I was trying to control the fact that I had to go back to work in a couple months and I really did not want to leave my baby but that was actually robbing me of the current time with her, and I was trying to control my blood pressure problems and manage them myself. All these things I was trying to control and I had zero control over any of them. I took a deep breath and came inside, Sam was still trying to get ahold of the EDD for me. I told him to stop and that we were not going to call these mother fuckers anymore today and we’d try again in the morning when they opened at 8AM. For now, we would enjoy our time with Olive and each other and not waste one more postpartum tear on this stupid Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning at 7:30AM, I sat at my kitchen table with my phone in one hand and oatmeal in the other. Sam suggested I call at 7:54AM since we knew it took 6 minutes to get through with skipping the prompts and they opened at 8AM. He was going to try to call at 8AM, in case they didn’t pick up callers who dialed in before. I got through! Important to let you know that Sam, at 8AM (when they OPENED), got the message saying “we’re sorry, we have exceeded the amount of people who can be on hold, please try back again, goodbye.”
I would like to tell you that after I got through to them, the drama ended...but it didn’t. I was speaking to a very nice woman for about 45 minutes. I have learned in my 35 years on this spinning rock, that when dealing with bureaucracy, you must be overly kind. I was acutely aware that every person they spoke to all day was probably very pissed by the time they got on the phone after being on hold so long, so I just killed her with kindness. She really liked me. She even asked me if I was filipino because according to her “Gayle is a filipino name.” I let her know that I wasn’t filipino in my kindest voice and I considered telling her that filipino people were my favorite race because I figured she must be filipino but I thought that may be overkill. She patiently and diligently worked on my claim, she told me there had been a huge mistake which never happens, but that it would take her some time to reverse it. We were on the phone for 45 minutes when the call dropped, and we got disconnected. Sam, who had been sitting across the table from me this whole time, looked at me like he was looking at a bomb that was about to explode. I very calmly put my phone down and announced that I would be going to take a shower and meditate before I lost it because this was really fucking with my serenity. Sam came in the bathroom about 15 minutes later and told me he was on hold with the EDD and he had called back and actually gotten through. What a good man. I was just as kind to the next lady as the last and she resolved the money issue. I very nicely asked her if there was any other way to get through to them in case I got cut off again and she let me know that unfortunately this was the “easiest way.” The easiest way!! Can you imagine? The easiest way to get 55% of my paycheck in the mail, so that I can take a few months off work to spend with my baby girl, after working one job or another since I was 14 years old and paying taxes on every paycheck, is to wait on hold, sometimes for days, and call back to back to back until I am pushed to the brink of insanity. If you say so.
That was two weeks ago. This morning, when I logged into my bank account, to make sure my next payment went through, I was not surprisingly surprised to find that it had not in fact been deposited into my hollow bank account. I logged onto the EDD website. Those nice people disqualified me again. I wondered what once in a lifetime major mistake they made this time, for the third time in two months on my account. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the number and settled in for a long day of back to back calls. As I listened to the annoying automated bitch start her 6 minute onslaught, I considered, that robbing a bank, would probably be an easier way to get my money.