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Cheapskates: A Rant

We have become a nation of miserable cheapskates.

It's a shame, really.

Earlier this week I stopped by Stillwater to catch the last half of the Bob Wayne and the Outlaw Carnies show. Ahead of me was a trio of bar-hoppers who looked like they'd been hitting it hard most of the night.

They were on their way in when the doorman stopped them and politely asked for the $5 cover charge. The group looked at him as if he were a deranged mugger from some godforsaken alley in Detroit.

"Dude, what? Ah, c'mon, do we have to pay?" one said.

"Yeah, the music's already started," another added.

The door guy held his ground, as a good gatekeeper should.

I remained patient as a brief haggling session played out before me. I was eager to catch the show, but held my tongue.

One of the dudes actually tried to peek his head in the door to see if the doorman was telling the truth, that there actually was a band playing and this was not some lame extortion attempt.

Eventually, they huddled to decide a course of action. Do they continue to another bar to pound cheap beer? Or do they shell out the monumental $5 and stay for one of the best outlaw country bands going?

Decisions, decisions.

Finally, they paid, ever so reluctantly. They seemed pained by the ordeal.

Like you, I hate the fact that there's nothing free in this life. But I came to terms with this fact many years ago. I live with it.

We are in a terrible recession and things will probably get worse before they get better, at least that's what the president tells us. Putting a couple of bucks back in case of disaster — layoff, swine flu, transmission goes out — is not inherently a bad idea.

But penny-pinching has become a call to arms for some. It has led to some mind-boggling decisions by seemingly reasonable people.

When Denny's offered a free Grand Slam Breakfast for a few hours for one day back in February, people flocked to grease pits across the country to take advantage. I mean, whoa, they're giving away a FREE plate of runny eggs and charred hog flesh. Let's go!

My friend told me people spent hours in his local Denny's waiting for the, by God, free breakfast the television promised.

Now, if you're like me, you are constantly aware of your own mortality and have dedicated yourself to savoring the hours and minutes you have left. I think of these minutes as capital I have left to spend before I one day gag, clutch my chest and collapse in front of the Cubs game.

When it's all said and done, are you prepared to reflect on a life spent strangling pennies until they cry? Or will you just plunk down some change and move on to something fulfilling?

More than Wall Street snakes, evil politicians and lobbyists, I blame the everyday cheapskates among us for the world's misery. Let's say this behavior continues and bands such as Bob Wayne have to hang up their spurs. What then is left to us? Sitting in a bar, rocking to crappy free house music, sucking down the cheapest beer on tap.

I've seen people get huffy at Alex's when they are asked to shell out $3 to see the Rogue Suspects with Jeff Pevar. Seriously, $3. What would you possibly spend that $3 on otherwise? That newspaper you've been saving up for?

So don't pay the cover. Head to the bar where nothing of intellectual, artistic or aesthetic value is happening. Hey, it's the cheapest route, and therefore is the most favorable, eh?

And don't give me this, "But people have kids to feed and bills to pay and it's getting hard to make it" line. If you have kids to feed and bills to pay and you're heading to a bar to not pay a cover and drink beer, which is overpriced no matter what the joint charges, then you should be in jail anyway for being a terrible parent.

Shut up. Pay the cover. You'll make the country a better place.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.