An unnecessary incentive…

All spare change from my day’s purchases is tossed into a wooden cigar box in the misguided thinking that I am saving it for a rainy day or something more tangible, although there is no clue as to what that might be.  Boxes of unspent loot litter my closet floor.

In the interim, there is another, almost primary, purpose for the loose coinage: The Big Cash Grab.  It is essentially a guessing game whereby Ellen and Reid are given, in a brief blurb in a letter, the dimensions of the box and the depth of the nickles, dimes, pennies and quarters.  Whoever is closest gets the amount times some multiplier; i.e. three times the actual total while the loser’s consolation prize might be twice the actual sum.  It keeps some jingling money in their sometimes barren wallets.  The deadline is typically a Sunday night about 9:00 or so.  They can text me their answer.

But there is a more nefarious reason for this familial lottery: it is one barometer to see if they actually read the letters.  You would be shocked at how often a Sunday deadline comes and goes without a whiff of a guess.  To be realistic, their lives are chock-full of their comings and goings, not mine.  Knowing what I know about my own habit of the “delayed opening of mail” it is no big deal.  Their guesses might trickle in a week or two later.  If we talk on the phone they usually ask “Is it too late to guess?”  Of course not.

Letters are not a quid pro quo situation.  I send, they open – and they can take their own sweet time.  I’ve never stewed about lack of immediate response to the Cash Grab.  There is nothing on the envelope that screams “Open me now!”  And there never will be.

Here is last week’s letter minus a few paragraphs.

February 22, 2010

Ellen/Reid: If you can gauge the onset of spring by the singing of the birds, then spring has sprung.  Even through the closed kitchen window this morning you could hear the cacophony of birds calling.  It seems they are trying hard to get spring to get here now.  They must think the louder they tweet, the quicker it will get here.  The trees are budding and really, it won’t take a lot to begin the leafing out process.  The forecast here is for modestly warmer temperatures although this has been the worst winter of my four in these parts.

I’m trying to do my part to help their cause.  Went to Lowe’s on Sunday and bought a wide, shallow pot for some lettuce seeds and a couple of trellises to guide the English ivy upward and onward.  Used my index finger for a dibble yesterday morning to plant the romaine seeds in the potting soil.  Makes me feel like I’m back in the Midwest because it was the first time since I’ve been down here that my hands were actually dirty with dirt.  It was the old square foot gardening routine where you fill each portion of the pot with ¼” holes that are 3” apart in all directions.  Three seeds per hole.  That way, God willing and if the creeks don’t rise, there will be a bumper crop of lettuce.  As soon as I get the green light for tomatoes (i.e. when the neighborhood’s champion tomato grower plunks his plants in the ground) in those will go, too.

Also bought what hopefully will be the last vestiges of the bathroom renovation: wood trim for the floors, crown molding and around the doors.  My neighbor Mike, whom you’ve met, Reid, dropped off his sawhorses on Saturday so I can paint before the woodwork – actually it’s not wood, it’s a composite material – goes on the floors and ceiling.  Once that is up, I will keep you posted on the final fiscal tally of all the costs.  I shudder to estimate it.  If either of you are willing to make a guess, let me know and the winner will get $25 for being closer to the actual amount.

Drove down into South Carolina yesterday to play golf near Lancaster at a place called Edgewater.  It was a great course and the temps were pushing 70F so it was a great day and the scoring was okay, too.  But what struck me about the trip is just how disgustingly filthy South Carolina is.  As soon as I got over the border on I-77 into South Carolina, the trash started appearing in mass quantities.  And I mean mountains of junk.  There aren’t enough inmate work crews to clean up the debris; Styrofoam by the boxcar full, broken furniture, enough plastic to cover the state in its entirety, fast food wrappers, barrels (who knows if they were empty) and all manner of assorted trash.  It was incredible.  And normally I love to travel through S.C. because it is a beautiful state.  But man, I’ve never seen such an abomination.  Worse than New Jersey.  Obviously, the governor Mark Sanford has been more concerned with managing his wick than managing the candle (the state itself).  It was embarrassing.

I’ll head to Des Moines for Greg’s Plaid Jacket Invitational at the end of April.  Will fly into Omaha to see your grandparents and then rent a car from there.  Excited to be getting out of there, and I really want to watch the airfares so I can invade your spaces in St. Paul and Chicago if that’s okay with you.  The weather better be pretty good because I’m tired of cold.

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