Their Bad Habits Are Better Than Mine

By Raymond Lesser, The Funny Times

Harry knows how to get exactly what he wants: sympathy.

When I complain that my back is sore from shoveling snow, he explains why he needed to have half the bones in his spine fused together, after jumping out of a burning building.

When I mention that someone backed into my parked car, he tells how he's still paying off the bills accumulated when his ex-wife stole and wrecked his car.

When I talk about the difficulty of carting my son from school to soccer game to trumpet lesson, he simply nods in agreement before revealing that he's been doing the same thing since he was 19, for his eight children.

Harry's problems are simply much better than mine. I resent Harry, and people like Harry. What fun is complaining, if your complaints always turn out to be more insignificant than theirs?

Hanging around Harry makes me thankful for my good fortune. But sometimes I don't want to be thankful for my good fortune, I want to complain about my bad luck.

And Harry isn't the only one who outdoes me in my bad habits. There's also my friend Steve.

Steve is the cheapest man I've ever come across. He reuses canceled postage stamps. ("They don't check to see if they're canceled anyway.")

Steve never buys a newspaper or magazine. He goes out on garbage night and takes the bags full of recycled newspapers and magazines out of his neighbors' trash. ("The news doesn't change in a week. It's the same disasters, and the same weather.")

I can't stand people who are as cheap as Steve, because it makes my own cheapness seem petty by comparison. So what if I pinch pennies by lowering my thermostat to 65 degrees? Steve won't even turn on his furnace until his water pipes start to freeze.

And how satisfying is it to wait until winter is almost over to get myself a new pair of boots at 50% off, when I know Steve has been resoling the same pair he's had since his feet stopped growing?

Everybody needs to be the best at something. For me it used to be completely ignoring my responsibilities without a trace of guilt. When the baby needed his diapers changed, I had no problem surfing channels on the remote control until my wife finished doing the dishes and came in to notice the stench.

Then I met Jane. She would drop her kid off at our house to play, and forget about him until it was bedtime and we called to remind her where he was. Then she'd have the nerve to ask me to drop her kid back to her house!

Once I made the mistake of lending Jane some tools, so she could fix a leaky faucet. Later I found out she had enlisted another neighbor to do that job, in exchange for lending him my tools. And she expected me to go and try to get them back from the guy. She actually believed she was doing me a favor, because she thought I'd like to meet him.

That's Jane: completely irresponsible and she thinks she's doing me a favor. How can I possibly top that?

Well, maybe with Tony, who thinks he's always right. Tony's got an answer for everything, and advice for every situation, whether you ask for it or not. Tony is barely able to pay for a tank of gas, but he's got a million ideas on how I can get rich quick. ("If I were in your position, I'd be buying oil futures contracts now.")

Even though Tony has been divorced three times, he knows exactly what I should say to my wife, to make up after an argument. ("Tell her it's not your fault. Blame someone else. That always used to work for me.")

Tony knows more remedies than my doctor, more people to sue than my lawyer, and more ways to improve myself than my mother-in-law. Of course Tony drives me crazy with all his advice, but what I really can't stand is that so many of my friends take his advice instead of mine.

Isn't it obvious that I know more than Tony, or any of them? What good is always being right if nobody is willing to take my advice?

The real problem with Harry, Steve, Jane, and Tony isn't that they have bad habits, it's that they have the same bad habits that I have, and they're better at doing them than I am. Sometimes I think I should just dump them all as friends.

But then I realize why I stick with them: No matter how awful the things are that I do, they can do worse with their eyes closed. Which make me look good by comparison. And there's nothing I like better than looking good.

This column originally appeared in The Funny Times. To subscribe go to or phone 1-888-FUNNYTIMES.

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