More expensive by the dozen

I just got a shirt back from the laundry today. $6.75. When did the price jump from $2.25 a shirt to $6.75? There must be some mistake.

“No mistake. They haven’t been $2.25 since Bush – the first one – was president.” I guess I haven’t been paying attention.

Sue and I ate at a local restaurant that sells homemade muffins, sandwiches and boutique sodas and chips from companies I’ve never heard of. We both had a sandwich and a soda. $26.41. Mistake on the bill? No.

Gas was $3.58 a gallon when I filled up. Whew! At least it’s not $4.50 again. But I have a feeling it will be.

“We should be drilling for more oil right here, right now,” my friends say. They seem to think the oil companies are going to turn around and give everyone free oil if we let them do what they want. I bet them $10,000 that oil will end up being more expensive. Last year I would have bet them only $5, but the price of betting has gone up.

The cost of air travel is through the roof. Airlines haven’t started charging for carry-on luggage yet, but you can bet they’re thinking about it. The airlines blame the high prices on the cost of security; someone has to pay for strip-searching Grandma and the see-through-your-clothes X-ray machines.

Airlines could save a lot of money on security, though. Just make a rule that instead of air marshals with guns, some big executive from the airline must be on each flight. In coach. No terrorist would ever get on the plane, you can count on it. And suddenly, there’d be plenty of legroom. That’s what I call having skin in the game. Your own skin.

Getting my teeth cleaned costs $125. A night in the hospital is $2,500 for “observation.” God forbid hospitals should actually try to cure you. Sue and I could go on a two-week-long cruise for that – with gourmet meals and sunshine. Which is probably why I’m sick – not enough gourmet meals and sunshine. Maybe that’s the cure the hospitals have been looking for.

I don’t want to sound like one of those old guys who just talks about what the price of things used to be when he was a kid. I’m talking about the difference in the price of things since last year. Apples, $1.99 a pound. That’s two apples. Tiny avocados, five for $6. Steak is cheaper than fish.

The housing crisis is still going on. I keep reading how much home values have declined. It’s a good time to get a deal on real estate, they say. So all the million-dollar homes are now half a million dollars. What a great deal! Only, I don’t have close to half a million dollars to spend on a house. A hotel-room-sized studio apartment across the street from where we used to live in Manhattan is on the market for $1.5 million. On top of that is a $3,000-a-month maintenance fee. What was it before the housing collapse?

There’s a show on HGTV called “House Hunters International,” and each episode follows a couple who is either moving to another country or buying a second home in another country. When asked about their budget for the new house, they always say something like, “We’re looking for something in the $450,000 range.” They also don’t seem too worried about where the money’s coming from to put their two kids through college. But the most disturbing thing is that they always turn out to be average, normal people – she’s a nurse and he’s an accountant. And they can afford a second home, in a foreign country? Which means they can also afford to get there and get the time off to enjoy it and all that that entails.

“What,” I ask myself after watching the show, “am I doing wrong?” It’s also what Sue says every day after poking her head into my office.

Jim Mullen’s new book, “Now in Paperback,” is now in paperback. You can reach him at

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