I lost my wallet last Friday night.* I lost it in the parking lot of a Taco Cabana because my pockets were too shallow. I lost the first normal wallet I ever owned.
*Is that one of the Friday foibles Katy Perry discusses in her TGIF song?
Long before last Friday, probably during senior year of high school, someone pointed out to me that I was, unbeknownst to me at this point, actually George Costanza. I didn’t work for the Yankees. I didn’t carve a secret compartment underneath my desk so I could take naps. And I didn’t go on a date with Marissa Tomei that ended with a slap and tell my fiancé that I was actually meeting with a friend’s boyfriend named Art, who exported chips, in an attempt to cover up the mishap.
It was because of the wallet.
My wallet was large enough to fit the collective works of The Artist Formerly Known As Prince inside of it. It was made of black leather, and my Granny bought it for me at a Labor Day craft festival at some point in my childhood. I wasn’t ready for it then. I already had a wallet.
That wallet was blue, and Velcro allowed for an efficient opening and closing system. There is a Friends episode where Joey reveals that he has held the same wallet since his childhood*. My blue wallet looked just like that.
*Was it Friends? There was some sitcom in the 90s where one of the main characters had a kid’s wallet he wouldn’t let go.
Before then, I owned my first wallet, or as my dad called it a billfold. The billfold was purple with Ninja Turtles sketched on the front. I suspect that I used it to store the $2 bills my great aunts would give me every Flag Day, unless, of course, they decided to write checks for $7.13 that year.
Around the beginning of high school, as I remember, I decided to make the switch and take Granny’s gift out of storage. This would be a fateful choice indeed.
Quickly, the wallet filled up – money, receipts, coins, oh yes, coins. I was oblivious to the size of the wallet, not to mention the size of the faux pas. My school uniform pants had the holes in the knees. I wore white t-shirts on weekend nights. My only belt wasn’t even unisex; it was a belt intended for women. Appearance clearly didn’t register too high on my list of priorities.
Then my friends started calling me out on it. “Nice coin purse.” “Your pocket is about to explode.” “Hey George.”
Even my parents noticed. They wanted me to make a change.
The conversation usually went something like this:
Mom: “Marky-bud, I think you might need a new wallet.”
Me: “No thanks, mom.”
Mom: “Marky! How about if dad and I give it to you for your birthday?”
Me: “No. Please don’t.”
Me: (Turns on the movie “Encino Man”)
Needless to say, my mom bought me a wallet several weeks later for my birthday. It was made of brown leather, dollar bills were kept in place by a tiny metal rod rather than an actual fold, and, yes, it contained a spot for coins.
If it was actually possible to create a wallet with greater potential to reach Costanza levels than my old one, this was the wallet.
And reach those levels it did. Only this time the evolution of embarrassment pertaining to money-carrying accessories took another leap. In the fall of 2009, while home for some type of vacation, my dog, Rocky, decided to have some fun. The lovable scamp grabbed my wallet off the coffee table and proceeded to store it in his jaw for a few moments. This was the least surprising development of my life.
The wallet was now filled past capacity, and sharp dog incisors had frayed the leather. Flashing lights should have illuminated the inside of my head. Sirens should have wailed. A mysterious guy offering a blue pill or a red bill should have told me to buy a new wallet.
Over the next year and a half I considered buying a wallet, but this was me. Maybe if Groupon offered a good deal I’d get one. Maybe. Instead, I just whipped it out quickly in public, hoping my hand was quicker than everyone else’s eyes.
Then, I went home about a month ago. My bedroom closet is filled with relics – Stars Wars action figures, retro basketball jerseys, pictures, keepsakes from high school and college, an old binder filled for a stamp collection I, thank God, never started. Amidst the ruins, a black wallet rested on a shelf. I have absolutely no idea when or where it came from.
Immediately, I transferred everything from the fraying wallet in my pocket to the pristine wallet on the shelf. I moved my money, a few Egyptian pounds I keep as a souvenir, an old NYC subway card, a Rome bus card, my KU student ID, an Olive Garden and a Pizzeria Uno gift card, my library card, my driver’s license and my social security card. Everything fit. The wallet didn’t expand and stretch at the seams. It didn’t contain a pocket for coins.
For a month, I lived the life. I bought groceries, drinks, restaurant meals, and I could hold my wallet in the open air, letting the normalcy linger. And then it fell out of my pocket on Friday night, a loss of the contents and an actual quality wallet.
So what about the future? Can I avoid the Costanza syndrome with my next wallet purchase? My mom is already telling me to get a money clip, so I think I know what will be sitting under the Christmas tree in a few months.
Honestly, I think I’ve had enough of wallets for a while. I’m going to buy a European carry-all.