It’s almost Thanksgiving, but Dr. Barry Pascal has other turkeys on his mind–the ones who tanked our retirement accounts, forcing us husbands to retire elsewhere on important connubial occasions. He thinks he knows why, and how we all can maintain a firm fingernail-hold on the fiscal cliff. You can find Barry‘s humorous works for sale here.—EGF
“TSE” (The Schlemiel Effect)
By BARRY PASCAL, Pharm.D.
Humorist, Satirist, and All-Around Nice Guy
“Honey, where shall we go for our anniversary—San Francisco, Las Vegas, or Paris?” my bride, Shirley, asked last week, about four weeks before our connubial recurrence. (Not bad, eh? I looked it up—and it’s even spelled correctly.)
I had to think quickly. I now had a hint that she would not accept my original plan for our upcoming romantic celebration. I also knew that if I offered up my original choice, lunch at Denny’s, she would be upset.
“How about a romantic dinner at Applebee’s?” I said…while backing up.
“What? What? I think you’re serious. You better not be!” she growled.
Once it started, I had to give her an explanation for my reasoning. Had she forgotten about the impending “fiscal cliff” and that just a few years ago our 401k had become a 201k? Did she miss the recession and stock market crash when, overnight, our Profit Sharing Plan became our Profit Less Sharing Plan?
I somehow had to get her to understand that I did not want to spend any money right now if I could help it. Like the Great Depression, the trauma endures for at least a generation. Besides, if we were going to spend any money at all, I wanted to help bail out our area, the San Fernando Valley, and not France. So I tried to explain all that to her in a sensitive and understanding fashion—not only the SOV (Support Our Valley) campaign, but also the entire problem. With knowledge would come acceptance, and with acceptance comes compromise. I sure hoped I could get her to buy all that.
As I see it, here is the problem. It all started when everyone — bankers, home buyers, sellers, politicians, financiers, executives, market makers, CEOs, CFOs, C with any Os, and so on—fell prey to “The Schlemiel Effect” (TSE). Greed is when you have to have more at any or all costs. TSE is the most insidious form of greed because it is disguised as “missing an opportunity,” or when you feel like a jerk if you are not more aggressive – and most of the time it turns out to be too aggressive. How many times have you asked yourself, “If Joe Schmo can do it, why can’t I?” …. The Schlemiel Effect in a nutshell. So, is greed an insatiable extravagant indulgence? It could be, but The Schlemiel Effect is what keeps you up at night.
How did this financial bickering and our economy tank so badly that it is now affecting our anniversary? Basically put, our retirement funds plummeted. I got a case of economic Montezuma’s Revenge. And now I am slowly recovering and stocking up on toilet paper. Who did this to us? Practically everyone did, especially the normally conservative world banking and investment community and the representatives we naively pay to represent us in Washington, DC. Because of The Schlemiel Effect, they risked stability for profit, common sense for money, and responsibility for ego. One of my friends told me that as far as he was concerned, “The depressed economy is worse than a divorce. I’ve lost half my net worth and I STILL have my wife.”
My friend, David, the one who is trying to kill me by baking me 10,000-calorie homemade desserts, told me that at the economy’s lowest point he tried cashing out his 401k account, taking it to Gelson’s Market to have it rolled and wrapped in a Coin Star machine so he could use it as a doorstop. He wanted to commit suicide by jumping off the 12th floor of the Union Bank building on Ventura Boulevard, but he couldn’t afford the parking.
But I digress. What can I do? I have to conserve. I have to cut back. I have to bring up my parents depression era mentality and use it to protect us. Unfortunately, this does not coincide with my wife’s plans or our anniversary.
“Shirley, the economy was so bad, women were beginning to marry for love,” I tried to explain.
It didn’t faze her.
“The only thing that kept the economy afloat in 2008 was Sarah Palin’s shopping sprees,” I said with a sheepish grin.
Then I hit her with my best stuff:
- “Shirley, it was so bad that Goldman Sachs was looking for a merger partner on e-Harmony.”
- “Food kitchens were taking reservations.”
- “The president of Mexico filed a complaint about too many illegals crossing over the border and going into Mexico looking for work.”
- “Pharmacies were selling Viagra by the inch.”
Nothing worked on her. She just said, “Well, if The Schlemiel Effect got us into this mess, then you are going to have to get us out of this—and before our anniversary, too.”
As an afterthought she said, “This is going to be an unpleasant December.”
“Why?” I asked.
“You know how uncomfortable sleeping on the couch is!”
P. S.—In the course of my research, I came across a New York Times article that explains the current fiscal impasse in terms any Schlemiel can understand. (Please read responsibly.)
About the Author: Barry Pascal, the former Mayor and former Honorary Sheriff of North San Fernando Valley, owned Northridge Pharmacy for 32 years and is now retired. He has written seven comedy books and pens humorous columns for the California Pharmacists Association Journal as well as the North Valley Community Connection. He’s tried, feverishly and unsuccessfully, to pass himself off as a Wall Street CEO to become eligible for TARP bailout funds. He still wants to throw Shirley a lavish, Congressional fundraiser-style anniversary bash.
© Barry Pascal November 2012