On a whim on Christmas Eve, my wife and I threw together a last-minute present for each of our boys. The “gifts” had been sitting in my trunk after living in my parents’ storage closet for decades.
Gift 1: 30-plus-year-old Star Wars figures I either inherited or stole from my older brother. (I don’t know if he knew I had them, so if he’s reading this now: you can’t take them back, because you’ll make my kids cry. Or you can wait until they’re older and ignore the tears. Your choice.)
Gift 2: Legitimately-acquired G.I. Joe vehicles I got at a garage sale in 1989.
As epic battles ensued in a cross-genre collision of plastic and nostalgia, my wife and I high-fived each other, pleasantly surprised to have made such a success of Christmas morning.
Now, before you call us cheap, I should add that she (the smart one) had also bought them a regular number of new toys, which they also enjoyed. But this example is just one of many that have earned me a special nickname: “Maximizer.”
Let’s talk about the M-word. It’s a title usually uttered by my wife in a tone that blends sarcasm and praise, because it’s my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. I have to get every last drop out of everything. It’s a quality that both saves money and is incredibly annoying at times.
The origin of the nickname was a professional strengths test that I took at work. I was the only one out of about 50 people who fell into the “Maximizer” category: someone who “capitalizes on the gifts with which you are blessed.” When I asked my wife this, she was kind, “It’s a very good quality, even though it can be frustrating, because it has really saved us money over the years.”
Three classic Maximizing moments for your enjoyment/horror:
1. Good — keeping my car alive against its will: My hand-me-down ’98 Honda Accord (nicknamed “The Ubiquitous White Honda” because I often try and open other peoples’ cars that I think are mine) has passed 200,000 miles — a feat I share with everyone, including total strangers. I love that car so much that I just bought it a new timing belt as a reward.
I daydream that one day it will break down on the I-5 and I’ll get a bottle of whiskey and toast to it and use the rest to light that puppy on fire as a tribute to its decades of service. But I like not going to jail, so I probably won’t do that. I’ll just “say” I did. On the other hand, part of me is so scared of me dying when it dies that I carry extra food, clothes, and blankets in case it’s snowing when it happens.
2. Bad — my obsession with free heat: When we first got married, I would burn all of our newspaper, junk mail, flammable trash, et cetera, in our fireplace, calling it “free heat” and telling my wife not to turn up the thermostat. Yes, “now” I know this is beyond terrible, but not then.
One day, our Condo Association decided to have a chimney sweep (yes, those still exist) clean the fireplaces of all the units. I was at work, so my wife got the earful from the guy. “Do you guys use your fireplace a lot? Yeah, I can tell, this is a fire hazard and …” Anyhow, I don’t blame her, but my wife served me up on a platter to this guy and my days of free heat were over. On the plus side, our place never burned down.
3. More good than bad? — My unique eating disorder: I eat all the leftovers in the fridge, no matter their age or if I even like them or not. This may have resulted in a sick day or two —but it saves on lunch expenses.
My secret? Throw leftovers in a tortilla so it is taco-shaped, that always makes food taste better. The positive side is that I’ve discovered some really weird food combos that are actually really good: tortillas with cream cheese and smashed Doritos; chopped-up old chicken nuggets and lettuce for semi-real tacos — aaaaand, I’ll stop there. This either impresses people and then they tell me their weird recipes, or they start gagging.
Anyhow, this half-insult, half-praise of Maximizer has begun spreading and I’m claiming the epicenter. I think people like it because of its infinite capacity for sarcasm. Either way, I hope we’ve at least changed the connotation of the word away from terrible spam email subject lines with false promises. Now go forth and MAXIMIZE (safely)!
Shaun Kempston lives behind Target in Gig Harbor with his wife and two children. His hobbies include taking his children to play in the toy aisle of Target and going to Target when it’s too hot because he doesn’t have A/C.