The other day I got a phone call from my friend Laura in New York. "You're not going to believe this one," she said. "Guess what she did the other day?"
Laura was telling me a story about our mutual friend, Carolyn, in Santa Fe, Calif.
"The girl is outta control," Laura started, then chuckled.
Carolyn is our thrifty friend. Some people might call her cheap, but I can't use the "ch" word, because it doesn't apply. She is very generous to family and friends, just frugal with herself.
For this, she endures some teasing and is all too happy to defend her actions. I can almost hear her declare in a Forrest Gump voice, "A dollar saved is a dollar earned."
But what Laura told me about what we now affectionately refer to as the Carrs Crackers incident, defies all common sense. Picture this: My friend, an attractive young woman, is driving her pickup truck down a six-lane road in Santa Fe. She stops off at a store to pick up a gourmet dinner-for-one: smoked Gouda and Carrs.
Now, the box of crackers is perched nicely on the dashboard. Her dog, Hershey, is sitting in the truck's passenger's seat. It's a beautiful warm afternoon: The wind is blowing, the sun is shining. She's got the windows down and starts singing to the radio. Life is pretty good.
Then, Carolyn hears a vrrwhoosh. She notices that the rectangular black box of Carrs crackers has not only exited its position on the dashboard, but flown the coop entirely. (Hershey saw the whole thing, but acts as if nothing happened.)
From the rearview window, Carolyn sees the black box mid-road.
Now, most people would probably utter "darn," then shrug their shoulders and be on their way. Not Carolyn. She decides to pull over into the break-down lane and assess the situation.
Then she shifts the truck into reverse.
Surprisingly, by this time, no one has driven over the box of Carrs Crackers. It landed perfectly on one of the dividing lines.
A red light has halted all other traffic, so Carolyn plans her dash: Like a ball boy at the US Open, she'll swoop up the box and sprint back to the truck.
What she doesn't count on is the Mack truck that just took a U-turn. "Better wait," she thinks, hoping for the best, but fearing the worst: cracker road kill.
Just then, an explosion.
Now you'd think that at this point she would just let it go.
With the road now completely clear, she dashes to the point of impact and scrapes up the remains. The box is flat, but the inside plastic is still neatly holding the crackers, all broken.
So she goes home with her Carrs cracker pieces, slightly disappointed. They're no good for escorting cheese now, so she does the next best thing: fills a bowl with milk and eats them as cereal.
It takes me a few days to get over the shock of that last image, but the reporter in me wants the rest of the scoop. "I heard about the Carrs Crackers incident, Carolyn," I start during the next phone call.
"Kirst, it wasn't frugality, it was the litter factor," she says. "After the truck, I couldn't leave them there.... No, Laura embellishes too much. I didn't have them with milk, I used butter to hold the pieces together."
I chuckle, realizing that some people are better at spending and some are better at saving. And then there are some who need to learn the unappreciated art of not saving too much. But instead of saying that, I joke,"There's help for people like you, you know."
"OK, OK. What would you have done? It's the principle."
Then it dawns on me: "You know, sometimes I think you get in the middle of these incidents to have a good story to tell us."
"Touche," she says, insisting, "You know I love self-deprecating humor!
"Now about that recipe for cracker-crumb butter balls...."