The Millionaire Next Door
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Dan returned home from his date with Alison feeling very good about the evening. It had gone much better than he had anticipated. He found his sister seated on the edge of her chair, waiting for him in the living room. As soon as he entered the room, she asked, “How was it?”
“How was what?” Dan asked teasing his sister a little. She hadn’t even greeted him.
“How was the date?”
“I never realized that my little sister was so nosy,” Dan said pretending to look shocked at the revelation.
“So tell me, already,” Diana said ignoring the comment about being nosy. It was a well established fact in the house that she took inordinate interest in her brother’s life.
“It went well. I picked her up and took her to the restaurant. We ordered and ate dinner. After dessert, we went for a walk,” Dan said giving her the study notes version of his date.
Diana shook her head in frustration. She was half tempted to ask Dan for Alison’s telephone number so she could find out what really happened on the date. Crossing her arms, she sat back in her chair and asked, “What was she wearing?”
“Clothes,” Dan answered, intentionally being dense.
“What kind of clothes?”
“She was wearing a very attractive red dress. She really looked nice in it,” Dan answered. He had been amazed when she had opened the door. Although he had talked with her for a couple of hours the previous night, the loose clothes that she had been wearing did not even hint at the stunning body underneath them. It had taken him a long moment to recover from the surprise.
“Was it new?”
“I didn’t ask. It looked new,” Dan answered wondering how he was supposed to know something like that. He had complimented her appearance and had managed it without drooling or acting like an idiot.
“That’s a good sign. That meant she was looking forward to the date,” Diana said.
“Or that she outgrew all of her other clothes,” Dan said winking at her.
Diana laughed at the comment. Dan had been wearing new clothes for the date, only because he didn’t have any clothes that fit him. The shopping trip that afternoon had resulted in a lot of clothes getting purchased. She asked, “Did you hold the door open for her?”
“Nope. I slammed the door in her face. Took her out in one good blow,” Dan answered.
“You did not,” Diana said with a snort. She was trying to find out how the date had gone and he was being a jerk.
“Okay. I did all of the gentlemanly things,” Dan said.
“What did she order for dinner?”
“A Caesar Salad with grilled chicken,” Dan answered wondering why his sister wanted to know that. He added, “I had the Surf and Turf.”
“She must have really wanted to impress you. She ordered a fairly inexpensive meal. It’s low in calories so that she won’t ruin her figure,” Diana said.
“You got all of that from what she ordered?”
Diana said, “You don’t get it, do you? She could have ordered the most expensive thing on the menu, but she was being careful not to cost you too much. A salad is a nice safe dish to order on a date. No strong spices to give you bad breath. If she went light on the salad dressing, there’s not much of a chance of messing up the dress.”
“Really?” Dan asked. He hadn’t given a second thought about what Alison had ordered for dinner.
“That’s right,” Diana said. She looked at him and asked, “What about dessert?”
“We shared a chocolate dessert,” Dan answered. The meal had been filling, but the waitress had described the dessert in words that were too tempting to refuse. Since neither of them had wanted to eat an entire dessert he had suggested that they share one.
“You shared?” Diana asked.
“Yes,” Dan answered. Listening to his sister was putting an entirely different interpretation to the date.
“She must have really enjoyed herself,” Diana said. There was something romantic about sharing a dessert with a date. She asked, “Were there many long pauses without conversation? Did you hog the conversation?”
“No. She told me about her family. They seem to be rather close knit. A couple of weeks ago, she visited her cousin out in the country. Her cousin came out here to visit for a couple of weeks,” Dan said. He actually thought it was interesting that the parents sent their kids to visit their cousins while they went on a vacation trip.
“You talked about family?”
“Among other things,” Dan answered with a smile.
Diana asked, “So after you finished eating dinner you went for a walk. Did you hold hands? Did she offer her hand to you?”
“We went for a walk. I don’t quite remember who initiated holding hands, but we did hold hands,” Dan said. It had been very nice walking around the park holding hands. They had walked a little, talked a little, and then kissed a little.
“So did you kiss her?” Diana asked.
“I’m not saying,” Dan answered. He was going to use the line that a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell, but that was as good as saying that they had kissed.
“Are you going to see her again?”
Diana settled back in her chair pleased with what she had learned. Finally, her brother had had a good date. It was long past due. She said, “That’s good. That is very good.”
“Why are you so interested in my date?” Dan asked.
Diana was silent for a moment before she answered, “I’ve worried about you for years. You’re the nicest guy I know. It wasn’t right that you didn’t have any dates.”
Sunday afternoon, Dan went into his room and sat down at his desk. It was time for him to do what had been recommended at the end of the Pursuit of Happiness article. The very last section of the article provided a list of questions to answer. In the process of answering those questions, he would develop a personal definition of happiness. After finding a pad of paper, he picked up his pencil and wrote across the top, ‘A Personal Definition of Happiness.’ He knew this would be only the first draft, so there was no sense in rushing through it.
The first question dealt with physical environments. Turning to the first section of the paper, he considered the physical environment that he wanted. With great deliberation he started writing. He struggled over every word. It wasn’t an unpleasant struggle, it was an attempt to be precise in what he wanted.
As he worked, a very nice picture emerged of what he wanted out of life. It wasn’t a fantasy image, but one that was reasoned and obtainable. He didn’t write down that he wanted a mansion. He wrote down that he wanted a modest house in a middle class neighborhood that was safe enough to raise his future children. He liked the part of the country in which he lived.
The next few questions concerned the social environment. He described the social environment that he wanted. He wasn’t the type that needed to be surrounded by hundreds of friends. He enjoyed chatting with lots of different folks, but didn’t want anything too personal. He wanted to have a handful of friends with whom he had shared experiences, a number of close acquaintances, and the chance to interact in a controlled way with lots of people. He didn’t want to deal with the same people, day in and day out, which he would have to do in the typical office. Twelve years of putting up with Kim Parker and his other classmates had turned him off of that idea.
The third set of questions dealt with the emotional environment. This was much more difficult to describe. He wanted to have a close friend or two. He wanted to have a wife and children. He didn’t want it to be an overtly emotional relationship, where people wore their feelings on their sleeves. He preferred things like he found at home. Affection was expressed by doing things together, not by repeating words until they became meaningless. Love was expressed by supporting the person through their problems.
He wanted a basically neutral emotional environment, outside of the house. He didn’t want to deal with other people’s problems. He didn’t want a great deal of drama in his life. The emotional environment that police, nurses, and others who dealt with people in crises wouldn’t be nice at all. He didn’t want a high pressure job in which he was competing against everyone around him.
The next set of questions dealt with the biological environment. He went to the appropriate section of the paper, and read it over keeping in mind the questions that were to guide him in writing his ideal. Feeling better than he had in years, he wanted to remain physically fit. He enjoyed good food, but he wasn’t a gourmand. He liked the basic foods on which he had been raised.
The hitch came when he got to the part about sex. For twenty minutes he thought about it, but didn’t know what would affect him in a positive manner. His lack of experience in that area really made it difficult to know what kind of sexual life he wanted, beyond getting laid on a frequent basis. He decided that he would prefer to have a conventional sex life with occasional forays into things that were a little more risqué.
There wasn’t too much to say about the spiritual aspects of his life. He wasn’t a particularly religious man, but he did believe in God. The family didn’t attend church every week, but did go on special occasions. The image of him taking his young children to the church and watching as they dropped a dime each in the collection tray brought a smile to his face. He wanted to feel that God was watching over him. It wasn’t that he was a fervent believer of God, but that he didn’t want to discover one day that God had been watching over him for decades, with disappointment.
The next set of questions dealt with his life’s calling. This was the most difficult section for him to address. He had pretty much accepted that he was going to have to work to support a family, but he didn’t know what kind of work he wanted. He didn’t really have any hobbies, other than cooking. He tried to identify the kinds of characteristics that his ideal job would have.
With respect to his career, he didn’t want a physical job like construction. He wanted a job where he dealt with people, but not exclusively. He wanted a job that required some skill and attention to detail. He wanted the job to have its quick times and its slow times. He also wanted a little independence in his job. As he thought about it, he realized that he’d rather have a job where there wasn’t much reading, beyond what was absolutely necessary.
He sat back in his chair and considered what he had written down. Reading it over, he decided that his ticket to happiness was basically a moderate lifestyle. Thinking about what he had written, he liked what he had identified. If he could achieve all of the things in his description, he would be happy. He realized that he would be happy just pursuing that life.
Looking down at his write up, he said, “I am responsible for my own happiness.”
Tom, Susan, Dan, and Alison arrived at the picnic area at the local lake in Tom’s car. It was a summer day that bordered on being a little too hot, but they had plenty of iced drinks. The lake wasn’t too far away from the picnic tables, and the water was inviting. The picnic table they found was shaded by a large oak tree, so they wouldn’t be baked by the sun.
Once Tom had parked his car, he and Dan carried the cooler and the box of food they had brought over to the picnic table. The women followed along chatting a little. They knew of each other from school but had never really met, since they had belonged to two different social groups. As he put the cooler on the table, Tom said, “This is nice.”
“Yes, it is,” Dan said. He glanced over to where to women were talking and asked, “Did you ever think we’d be going on double dates?”
“To tell the truth, no. I never figured that both of us would have a date in the same month, much less the same day,” Tom said. The two of them had had very few dates while in high school.
“Same here,” Dan said. It hadn’t started out as a double date. He had mentioned to Tom that he was taking Alison to the lake and Tom had said that he was taking Susan. The suggestion that they go together just naturally followed. It had taken their dates by surprise. He looked at Alison and said, “She’s very pretty.”
“Yes, she is,” Tom said looking over at Susan.
The pair of women arrived at the table having come to a satisfactory agreement about the double date. Susan asked, “So what did you two cook up for us?”
Tom pointed to the box and said, “My mom fried up some chicken. She makes the best fried chicken in the world.”
Gesturing to the box that he had brought, Dan said, “I made some potato salad, cole slaw, and my own homemade rolls.”
Raising an eyebrow, Alison asked, “You cook?”
“Just a few things,” Dan answered.
Grinning over at Dan, Tom said, “Wait until tonight. Dan said that he was going to make some of his Parker’s Perfect Pizza for us.”
“Parker’s Perfect Pizza?” Susan asked looking over at Dan.
She had known that Dan was Tom’s best friend, but had never understood the relationship. Tom was brilliant and Dan was the school dummy. She had been shocked when Dan had shown up with Alison.
Tom said, “Dan makes the best pizza in the world.”
“It’s okay,” Dan said with a smile.
Teasing him, Alison said, “I didn’t know that you cooked. You’ve been holding out on me. What else haven’t you told me?”
“Not much ... just that I’m a superhero in disguise,” Dan answered with a wink.
As Dan and Alison traded witty remarks about the advantages and disadvantages of being a superhero or dating one, Susan watched the exchange with a puzzled expression on her face. Dan was a lot wittier than she had suspected. Tom noticed her watching the couple and said, “He’s not stupid.”
Susan looked over at Dan and asked, “So why did they say that about him throughout school?”
“Because he was forced to learn how to read one way, when his brain is wired to do it a different way,” Tom answered. He said, “Don’t underestimate Dan. He’s a lot smarter than anyone ever gave him credit for being.”
“You’re just saying that because he’s your friend,” Susan said finding it difficult to believe that the entire school had been wrong about Dan.