I was talking with a friend of mine about a week ago and the subject of my dad’s frugality came up. It came in the form of a toilet papering of my house back when I was about 17. The toilet papering turned into a bit of a tricky situation. Especially the fact that during that time in my youth, when discussing the toilet papering incident with my high school friends, I had to leave out a minor detail, out of fear that my friends would keep doing it.
It was a Saturday or Sunday morning, and I woke up to my dad saying in his Dutch accent “Erik! You need to get up and clean the front yard and your car. They’re covered it in Toilet Paper and French Leathers.” French what? I knew what toilet paper was, but what the hell was a “French Leather”?
The sound of my dad’s voice also woke up my older brother Tony. So he came along out to the front yard to see what all the commotion was about. Sure enough, the house, yard and my car were covered in toilet paper, but where in the hell were the “French Leathers?” When I got to my car to inspect more closely, I saw that it was also decorated with condoms. At that point, I knew what a “French Leather” was. I think the perpetrator must have wasted a whole jumbo fun pack on my car and the house.
While looking at the mess, our neighbor Jim from across the street walked over to give us a report of what happened. Jim was a former Green Beret or Commando or some type of Special Forces. He was always up late at night screwing around with something. Having Jim around was kind of like having your very own neighborhood security guard who knew how to kill people. What he had in killer instinct, he lacked in common sense, because sometimes he worked on his car around midnight. However, he was approachable and if you asked him to put off working on his car until the next day, he would easily oblige.
Apparently while doing something late at night he noticed what was going on around our house. So he apprehended the perpetrators about when they finished soiling our house and my car with toilet paper and “French Leathers.” “I took care of them” he said “It was a blond guy and his girlfriend. They drove a Mercury Tracer, and I put the scare of meetin Jesus in them. Don’t think they’ll be coming back any time soon.” I knew a blond guy who drove a Mercury Tracer. It was Bruce Barker and his girlfriend Shauna (RIP). Those two were like two peas in a pod. Damn Them!
After Jim left, Tony and I got straight to cleaning up the place. We cleaned it up fairly quickly and made a large mound of toilet paper on the front lawn. When my dad came outside to see our progress, he saw Tony and me about to get started on placing the toilet paper into the trash can. He put an immediate stop to it sayin, “Godverdomme! What are you doing?”
“We’re throwing the toilet paper away” Tony responded.
“No! It’s still good” my dad replied.
Wait a minute. What? What did he just say? Utter disbelief came over Tony and me. What the hell was my dad thinking? We’re not wiping our asses with that paper! No! No! No! This can’t be happening! We knew our dad was frugal, but this was downright ridiculous. Damn you Bruce and Shauna and damn my dad’s prison camp instincts! How are we going to get out of this situation?
A funny aspect about my dad was that a lot of the time, if it really wasn’t a big deal and it was out of his sight, he would forget about it. My mom would often throw old shirts of his away without his knowledge. If he knew about, he would protest, and if he didn’t, he was none the wiser.
So Tony and I took on this strategy. First, we obeyed our father, who now according to the Catholics, art in heaven. Then we waited a couple of weeks and put it in the trash, right under the kitchen waste, the evening before the trash pickup. It needed to be under the kitchen waste, just as a precaution. Because knowing our luck, my dad would decide to throw some last minute stuff away right before the trash got picked up. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Double thankfully he didn’t make us save those “French Leathers.”
We never did hear about it again, which was a good thing. Yes, my dad was frugal, but really only for himself. I said it before and I’ll say it again. He wouldn’t give you the shirt off of his back because it was too worn down. He’d buy you a new one. He would spend a load of money on a stranger, but nothing on himself. That being said, I still wasn’t going to wipe my butt with that paper, and I wasn’t going to tell my friends what my dad did. If they knew what he did, they would have risked getting killed by Jim to decorate our house with toilet paper and “French Leathers” on a nightly basis.