Tuesday morning started out the way it usually does for Tim Jones. There was the scramble to feed his young sons breakfast before they left for school, the dread he always felt about his long commute to work, and the stress that accompanied thinking about all of the projects waiting for him at the office. What he wasn’t expecting was the throng standing on his front lawn.
“Honey! Did you know there was a bunch of people with cameras outside the house?” Tim asked his wife who had her head buried in the morning newspaper.
“Yeah, I noticed them first thing,” she answered.
“And you didn’t think to go out and see what they wanted?” he then asked.
“A crowd of people outside of our house means one of two things. A) You’re about to be arrested as part of some Dateline Mystery investigation or B) We’ve won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. Either way, I wasn’t about to open the door until I had my morning cup of coffee. You’re welcome to find out what they want, though.”
After spending a few seconds trying to understand his wife’s logic, Tim opened the door.
“Hello. May I help you folks?” he said immediately before being barraged by a cacophony of shouting reporters, shuttering camera lenses and the next door neighbour’s dog who just liked to stand outside and bark regardless of whether or not something was happening.
“Mr. Jones!” one of the reporters yelled. “How does it feel to be the standard by which everyone else measures their self-worth?”
“Huh?” a confused Tim responded.
“Do you and your family feel the least bit guilty for pitting people against each other and turning them into massive consumers?”
“There’s a lot of credit card debt out there!” another reporter shouted.
“Oh, I get it. This is some Keeping up with the Joneses bit you’re doing, isn’t it? I assure you, my family is not personally responsible for everyone else’s low self-esteem and poor money management skills.”
“But you enjoy such an extravagant lifestyle,” the first reporter said.
“I live in an eighteen hundred square foot bungalow and drive a seven-year-old mini-van, so I’d hardly say I live extravagantly. But you can come in and check the place out if you want.”
Reporters, camera operators, photographers and, because it had nothing else to do at the time, the neighbour’s dog all shuffled inside. Room by room they went, checking out closets that were far from being stuffed, taking pictures of scuffed door frames in need of a paint job, a basic twenty-seven inch television, and furniture that had been pushed to the limit over the past ten years by two very rambunctious boys.
“Are you the black sheep of the family? Is that why you live like this? Because you were disinherited or something?”
“I live like this because I’m a big believer in living within my means; below it when possible. You should try it sometime. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get to my forty-six thousand dollar a year job.”
“Forty-six thousand? That’s not very much,” pointed out someone in the crowd.
“No, it’s not. Hence, the whole living within or below my means thing. Goodbye everyone.”
Everyone then went back to their newsrooms to file their reports. Failing to heed the meaning behind Tim’s message, headlines ranged from One Family’s Stunning Fall From Grace to Who Lives Like This!?
Tim didn’t mind. He was more than happy to let other people worry about status symbols while he concentrated on the more important things in life.
“Hey boys! Do you want to go down to the animal farm after school and feed the goats?” he asked his sons. “I hear there are some new kids.”
“Cool!!!!” they shouted with glee.