A penny, or $71.76, for your thoughts
January 30, 2014 § 26 Comments
I am motivated by money. There are countless things I do in daily my life that I wouldn’t do if it weren’t for money. In fact, if it weren’t for my hungry desire to get money, my entire life would be radically different.
The first time I ever did something for money I was five. My brother had taken several cases of crackerjack-type snacks on consignment for some school fundraising thing or other, and he had to sell them. The problem was that we lived at 1512 Rosenberg Street in Galveston, across from the Ursuline Convent. This meant that one side of the street was inhabited by nuns, and the rest of the neighborhood was inhabited by people even poorer than we were.
My pal Chris’s mom was a prostitute and heroin addict. The Rodriguez family had seven kids and covered their windows with bedsheets to keep out the rain. The one or two families that weren’t destitute were close to it or they were retirees living on a very tight budget. In other words, Ian’s customer base for all those snacks was nil.
After a couple of failed door-to-door attempts, he hit on an idea. “Hey, Dad!” he said.
“I know how we can sell all these snacks!”
“We?” Dad had been against the project from its inception, mainly because he’d sold Fuller brushes door-to-door, and had also briefly tried to sell newly constructed homes to passing motorists. He knew first-hand what the word “hopeless” meant.
“Yeah! Me and Seth!”
“Seth doesn’t have anything to do with this.”
“Sure he does. He said wanted to sell ’em with me. Dincha?” He looked over at me but I didn’t answer. Under his breath he said, “Say you did, dummy!”
“I did,” I said not even halfheartedly, perhaps it was 1/16 heartedly, or even 1/32.
“So what’s your idea?” Dad asked.
“Take us down to the ferry landing. We’ll sell ’em to all those people waiting for the ferry.”
Dad nodded. “That’s actually a pretty good idea.”
“See?” Ian said. “Let’s go!”
It was a Saturday, so we climbed into the Galaxie 500 and drove over to the ferry that ran between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula. It was hot and humid and the air was filled with mosquitoes as it always was. Ian started at the front of the line and I started at the back.
The ferry wait was long and boring, and the people in cars were thrilled to buy the crackerjacks. By the time we met halfway we’d both sold our entire inventory. I’d never seen so much cash in my life, close to a hundred dollars.
“This is great!” Ian said. “We gotta go back to school and order some more crackerjacks! We’ll be zillionaires!”
“Just a minute,” Dad said. “You’re not getting paid to do any of this, and it’s taking up my time, and I don’t want to spend another Saturday down at the landing. You’ve sold your quota, and we’re done.”
When it came time to turn over the money to his teacher, Ian, ever the businessman, only forked over half the money. “This total isn’t right,” Mrs. Johnson said.
“Where’s the rest of the money, or the crackerjacks?”
“They got stole.”
“Yeah.” Then he made up a story about how someone had stolen two of the cases while he was selling them on the ferry landing. When he got home he crowed about his windfall.
“You better give me some,” I said.
“I ain’t giving you nothin’ and you can’t make me.”
“Then I’m gonna tell Dad and you’re gonna be in big trouble for stealin’.”
“If you tell Dad I’m gonna beat you up so bad you little crybaby.”
“I’m tellin’ then.”
“Hold on!” Ian fished into his fortune of fifty dollars and gave me five. “If you ever say a word I’ll kill ya, ya little snitch.” I greedily took the fiver, never thinking to demand half, and happily sharing in the spoils of the crime.
Money, money, money
That little five-dollar caper sparked my lifelong appreciation of money and desire to have more of it. Unfortunately, that desire has always been compromised by something I read in a book written by my dad’s communist friend, Max Crawford. It’s a line I can’t forget. “If you want to make money, you have to take it from somebody.”
That line has haunted me my entire life, making me feel guilty about every penny I ever earned.
So when I decided to put a link on my blog where people could subscribe, I felt really weird about it. Why? Because my blog is the one thing I would do whether it ever made a nickel. I write because … well … because. And when I put up the subscription link, and people began subscribing, it felt really weird to actually get money for something that I’d do anyway. When I got a report from PayPal that said my account now had $92 in it, I switched from “weird” to “that’s legit beer money!”
And it was good.
Then out of the blue I got a letter yesterday. Inside it were two things, a note and a check. You might see it and say “You’ll never get rich blogging, pal,” but you’re wrong. With friends like this, I already am.