Almanac Life: The Tightarse

It was at the recent birthday party of a good friend that I was contemplating the gulf between those who are naturally disposed to generosity, and those whom we would regard as being “tightarses”. It went without saying, as the wine and beer flowed and numerous trays of finger-food slowly made their way about the pub, that my friend falls firmly into the former category; on a number of occasions, I have been a fortunate and grateful recipient of his largesse.


I thought of a bloke who was the diametric opposite. A work associate, for whom the saying “he would not shout if a shark bit him” was surely invented. Nicknamed Ocker, my workmate may well have been the most miserable skinflint to ever have walked the earth. It was both a misfortune and a macabre pleasure to witness his tightfistedness in action. He retired only a couple of years ago (at the age of 75), finally and unceremoniously pushed out the door by employers who were concerned at his inability to stay awake for more than half a workday. The unkindest cut for old Ocker was having his employee entry card deactivated; he had no computer or internet at home, so on weekends he would regularly haunt the vacant work offices, accessing the web, conducting his banking, sending emails, and ploughing through litres of printer ink.


To save on electricity at home, Ocker would wake, dress, and eat his breakfast by torchlight (with torch and batteries conveniently supplied by his employers). However, one winter’s morning as he sat in his freezing kitchen consuming his porridge, the police broke through his front door and arrested him. Unfortunately for him, a passer-by had seen the beam of the torchlight bobbing about the darkened house and, suspecting a burglar was at work within, alerted the police. Word has it that, to teach him a lesson, the coppers turned on every light and appliance in the house before they made their exit.


For a laugh, we once superglued a dollar coin to the lunchroom floor and curious to watch Ocker’s response when he discovered it. It took him hours, but after procuring a hammer and chisel he finally prised it from the floor, holding it aloft as if it were the holy grail itself.  No vending machine was safe from having a dollar-coin sized washer inserted into it, and no neighbourhood fruit tree was safe from being stripped back to its bare branches. Long before hipsters made it fashionable, Ocker was a master at recognising the value in nature-strip hard waste. Occasional Sunday trips to Bacchus Marsh would see him return with a car-boot full of apples, thieved from the roadside orchards.


There is no crime in being thrifty, but Ocker had more money than a bull could shit, his meanness making Scrooge McDuck look like a spendthrift. He would rarely attend social gatherings but, when he did, he would be the last to buy a round of drinks – his theory being that someone in the shout may leave or die before the end of the round. And in those rare times when our employers were generous enough to foot the bill, it was prudent to stand clear of the sparks flying from his knife and fork and watch as the parsimonious Ocker consumed as much food and drink as humanly possible. It made a change from his diet of toasted cheese sandwiches.


As my friends and I continued to revel at the pub, I marvelled at the psychology behind my old workmate’s tightfistedness. Is it nature, or nurture? Innate, or learned behaviour? Ocker was so wealthy that he owned a block of flats in Altona, haunting the tenants like a New York slumlord. And I wondered if, now that he has more time on his hands in retirement, old Ocker has finally summoned the will to enjoy life a little more. Or had he, as some workmates joked, found a method to transport his wealth into the next life? Sadly, on both counts, I doubt it very much.



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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Kevin Densley says

    Good stuff, Smoke – you paint your picture particularly well in this piece.

  2. Grand yarn Smokie. When we left high school for the ‘big smoke’ of Adelaide there were 6 of us in a share house. “Duck” came from a family of modest means and didn’t get enough passes in Year 1 to continue his Uni scholarship in Year 2. We had a kitty that funded the rent, breakfast and dinner costs – but you had to buy your own lunch. We knew Duck was hard up and could barely afford the kitty contribution – so we turned a blind eye to the 10 Weet Bix with 8 desert spoons of sugar he had for breakfast to get him through to dinner. But his ravenous table manners were another thing. He was scraping the last out of the bowl one morning when a particularly hungover resident emerged from his room and said “for Christ’s sake Duck we don’t mind you eating a half box of Weet Bix every morning but could you stop trying to eat the flowers off the bottom of the bowl””.

  3. Smoke – maybe old mate Ocker has figured out how to take it with him.

    Can’t stand that thinking. Every post a winner. Every coin is a fortune. Yes money is hard to come by, but its also (usually) great fun spending it.


  4. There’s the camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle, but then there’s also one of my favourite Australian aphorisms (at least I think it’s one of ours):
    “He was so mean he wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss.”

  5. He’d lock his granny in the outhouse and collect her pension.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    “Ploughing through litres of printer ink”! Lots of laughs in this Smokie.

    Did you ever try selling Ocker a Footy Almanac?

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Ripper Smokie. I had an old schoolmate like Ocker. Elvis impersonator who we’d call Klangster. He’s come out with us every Saturday night with a $5:00 note and expect us to shout him for the rest of the night like we owed him !
    We went along with it for a few years because he was entertaining, but it got tiring after a while and we cut him loose. To this day, he complains that “we were the tightarses”.

    OPS (Other People’s Smokers) have become my bane of late as the ciggies have gotten more expensive !

  8. A few years ago I ended up on a sporting club committee. The outgoing committee consisted of considerably older than me people who had devoted many years of service to the club. Some of us new committee members began to notice the fridge and freezer filling up with beans and peas and sauces and mayonnaises and frozen meals and other things – which was a bit surprising.
    It was later revealed that one member of the older crew on the committee was going away on one of their regular overseas trips. They had developed a habit of depositing the entire contents of their own fridge and freezer into that of the clubs before they departed so as to save on power costs.

  9. Roger lowrey says

    Great yarn Smokie. I just cannot for a minute get my head around whatever the purpose of existence is that such people have. RDL

  10. Daryl Schramm says

    Loved the story Darren. Keep the other stories coming readers. It’s fascinating how others live their lives.

  11. Loved it. I reckon we all read it and thought of old mates who always seem to be at the back of the shouting line no matter the size of the school.

  12. Wouldn’t shout if a shark bit him.

    Tight as a fish’s arse hole

  13. Thanks for your comments, all.

  14. Smokie your story touched me with its honesty & deep sadness for Ocker. It reminds me of someone else that I knew once a long time ago. It brought a tear to my eye & it made me wonder how many people are there out there with money they cannot spend in their lifetime ??? Are they happy ? I don’t know !

  15. Hayden Kelly says

    Good story Smokie
    Ah we have all known someone who would sell their Grandma for 2 bob or as my mum would say is as mean as cat shit .
    I worked in the public service with a bloke who would knock off sugar packets ,biscuits etc from the tea trolley [long time ago ]and when his belt broke he substituted bailing twine to hold up his threadbare pants . He was often seen at weekends going through the bins at Flinders Street station
    He died in the early 1980s intestate as he was probably too mean to give his money to anyone . His estate was circa $5m all of which ended up in the coffers of the Public Trustee .

  16. Just worth saying that “tight” is different to “mean”. Worked with people who had serious hoarding problems. Houses full of old newspapers, junk mail, glass jars, bottles, empty tins etc etc.
    It all had vital symbolic importance for them and they had endless justifications for why it needed to be kept.
    In some unusual way it was an essential security blanket, and they could never get enough of it.
    “You can’t fill a bucket with holes at the bottom”. At the root of it was always severe trauma. War, abuse, severe loss or abandonment.
    There was no point in focussing on the junk, just guiding them toward someone who could help them understand and deal with why the “stuff” had such meaning for them.
    I suspect that if we could ever peel away the many layers of self protective armour that the Ockers have built up (many of us are strangers to ourselves) we would find a similar origin story.
    Laughing with people is always better than laughing at them.

  17. ‘That mean he wouldn’t give you a smell of his fart.’


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