Cleaning out my wallet: A journey

I recently completed the complex but rewarding journey of cleaning out my wallet. The experience changed my life, and I’m only being moderately hyperbolic. This thing had collected years worth of sub shop punch cards, expired (and unused) library cards, and a voter ID dating back to when I apparently decided to register as a Republican. What I’m saying is there was a lot of old and embarrassing crap in there.

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After one particularly uncomfortable car ride in someone else’s cheap Korean import atrocity of a subcompact backseat, I realized it was my cumbersome wallet that kept me in near-constant pain. It was throwing my whole back out of alignment. You’d think that as much Seinfeld as I’ve watched in my life, I’d know the signs.

But I finally learned my lesson and decided to sit down and weed out the unnecessary clutter. I found out my wallet was much like my mailbox: Most of that stuff I could just throw right out.

I realized almost everything could be on my smartphone now. That’s kind of a weird transition for people of my age. I’m under 40, but I was an adult for more than a few years without access to the mind-dulling device that now makes even the simplest forms of meaningful communication or critical thinking obsolete.

Whenever we go out, we just tap a little icon. We check in online to tell friends who couldn’t care less that we’re wherever we are. Then it’s just another swipe of our finger until we’re once again immersed in whatever waste of time app had previously been helping us drown out reality. That is, until we are forced to witness the grim truth of our own searing inadequacies through the filter of our darkest nightmares …

Oh wow. Got a little sidetracked there.

What was this essay even about? I guess my point is that I thought I didn’t need all of these supermarket loyalty cards.

And I had a stack of them. A couple of them I used regularly. Most I hadn’t touched in months. A few I didn’t even recognized as actual business names. I was on my way to throw the pile of plastic and cardboard in the trash and my wife stopped me.

“You’d better shred all that.”

“Shred it?”

She went on to inform me that these cards could contain some sensitive information we wouldn’t want to get out.

“Like what? The fact that we eat too much Ben & Jerry’s?”

My wife reminded me of that one week pints were on sale 2 for $5. Long story short, I shredded all of the cards.

When I got back to my desk, this sad tri-fold wallet sat splayed and limp. I realized I’d put its poor stitching through the ringer and stretched the leather further than a pregnant heifer.

cleaning out my wallet,
This cow is doing her best impression of my wallet. [Credit: Wikipedia, Brian Robert Marshall]

I folded it back up and it hung loose kind of like Jared Fogel’s belly skin. (Can you still make fat Jared jokes or do they all have to be pervert Jared jokes now? I guess I’ll find out.)

But it was at the moment I looked at my pathetic flap of a wallet that I realized it was kind of pointless for me to be carrying that thing around at all. There was my driver’s license and a debit card. No cash. And the pockets were so distorted that the two cards slid right back out. I slipped them in my front pocket and tried to go out without a wallet. That was a disaster.

As it turns out, I brush my hand against the rear of my pants approximately 18 times a second in a subconscious confirmation that my wallet’s still there. And when it’s not? I cause my heart to fibrillate roughly 18 times a second. No matter how recently I’d reminded myself that I didn’t bring my wallet, when I swiped my pocket and didn’t feel it I immediately assumed I’d been robbed. The sensation lasted a fraction of a second each time. But add it up and it was really eating into my day.

So I headed back home and walked back into my office. I picked up the empty wallet added back in the two cards from my front pocket. Then I started digging through the trash can where I’d thrown all the now shredded remnants. Suddenly they didn’t seem so useless anymore.

For the next week, I stopped by as many of the stores as I could recall and asked rejoin their loyalty programs. I dutifully signed away my life for a piece of plastic that will get me the discount that would’ve just been the damn sale price 20 years ago. But pretty soon my wallet began to regain its shape. I put it back in my back pocket and resumed my regular activities. Now I’m back to never noticing my subconscious tick because every time I touch that pocket my wallet is there.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get some Doan’s. And maybe some Chunky Monkey if it’s on sale.


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