Men know fat wallets just aren't made for change

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bought a new wallet the other day. Not that such a purchase is newsworthy, mind you, but I have probably owned more cars and houses in my adult life than I have wallets.

Most men are that way, I believe. An old wallet is like an old friend. The leather is soft and quite pliable. You tuck it away in your back pocket and it settles perfectly into its rightfully molded spot, like the lady in your life comfortably curling up in your sleeping arms.

The key is, you don't even realize the wallet's there when it is. You have to reach back and pat your posterior to make sure it's still there amidst a crowd of people.

As George Costanza so aptly puts it in a classic "Seinfeld" episode, "It isn't just a wallet, it's an organizer, a memory and an old friend."

But that old friend can fall to pieces like any friendship.

That's why today, tattered and badly misshapen with all credit cards, notes and bills summarily removed, my old friend sits at the bottom of the kitchen trash can, unceremoniously discarded after so many years of local service through good and bad, thick and thin, heat and cold.

Hmmm, come to think of it we've endured some of that ourselves.

But at Walmart the other day I decided it was time to act when the few credit cards I do own kept slipping sideways out of the torn leather, trying to escape while their brethren were in use at the checkout. Bought a brown leather trifold -- with photo wing -- for $12 cash.

What I ddn't realize was how such a simple change would affect me.

First up it was necessary to extract all the items tucked in every nook and cranny of a wallet that I am sure I've carried for 20 years.

Out came baby photos of a now six-year-old granddaughter. Tattered bits of paper with Social Security numbers of my kids. Random folded notes with phone numbers in all shades of ink, no doubt reminders of people I should have called or places I should have been.

Sadly, having a fat wallet has nothing to do with stuffing it full of Hamiltons or Jacksons. Nor is it all about the Benjamins. It's more about the mementoes and reminders of people and events whose importance has been lost to the passage of time.

-- Like two Kentucky Derby pari-mutuel tickets. I had bet win and place for Elocutionist and Play the Red, who finished third and eighth respectively in the 1976 Derby. I've kept those tickets all these years as a sad reminder of my typically terrible luck. Those horses would finish exactly in my predicted one-two order two weeks later at the Preakness when my original $10 investment would have paid off something like $400.

-- Or a coded door key from the Grand Geneva Resort, a souvenir of a wonderful birthday trip past. Or a laminated Tip Calculator that reminds me to tip my sommelier 15 percent for any bottle of wine I've ordered. My problem is, he never brings his own glass, so how can I give him 15 percent of my bottle?

-- Enough old business cards to wallpaper the garage are tucked in every fold of the wallet. Half of these places are out of business. And oh look, I have five versions of my business card from my six-year Dixie Chopper phase.

-- And there's my Indiana State Police press card, circa 2001. Wow, who is that guy in that photo?

-- Swipe cards from Sonic (they weren't long for this world), Ace Hardware and LoBill's. All of little use to me now.

Hmm, I'm surprised I can't find my wallet-size photo of Hayley Mills from "The Parent Trap." I was certain she was in there somewhere.

Ah, but there is a McGriddle's coupon from McDonald's sans expiration date. Not saying it was old, but I think the Golden Arches were only bronze back then. If you check the small print, it says copyright 2006. But hey, they honored it out here the other morning.

Yes, it's not unlike how old friend George Costanza was forced to even things out by stuffing diner napkins into the opposite back pocket of his pants.

Then as he's leaving the diner, George spots an ad pinned to a post and pulls a tab from the sheet of paper. "Learn guitar, first lesson free," it notes.

He slips that stub of paper into his wallet but it's the last straw. As he tries to close it, everything else inside flies out as the whole wallet explodes right there on the city street.

The other half of the wallet equation is breaking in the new one.

It's a lot like breaking in a new baseball glove, which I've done a few times in my life. That formula is pretty easy -- squirt a little neatsfoot oil into the pocket, slap in a baseball and tie it all up. Drive over it with the car a couple times if you feel the need. The leather will loosen up eventually as you work with it.

Women have it so easy. They just toss all their junk into their new Coach purse or Louis Vuitton bag and move on.

If a guy gets a new wallet, stuffs it with all his essentials and sticks it in his back pocket, there's hell to pay.

It unfolds into some possessed trifold of torture, poking you in the rear when you sit, creating a lump in the back pocket of your jeans or khakis when you walk and causing you to list right or left, depending on pocket preference.

But I've solved that dilemma for the moment with a nerdy solution of sorts. Don't laugh. Here's a hint, Heloise, wrapping a fat rubber band twice around my new wallet keeps it from fanning out and stabbing me in the fanny.

Of course, I know it's only a matter of time before that rubber band breaks from the strain. But I've figured that out, too. Stuffed a half-dozen spares into my wallet ... right there next to my photo of Hayley Mills.

But we need to face facts, men, wallets just aren't meant for change.