Perhaps this year more than most, you are contemplating with annoyance and growing alarm the annual evacuation of our political, economic and cultural leaders as they take off for the summer. While they flee to choice locations at the shore or in the mountains or fly away to exotic foreign destinations, the rest of us are left behind to hold down the fort, grimly watching gray fiscal storm clouds pile up on the horizon.
But take heart. You may have missed this news: Before leaving town, the people we look to for guidance, wisdom and spin left us with a little gift. They coined a shiny new word to lighten our load and see us through the hard times ahead. A talisman to cling to as the markets and our retirement funds slide down the tubes. They gave us all a “staycation.” Staycation — the happy concept of hunkering down at the address you spend every working day of the rest of your year avoiding — was actually dreamed up after it became clear that the other idea for preventing economic collapse, the stimulus check, was good for about three tanks of gasoline and lunch at Applebees. Tops.
So the call went out to Silver Lining Consultants, Ltd. (motto: “Let us put recess back in your recession”), a subsidiary of Halliburton (“We put the con in military contractor”) for a no-bid deal to find the perfect word to ward off unhappy feelings in troubled times.
Apart from de-stigmatizing the whole idea of sudden poverty, “staycation” has the added benefit of letting large retailers know precisely where you are: With an eye on whatever is left in your wallet, the old notion applies that a sitting duck is a much easier target than one on the move.
And so, in the spirit of public service, to help you make your staycation a pleasant and possibly even lucrative experience, I offer 10 ideas — absolutely free of charge — from my own two weeks at home:
1. Camp in. Show your living room what living really means. Pitch a tent on the field between your La-Z-Boy and your wide-screen TV. Use a flashlight and colored cellophane to simulate a campfire;
2. S’m’insulation. Two hand-sized slabs of corrugated cardboard, shredded rubberized floormats, or inner tubes heated to just below the melting point, and cotton balls dipped in white glue, all smooshed together, make for an empty calorie snack chock full of fiber! Make lots and lots. After you pretend to eat them, toss these little treats between the joists in the attic crawl space to help you save on your heating bills next February;
3. Go fishing for spare change between the cushions of your sofa;
4. Rediscover economical folk crafts by making your own soap (or batteries);
5. Go hunting in the seat creases and secret compartments of your SUV for spare fives and 10s;
6. Write a song called “Hummer, can you spare 10 bucks?” and sell it to an old-timey Vaudeville comedy act (for, like, 10 bucks);
7. Spend a few hours in the basement (where you don’t need air conditioning) looking for unredeemed lottery tickets and uncanceled stamps from old envelopes;
8. Visit the library and notice how noisy it has gotten since your last visit (1977);
9. Dig up your yard in search of buried treasure;
10. Immediately after that (and before your wife gets home) plant a vegetable garden (money-saving tip: corn stover is a great source of cellulosic ethanol).
After you have exhausted all these activities at home, spend the rest of your staycation sitting at the kitchen table thinking up other clever words to carry us over to sunnier days. Words like:
- thin-flation® , or the physical result of combining high grocery prices and all the extra walking you’ll be doing;
- pretirement® , or the condition of being downsized at age 50 with little hope of finding gainful employment in the next 15 years;
- and, naturally, thankruptcy® .
Of course you’ll have to make up your own words. As you can see I’ve already registered these nuggets and fully expect to get a nickel for every time they’re used on CNN and FOX.
Next summer, the French Riviera, baby!
Mark Wilson staycations in the Adirondack mountains.