There's a New Year's tradition that my wife likes to keep — as I'm sure many of us do — of eating black-eyed peas, collard greens and some kind of pork product as a way of bringing good luck, and with it good wealth, your way for the next 365 days or so.
That particular meal and the tradition that goes with it, I believe, tends to be regional. Back home in Pennsylvania Dutch country, the good-luck banquet was sauerkraut, pork and potatoes.
Neither of these dinners makes my top 10 list of epicurean delights. Tradition forces me to eat this stuff.
Well, here it is, nearly the end of March, and we're still waiting for the promise of that meal — the southern version — to kick in.
Actually, I think I've been waiting something like 60 years for it to kick in, and so far, neither the collards nor the sauerkraut has done much more than to put a bad taste in my mouth.
I turned 60 years old last month, and within weeks of blowing out the candles, I learned my heart was in atrial fibrillation, and may be for the rest of my natural days. We recently got the five-figure (pre-insurance) hospital bill for my 30-hour stay, which in itself nearly put me back in the cardiovascular ward. Just the room for overnight observation was $1,500 on the itemized bill, which far outdistances any bed & breakfast we've ever stayed in. Yikes. On the other hand, no B&B I stayed in ever had a heart monitor or an I-V drip, so maybe it was appropriate, I don't know.
I recently took my car for its 100,000-mile servicing, and learned I'm due up for a new timing belt. That will be at least $500. Oh, and by the way, you need new brake pads ($200 plus) and a new power steering reservoir ($300 plus) to replace the leaky one now in your car.
This is not what a retired pensioner wants to hear.
Then, on Saturday morning, as we were getting ready to leave for a pancake fundraiser, Kim detected an odor in the house that smelled like burning plastic. I couldn't smell anything right off, but she said it was coming from near the circuit breaker. I opened it and one of the breakers — the one for the water heater — was uncomfortably warm.
We went under the house through the crawl space, and saw right off the pipe from the gas water heater was spraying H2O all over the place. I quickly turned off the water main with my handy-dandy plumber's key, which is pretty much the extent of my plumbing knowledge.
Getting a plumber on the weekend is usually next to impossible, but luckily, after two tries, we found one. He arrived within the hour, and fixed us up. He showed me a relay from the heater that apparently shorted out and melted when the spewing water and electricity tried to go out on a date together. I guess we're lucky the thing didn't catch fire — you know, because gas and fire don't mix particularly well, either.
I'm expecting a three-figure bill for this event, too, but who knows?
My real quandary here is trying to figure out if we had good luck because the house didn't blow to smithereens, or bad luck because, well, it's another unexpected bill piling on.
I know, I know. Quit complaining. Be grateful we don't live near tsunami zones, earthquake fault lines or nuclear reactors.
But everybody's troubles are all relative, I reckon, and we all have them. And we all deal with them.
I only wonder if this New Year's I can't enjoy a lucky cheeseburger and fries just this once?