My First Financial Transaction

When I was only six or seven years-old my father was already trying (in vain) to teach me the value of a dollar. He gave me an allowance of exactly two quarters every Saturday. I had no clue what to do with them and every week just stuck the quarters in an otherwise empty desk drawer in my room. After awhile it dawned on me that no matter how many weeks went by I couldn’t seem to accumulate more than two quarters. I had three siblings but the prime suspect was my brother Chuck. He was the one who put a crab claw under my bed, said I looked fat in my favorite flouncy taffeta skirt, and buried my best Barbie in the yard (after putting whipped cream in her hair- the perv) so without hesitation I marched into his room and confronted him.

“Did you take my quarters?”

“No, I didn’t take your stupid quarters.”

“You liar,” I said. “Gimme back my quarters.”

Notice I said my quarters, not my money. I don’t think I’d quite made that connection yet.

“Get out of my room!” he yelled threatening me with a pair of shorts he picked up off the floor. For once.

“I’m telling Dad on you,” I said.

My father was in the living room reading one of his flight manuals. He was one of the good pilots. Always landed on the runway and at the right airport. I made the mistake of asking him once how it worked. How a big heavy airplane could actually fly and stay up in the air. I’d hoped to dazzle my classmates with the info I was privy to during Show and Tell but he said something about centrifugal force and my brain just switched off. I’m not sure it ever switched back on actually.

“Chuck keeps stealing my quarters!” I announced breathlessly. I was standing on one leg like a flamingo when I said it. I did that a lot for some reason.

“Is that right?” he said, clearing his throat and pushing himself up from the chair. Danish modern. My mom thought she was so cool on account of having that danish modern furniture. I thought it was ugly and uncomfortable.

“Where is he?” my dad asked wearily.

Wearily. How else would you expect someone who’d fathered four kids in five years to respond?

“In his room,” I said smirking. Oh yeah, he was gonna get it. For sure.

When my dad got into Chuck’s room he didn’t waste any time. He didn’t say, “Good morning, Son,” or “How’s it hanging?” or anything. He just came right out with it.

“Have you been stealing your sister’s allowance?”

Chuck just looked down at his bare feet with the red fluffy carpet sticking up between his toes. You’d think he’d never seen his feet before the way he kept staring at them. He didn’t say anything or nod his head even.

My father twisted his head around on his neck like he was trying to keep from losing his mind.

“I asked you a question, ” he said.

Finally, Chuck looked up, “She just leaves them in that drawer. She never does anything with them.”

“Give the money back and apologize to your sister.”

“I can’t,” my brother whimpered, leaning up against the wall covering his butt with his hands.

“Why’s that?”

You could tell by the way my dad was fuming that it wasn’t really going to matter much either way.

“I used it to get ice cream from the ice cream man.”

So that’s what those quarters are for, I thought.

My father shook his head, “I’m not going to spank you,” he said, “but you’re going to have to let your sister have something of yours.”

I was relieved. I didn’t really like it when any of us got spanked.

My dad turned to me and said, “Go through his toys, pick any one you want and you can keep it.”

I was game but not overly optimistic. My brother and I were on completely different wavelengths when it came to toys. I was all about dolls. Baby dolls, Barbie dolls, paper dolls. I LOVED dolls. My other brother liked dolls too but not Chuck.

Still, I felt a little giddy when I was looking through his closet. Baseball mitt, nah, boxing glove, nope. Basketball, no way, toy truck, hmmm, nah. Then I saw it propped up in the corner and I knew. It was a wooden bat with the words Louisville Slugger written in cursive on it.

“Can I have this?” I asked.

“No!” Chuck yelled and just like a little bitty baby he started to cry.

My father pointed at him and said, “That’ll teach you not to steal.”

Another one of my father’s misguided attempts, but whatever. I had my brother’s very favorite thing in the whole world.
I felt exhilarated. Like I was taller or something all of a sudden. I knew exactly what to do. I ran out of the room, through the dining room, and opened the sliding glass door that led to the patio. I stood by the edge of the pool for at least a half a second before throwing it in. It floated a little while, rolling a bit. Sometimes you could see the words, Louisville, or Slugger, and then just gger when it started to sink.
My brother stood at the door screaming and crying and carrying on. My father came out, took one look and started to remove his belt.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he shouted exasperated.
I thought it was pretty obvious so I didn’t say anything.
He folded over his belt. “You two go to your rooms,” he said, adding,”You’re both getting a spanking!”
Which I also thought was fairly obvious.


How Not to Sell a Car- I put this ad on Craigslist. Didn’t get a single call…

This is a 2005 PT Cruiser with a bunch of miles on it–all in all like 103,600 of ’em. This car is not in pristine condition or anything but it is okay, not terrible. I did back into a telephone pole once just lightly so there’s a little crack in the back bumper but nobody would ever notice it unless they looked directly at the bumper, and why would they? It doesn’t have any bumper stickers on it. No My Kid is Smarter than Yours or I HEART my Pitbull or anything. I never put any bumper stickers on it (not even to cover the little crack) because some people are crazy and they’ll run you off the road or key your car or whatever if your bumper is endorsing the wrong political candidate or if they don’t agree with your philosophy.

All right, enough about the bumper- about the tires, two or three of them could stand to be replaced before the next Haley’s comet passes, but there’s one that is really new and another one that’s pretty new. Those are in the front. I know you should buy like a whole set at once but I could never swing it financially. Maybe after I unload this baby I can buy some tires. But hopefully the next car I get will already have them. I do want to get another car. This one works and all but it has no pizazz and I never was crazy about the color.

Yikes! I just realized this ad has the word “crazy” in it twice. I hope that doesn’t scare anybody off. It really is a good little vehicle. It was NEVER in an accident, other than the aforementioned little friendly bump into the telephone pole. I never hit another car or pedestrian or anything else at all in this car. I’ve been having a really lucky driving streak the past 8 years. Not that I haven’t been ticketed. Let me be clear, it is possible to get a speeding ticket driving this car. Especially in school zones. But it’s not the kind of car that screams, Hey officer, over here!, it doesn’t have that hot rod aura about it, although it is shiny at the moment from a rare wash and wax.

It is, however, the kind of car that says you’ve arrived (sort of) when you have gotten somewhere you were going and put it in park and then look back at it just sitting there waiting for you to take it away again. The A/C works, the radio works, the clock works, as far as I know every single dingle thing on this car works. I do too, but only part-time.

The glove compartment is amazing. It’s like a black hole. You can put so much stuff in there! I’m always completely astonished when I clean it out. It has been pre-cleaned out for your convenience. And I’m pretty sure you have your own hairbrush, toothbrush, chewing gum, emory board, pretty little mostly empty journal thingy, tire gauge, gasoline receipts, mini-flashlight, 8-ball (for big decisions) an unused map of Paris and all that kind of standard glove box stuff.

Now seriously about this car. I have been careful with it. As you can see it still has all of its parts. All the lights work and it has anti-lock brakes I’m pretty sure because I’m getting a discount for it on my insurance (which I need desperately on account of all the darned speeding tickets) and powerful windows and steering and all that. Now about those speeding tickets, don’t freak out it was just two or three and I wasn’t even going that fast at all – so don’t think I went and burned out the motor or anything. This has been mostly driven to work and to the mall- it’s a vicious cycle.

Anyway, if you think it would be a great car for you or someone you know with about $3500 cash lying around please have them call my friend Joe* about buying this. I would have you call me but I am not very good at discussing cars (believe it or not) and he could tell you more about what you as a car-buying individual would probably want to know. I’ve always been a car-buying bystander. Someone else bought this for me and now someone else is selling it for me. I don’t like to deal with those kind of transactions. I’m pretty limited in the kind of transactions I do like to enter into to so call my good sweet wonderful friend Joe. His number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. He is a pretty serious and straightforward guy so I’m not going to show him this ad. He might want me to make some changes. And I’m not keen on revision. But he can help you get this car if you want it and answer any questions– about the car.

Thank you for your interest and if you aren’t interested in this car maybe you know someone who would be.

OKAY the number again in case you forgot xxx-xxx-xxxx and ask for “Joe.”

Serious inquiries only. Thanks ….

* not his real name

At Ikea

He had a receipt that was longer than than ten elephant trunks tied together. He said he was Swedish and didn’t  speak English well. You’d think this would  go over big at IKEA but the guy at the pick up furniture department only spoke  English and the manager who was summoned was more comfortable speaking in his native tongue which was Spanish.

“I was here yesterday. I buy all dees stuff but I never get dees one.”

He pointed to a single item number on the receipt. It was a high gloss black chest of drawers. $349.

The manager looked at the supposed Swede distrustfully.  His legs were chunky and pale protruding from his longer length brushed denim shorts, black with gold thread detailing. His hair was blonde but short and recently styled. His work boots didn’t look worn much, didn’t look like he’d worked in them a whole lot. His red t-shirt was newer, with bold graphic design that might’ve been a bird or airplane. It was kind of abstract.

Maybe he did this all the time. Bought in large quantities then went back and claimed he didn’t get one of the most expensive items.

“We don’t have a record of this not being picked up.”

“But I never get it,” the Swede said. “There has to be a record of that.”

After all, this was IKEA. The place reeked of organization.

The manager frowned. The man had spent thousands of dollars. It would not be good to piss off one of IKEA’s best customers. On the other hand, he was supposedly Swedish. Maybe he was an owner or something. Maybe he was testing them, to see if they’d let people get away with stealing stuff.

I was just waiting for one item. It didn’t take long so I never found out how it ended.  What do you think?

Dream On 12-29-13

Last night I dreamed I blasted off in a rocket. When the rocket landed and the door opened I walked right out unafraid. I thought I must be in Space at first because that’s where rockets go supposedly but instead the air was breathable and so fresh and clean and cool that it was a little bit of a shock to my system. In a good way. There was green grass too and a golden tan dirt path alongside it. A few people were jogging and walking nearby.

I said, “Where am I?” and the answer was Nepal. I was so surprised.

A youngish woman in beige-colored linen shorts and a natural maybe organic cotton tank top came up to me and asked me if I spoke Batwan. I said, no and asked her if she spoke, English, Spanish, or Italian. She shook her head no and I admitted that I didn’t speak Italian myself.  She loped away looking sad and disappointed. I wondered what she needed and hoped it was nothing serious.

When I woke up I immediately told the first person I saw about my strange dream. This happened to be someone who has said to me on more than one occasion, “There is nothing more boring than listening to someone else’s dreams.” When I finished describing the rocket, the air, the scenery, the walkers and joggers, the woman, all in minute detail, he just said “weird”  and went upstairs to brush his teeth.

I, however, took it as a sign. I must go to Nepal and possibly run there! I run here sometimes. Not enough though and I imagine at that altitude it would be difficult. I googled running in Nepal, jogging paths in Nepal, runners in Nepal, looking for the place I’d been to or the woman’s face I’d seen. None of Google’s images matched the ones in my dreams but I LIKEd a Trail Runners in Nepal Facebook page and signed up for their newsletter. I checked out their events too but wasn’t sure how far the runs were because they were in kilometers not miles and I can only go maybe two of those anyway.  I didn’t feel like googling the conversion thingy.

Something was happening in November of 2014. Maybe I’d start training for it now. A 5K or whatever in the Himalayas sounded like an exciting, really out of my comfort zone kind of thing. Like a ride in a rocket. I looked at the photos of the people signed up so far. To my dismay, there were less than a dozen and they all looked like natives. One of them even had the last name, Sherpa.  Maybe their lungs were used to the sharp, thin air up there. Probably their feet were accustomed to the dips and slants and tiny pebbles and crevices, steep inclines and such. My feet are flat and used to flat Florida. I might be ready for a sinkhole but probably not a footrace in the clouds.

I fixed myself a bowl of my usual cereal, supposedly good for you granola, with the same amount of milk covering it –just enough to moisten it not drown it, in the same plain old boring white dishwasher and microwave safe bowl I use every morning.  I looked out the window at the still cloudless sky, the calm bay waters, the few sluggish cars pulling out onto the smooth paved streets below, and felt the mild winter temperature -60s Fahrenheit-  just barely wafting in through the open sliding glass door. I might never ride in a rocket or jog in Nepal but life is good, so far, today.