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Jan 15, 2021

A Social Security Windfall Changes My Entire Life

Only 15 days into the 2021 and I may never work again

By Ed Goldman

Just before the tattered, charred and crumpled curtain of 2020 was drawn, I was notified I’d be receiving a windfall from the United States government “on or about January 20, 2021.” 

I was so exhilarated I felt I just had to share the news with someone, even though my family always maintained a tradition of never telling anyone what we earned. This included not telling the people living with us, even if we shared a surname.

Edgy Cartoon

Move Over, Bill Gates!

”Your Social Security benefit will increase by 1.3% in 2021 because of a rise in the cost of living,” the letter informed me. I hurriedly reached for my calculator and determined this would amount to an increase of—I hope you’re sitting down and can keep your envy in check—$27 a month.

Okay, okay. I know I’m bragging. But I’ve never been the guy who bought the winning Lotto or even scratch-off ticket at my local liquor store. Years ago, even those scratch-and-sniff ads in magazines to promote new colognes never worked for me until hours later, forcing me to explain to my significant other late that night why my fingernails smelled like Jade East. 

Thank God I had learned to never scratch the ads for female perfumes. I don’t think the rest of the evening would have gone well if I’d had to explain my knuckles bearing the scent of Chanel’s® Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum Spray. In fact, I don’t think the rest of the relationship would have benefitted.

To recap: I’m in a state of euphoria—and I don’t mean Calvin Klein’s Euphoria®, which is said to have a “woody, oriental scent (with) notes of pomegranate, black violet, black orchid, and mahogany.” This sounds an awful lot like the wax you on lacquered coffee tables, but what do I know?

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Okay, back to Dreamland, Cloud Nine, heaven-on-earth and Eden (prior to the ill-advised sampling of its fruit-tasting platter). I’ve just started imagining 10 things what I can do with that extra $27 every month:

  1. Pay off (none of) my credit card bills! Or at least (not) the interest!
  2. Finally replace my 19-year-old car—as long as I can pay off inline skates on time, with a decent APR.
  3. Take an inline skating lesson. I looked it up and found that the average cost for a skating lesson is “from $10 to $20.” This would mean $15, if you know how to do your averages. I figure that if I take one lesson a month, that’ll leave me with a cool $17 to $7 in my coffers, which is what call my multi-pocketed cargo pants.
  4. When restaurants reopen for indoor dining, order an entire Bento box lunch instead of just a cup of Miso and the sprig of seaweed that’s part of the popular child’s plate. I only hope that at tip time, my waitperson won’t misconstrue my gluttony as financial largesse. And that I still qualify as a popular child.
  1. Give money to every charity and nonprofit that forgets I’m alive until late December (and you know who you are).
  2. No longer think about withholding a few bucks here and there from my Comcast and Earthlink bills for every time they quit working, sometimes for just a few hours, sometimes for a couple of days. But with that $27 on hand, I think I can afford to be generous to a fault. Well, to their faults, really.
  3. Based on current pricing, I think I can get a hair transplant for my male-pattern baldness, which looks as though I’m wearing an increasingly larger flesh-colored yarmulke on the back of my head. I figure I can afford two or three follicle replacements a month. The lingering dilemma, natch, is that as I replace those hairs, others may continue to evanesce. Perhaps I should just let nature take its course, save the hairs that fall out and see what I can concoct with a little cheese cloth and Elmer’s Glue®.
  4. Having that disposable $27 may finally free me from the habit of using those circled “R”s in this column whenever I mention brand names (see Chanel, Calvin Klein and Elmer’s, above). I’ve been doing this product placement in the hope that these companies, using the super-sophisticated search engines at their disposal, will send me money or lovely gifts to reward my unquestioning boosterism. But to date, they haven’t. So the hell with them. And I would humbly ask that you refrain from buying perfume or glue from the aforementioned manufacturers until further notice.
  1. My $27 bonanza should also prevent my hesitating when a Starbucks barista asks if I want a Short (eight ounces), Tall (12 ounces), Grande (16 ounces) or Venti (20 ounces) coffee. When the weather warms up, I may even opt for a Venti Iced (24 ounces) and the all-new budget- and truss-breaking 31-ounce Trenta, which will cost 50 cents more than the Venti Iced, according to Starbucks. By the way, “trenta” is only 30 in Italian, so it’s clear the company is tossing in an extra ounce. Otherwise Starbucks would call the new drink ”trentuno,” which might confuse a customer into thinking it’s “Tarantino” and expect baristas to suddenly turn violent, their language to become profane and racist and their conversations to make no sense.
  2. Finally, I can at last plan to do some traveling once the global image of Americans changes back from our being considered monolingual lepers with credit cards to monolingual fatties with credit cards. I think $27 may not help much if I fly overseas on United—the airline “allows one free bag and charges $100 for the second checked bag,” according to its website—but I’m perfectly content to skip the baggage check and fly while wearing three days’ worth of suits and underwear. If the TSA people get suspicious as I go through check-in, I’ll point to my bald spot and say I just won an award as the world’s heaviest rabbi and am flying to Europe to accept it. I’m sure they’ll congratulate me and let me pass—especially if I add that I’m so excited because I’ve never even bought a winning Lotto ticket.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).