Lifestyle: Easy Payments

This month, we catch up again with Julius Simplus, the itchy-footed Roman who took up
chariot camping, at a Gaul-Mart parking lot in what is now France. With a used chariot and
two horses, he had taken to the road with his dog, Canis Sleepus, to escape the fast pace
of city life in Rome and sell used togas to country folks. Unfortunately, Julius’ knowledge
of the camping lifestyle was zilch. In his ignorance, Julius did about everything wrong. To
begin with, Julius relied on the word of Edvardus Fastus (Fast Eddie), a used-chariot
salesman, who sold him a rig totally unsuitable for its intended purpose, but which earned
Edvardus a hefty commission. Then he was fast talked by Flavius Flakus (Freddie the Flake)
into a time-share membership that proved to be entirely too expensive to maintain. And in
his first few days on the road, he angered his fellow charioteers on mountain passes with
his refusal to pull over and let faster traffic go around him, and his fellow campers with
inconsiderate campground etiquette. We find him now continuing that pattern of ignorance
and insensitivity by spending his sixth day in the parking lot at the Gaul-Mart. With a
campfire blazing most of the night, his horses doing their horse things, and Canis Sleepus
doing his dog things all over the place, Julius was finally asked by the store manager to
move on. Following the road that led to what we now know as the English Channel, across
which Caesar had led his army a few years before, Julius met many fellow campers during his
nightly stops. At one place, he was intrigued by a band of gypsies and enthralled by their
music, colorful garb and, particularly, their vehicles. In fact, he was absolutely smitten
by one owned by the leader, Wily Roma. It was a wagon with a cute little house built on it
— green, with two windows with yellow shutters, four wheels with silver spokes and a
chimney protruding from the roof, which meant cooking inside and having a warm place to
sleep. And, the frosting on the cake — four white horses hitched up to it. Unbelievably,
it had a FOR SALE sign on it. He had to have that rig. What Julius didn’t know was that the
owner of the rig had been watching. Sensing a pigeon, he emerged from the door, poised for
the kill. When Julius inquired why the rig was being sold, Wily launched into a long story
about how his wife was ill and her only chance to live rested with a famous doctor in
Spain. He was sacrificing his beautiful rig to get the money for the operation that would
save his wife’s life. It all sounded reasonable to Julius who bit — hook, line and sinker.
Wily invited Julius inside to take a look at all the bells and whistles. A shiny black iron
stove stood at one end next to a cupboard filled with bowls and jugs of foods. A dining
table and four bunk beds were hinged to the wall and could be folded up to allow more
living space. A copper wash basin sat on an enclosed cabinet, which, when opened, revealed
a hidden chamber pot. But topping all those wonderful amenities was the water tank on the
roof that provided sun-warmed water to both the kitchen and the bathroom! Mrs. Roma had
done a marvelous job of interior decorating. There were cute curtains at the windows,
colorful vases filled with wildflowers, scented candles emitting heavenly aromas, bearskin
rugs on the floor, even a mirror on the wall by the wash basin. Going outside, Wily showed
Julius the four beautiful horses that pulled the wagon. As with most men, Julius was
mesmerized by the thought of doubling the horsepower he presently had. Wily lifted up a
horse’s hoof to show its perfect horseshoes, he pulled back the horse’s lips to show its
perfect teeth, and he assured Julius that the young horses were good for a lot of miles.
And although they were big and powerful, the horses didn’t require much food. In fact,
claimed Wily, “They give 50 miles per feeding of oats.” (Later Julius found that figure was
about half the reality.) Fearing that the price would be beyond his means, Julius asked,
“How much?” His fears were justified. The price would take his life savings of gold dinarii
— plus MCMXCIX (1999) dinarii more. Julius’ hopes were fading fast when Wily came up with
a magic solution: “Tell you what I’m gonna do,” he said. “You can pay the balance in CCXD
(240) easy payments.” Although his head was telling him, “No,” Julius’ heart was telling
him, “Go for it.” His heart won, and that’s why a destitute Julius lives in his gorgeous
but permanently parked rig next to Wily Roma’s stable. The foolish Roman spends his days
shoveling manure to pay for his “trading up” folly. And his dreams of life on the road have
turned into a nightmare. There must be a lesson or two here for 21st century RV
enthusiasts.

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