Hi. Maybe you can help me. There's this guy I've noticed where I work whom I might be interested in if he didn't seem like a complete cheapskate. He's nice-looking, pleasant to be around and kind of nerdy in just the right way. But a few weeks back, when we happened to be eating at the same restaurant, I saw him grab the bill, analyze it like an accountant and divide it among the people at his table down to the last cent. I suppose there's nothing terribly wrong with that, but you should have seen him. It was like his very life depended on the outcome. And it makes me wonder whether that was just the tip of the iceberg. What do you think? Is this guy a total miser? And can you have a decent relationship with a guy who counts pennies, especially if you're more of an easy-come-easy-go kind of gal?
Miss Moneypenny: If you'll excuse me, I just have to...there we go. Sorry about that, but I had to put my silver-dollar collection back in my wall safe. I like to bring it out on occasion - okay, every day - and polish it, arrange it into neat little stacks, count them all, count them again, count them a third time, then grab handfuls and allow some of them to slip through my fingers while saying "Mine, all mine!" Actually, I don't like to do that, but only because I don't have a silver-dollar collection. Or a wall safe. I do have a jar full of pennies, though, and sometimes I'll pour them all out on the table and pretend they're Krugerrands. Actually, I don't do that either, but if they were Krugerrands I might. And if they were and I did, I'd be a miser.
That's our stereotypical notion of a miser, anyway - Scrooge McDuck taking a swan dive into a swimming pool of loose change. You don't have to literally swim in cash to be a miser, of course. It's enough to figuratively swim in it, think about money all the time. Jack Benny, that lovable skinflint, had this great comedy bit where he supposedly got approached by a mugger. "Your money or your life," the mugger said. Benny just stood there. And stood there. Finally, the mugger could take it no longer. "Your money or your life!" he repeated. To which Benny, after another perfectly timed pause, said, "I'm thinking!"
To a miser, giving up a single cent is truly a matter of life or death. Hetty Green, named the "World's Greatest Miser" by the Guinness Book of World Records, supposedly once spent an entire evening looking for a two-cent postage stamp. She was worth about $100 million at the time, billions in today's dollars.
And that's not all. Hetty also wore the same black dress until it was reduced to rags, refused to turn on the heat or use hot water and - this takes the cake, a cake she would have refused to pay for - put off taking her son to the doctor so long that his leg had to be amputated. This, I say to you, Miss Moneypenny, was a miser, whereas the guy in your office seems...well, parsimonious. And parsimony doesn't strike me as such a bad thing in a potential boyfriend, a potential husband or, for that matter, an office mate. What he may also be is a little obsessive-compulsive, and that might give me pause. Why don't you invite him to lunch, grab the check before he does and pore over it for...oh, let's say a half hour. If he asks you to marry him on the spot, you'll know.
If you think gold isn't worth its weight in gold, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR EMAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.