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Three Things I’ll Never Pay for

We all have to buy food and clothing, but there’s a lot of crap — some of it potentially lethal — that I’d never go out of my way to pay for.


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Harry Seitz

5 months ago | 4 min read
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Skydiving, bottled water, and cars

We all have to buy food and clothing, but there’s a lot of crap — some of it potentially lethal — that I’d never go out of my way to pay for.

Skydiving

If an airplane was crashing and parachutes were available, of course I’d skydive, but paying hundreds or thousands to risk my life for no reason? Nope.

I’m not afraid of heights or particularly fond of my life, but there are fates worse than death, and I know what would happen to me.

The parachute would malfunction just enough to leave me crippled and I’d have to lurch through the rest of my life in constant pain. The only way I’m taking this risk is if I could sue, but skydiving businesses make you sign paperwork guaranteeing a successful lawsuit is virtually impossible (assuming you live).

Honorable mentions: waterparks, amusement parks, scuba diving, Go-Kart racing

Bottled Water

The world is drowning in plastic and in most of the developed world, it’s safe to drink tap water, meaning that if the place has indoor plumbing, you’re probably okay.

Predictably enough, when I lived in countries that didn’t have tap water or it was unsafe to drink it, bottled water wasn’t readily available.

I had a filter for rainwater, but stopped using it after two weeks, as it got much filthier than the water I was drinking from the dust and other particulates in the air (we had to burn our garbage).

In other countries, I boiled the water first, or just drank beer. Camping, I always try to find a spot close to a lake or a stream, and you can either boil the water or purify it with chlorine or iodine tablets. You don’t want to carry three days worth of water along with your tent, sleeping bag, and other gear.

But in New York, where the tap water is some of the best in world, I always see people buying bottled water, which is nothing but a scam.

Not only is (bottled water) a clear waste of resources (only 20 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States are recycled…) it’s an incredible waste of money for consumers, who pay more than the price of gasoline for water that’s marketed as “pure,” but in reality is largely unregulated, full of harmful toxins like BPA, and far less safe for drinking than free tap water. (In fact, 40 percent of the time, bottled water is nothing but municipal tap water, freed from the government oversight that keeps it safe.)

Canned beer is safer, has a point (getting drunk), and will almost definitely be recycled, at least in most major American cities. There are poor and homeless people who earn almost all of their money collecting bottles and cans people are too lazy to bring to recycling centers or even toss into recycling bins.

Honorable mentions: soda, fast food, furniture, and appliances (I get the last two from the curb on garbage day)

A Car

I owned a car for my first few months in the city and it was a nightmare. I didn’t need it and couldn’t afford to use it to commute anyway, as commercial parking garages in Manhattan charge $12 to $18 an hour or more (which is more than what many people earn).

For street cleaning, most roads here have alternate side parking at least twice a week, which means waking up at the crack of dawn to find your car, driving around for an hour competing with thousands of other people trying to find a parking spot, then going home and getting ready for work or trying to fall back asleep.

At least once a month, I would forget a day or oversleep, and the tickets back then were $50.00 (now they’re $60 to $125).

If you’re barely scraping by, these parking tickets are the last straw. Why are you paying for a car that’s nothing but a yoke? If you want to escape on the rare weekend it’s possible, it’s cheaper and easier to just rent a car than it is to deal with the constant headache of owning one.

To this day, I still see parking signs that are inscrutable even to seasoned drivers. Maybe the constant wind or a mild bump has twisted a few of them, but I saw one in midtown that apparently indicated it was okay to park in front of a loading dock until 3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, but after that, you had to park along the back wall of a building that was right next to a busy avenue.

The driver asked me what it meant, saying it couldn’t be possibly right, and we looked at the sign for a good two minutes trying to figure out. Another pedestrian stopped to chime in, but that just made it more confusing.

“There’s no way you can ever park in front of a loading dock. They’re using it right now, so you’ll definitely get towed if they even let you try it.”

“So they want me to park next to that wall? There’s no room.”

“Maybe they mean on the other side of the building?”

“There’s a sign there that says no parking after 3:00 p.m., too. This sign looks bent, so maybe I can just park where I am?”

The sign also had a confusing bi-directional arrow, so the other pedestrian and I looked at it, then each other, and shrugged.

“I wouldn’t try it.”

“Me neither.”

I was a good student and had always tested well, but I couldn’t figure out a fucking parking sign.

Honorable mentions: a motorcycle (it will be stolen), any bicycle over $40 (and it’ll eventually be stolen anyway), electric mopeds/scooters (stolen)

Most Americans need a car to drive to work and shop for groceries, or drop off and pick up their kids from school, so while I understand that they need a vehicle (or two), maybe we should rethink urban planning instead of building a new infrastructure and switching to electric cars, which are a band-aid at best for an unsustainable way of living.

If you live in a developed country, stop buying bottled water. Get a water filter if you must, which is better than a plastic bottle you’ll probably only use once. I was stuck in a situation where I had to buy bottled water two years ago, and I still use the bottle to drink refrigerated tap water.

Skydiving is just asinine. But if you love blowing money to risk your life and you hate the environment, by all means, keep on driving to pay for these pointless flights to nowhere.

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