"Whoa! What's a hutch?" I asked quickly. I'm single, after all. I had never heard of such a thing. But for $1500, I figured it must be pretty special. And when he told me it was actually worth $5000 because they had gotten a deal on it, I naturally assumed it must have bells and whistles and flashing lights and at least a remote control. Perhaps he even splurged for one of those fancy high speed, digital hutches, I thought. Suddenly, I started hankering for an invitation just to see the thing.
"It's a wooden cabinet in which you hold your china, Joe."
Not only did the concept of a cabinet worth $5000 confuse me, but so did the words. ". . . your china, Joe." What could he possibly mean by that? My china are the plates I own that are not chipped, much like my silver which are the spoons I recently bought that don't bend when you try to eat ice cream.
"So, um, this hutch, what does it do?" I asked.
"It holds china."
"But you said it's worth $5000. I mean, is it electric? Do you plug it in?"
"No, it's just a piece of furniture."
"Oh, so it's battery-operated then? Cool!"
"No, it just holds china. That's all."
"Well, how's the sound quality then?" This went on for awhile, as you can imagine. I learned that you can't download anything with a hutch. It doesn't have any lights. It doesn't even -- and I didn't want to say anything but this was when I started to think that they might have been ripped off -- receive any channels of any kind at all. Yes, it just. . . just. . . sits there holding all the china that they received as wedding gifts (including probably that beautiful piece of china or crystal or something or another that my mother suggested I give them for their wedding.)
Mark also mentioned that they spent $1400 on a couch. This seemed almost reasonable to me, though my friend Matt -- who is even more of a bachelor than me-- was especially confused when I told him. "But couches are free? Aren't they?" He asked.
He did seem to have a point. Mine now comes from my parents. His is from an old roommate. In my last apartment, the couch was built into the wall. Before that, our couch was given to us by a friend of my roommate who presumably had one free couch too many. And then there are those people I know who rescue poor abandoned couches from the sidewalk. It was starting to seem like Mark's couch was about $1400 overpriced.
Of course, Matt and I operate under a slightly different law of economics -- that of the single guy in his twenties without a steady girlfriend. We have a certain amount of disposable income precisely because it would never occur to us to buy a hutch. (And in case you're wondering, every guy I mentioned this story to responded, "What the hell's a hutch?" with the exact same puzzled expression on his face.)
Obviously, we do splurge on electronic equipment, and our decisions in that realm aren't always that respectable. For example, I once bought a stereo simply because it had more flashing lights than a comparable model. Nevertheless, any money spent on needless gadgetry is more than made up for by the fact that our couches are free, that our silverware is often bendable, and that words like hutch have never once been a part of our vocabulary.
Luckily, life is cheap. At least for now.
©1999 Joe Lavin