The Peril of a Great Name

Today’s Word of the Day Challenge from Kristian is FIGMENT, as in FIGMENT of your IMAGINATION. Well, here’s one. 🙂

“When I Win the Lottery…”

How many times have you heard someone say this? I have. And I’ve read about people who did win the lottery, how it played out for them. I gather it does wonders for what people think of, or expect from, you.

If you were to win a lottery, your reputation for wealth would spread far and wide. If you win the lottery, you’ll have long lost relatives who remember you, show up and want to be fed. You’ll have the most sincere wanna-be friends with pressing needs who need to borrow “…just a few bucks. Come on, you have so much.” Sales people of all kinds will be trying to get their foot in your door.

Years back a couple in our town won the lottery and she kept on working at her sales job, one she really enjoyed. But some people resented that. “She’s got all that money now and she’s taking a job away from someone who needs it!” To avoid all these things, some lottery winners have had to move to a place where nobody knew them.

Yes, winning the lottery is a mixed blessing & curse.

And America Has Won the Lottery!

A few decades ago, back in Ontario, a tractor-trailer outfit (a.k.a. a semi) stopped on the weigh scale on the Canadian border, heading into Detroit. The log book said the truck was empty, and the trucker said the same, but Canadian Customs officers were suspicious. Their scale was telling them this “empty” truck weighed more than it should.

They insisted he open the trailer and let them have a look inside… And what to their wondering eyes did appear…
but two dozen people (give or take). People who barely spoke English. Who carried Polish ID + passports.

An Imaginary Figment

Frowning Customs agents turned to the trucker for an explanation and he admitted these people have paid him to smuggle them into the US. “They seem to believe America is so rich that money is just lying around on the streets,” he explained. “So they flew to Canada as visitors and hired me to take them into the States. They want to pick up some of this money that’s lying around.”

The Polish folks were sent home – probably under the allusion that they were so close to riches and weren’t allowed to get their hands on any. And, trying to make a quick buck, the Canadian trucker was charged with smuggling human cargo.

I think of this incident whenever I read comments about how America should open her doors to the poor and needy of other lands. With the fantastic reputation she now has, there’d be standing room only! I think if you go to just about any nation and ask around, people will tell you, “Of course we’re poor compared to those rich Americans.”

Image: DarkmoonArt_de — Pixabay

Easy Money to Be Made! Just Get In

Some people do know that money doesn’t just lie around on the streets, but they still have a pretty rosy image. I was talking to a friend lately, someone who’s lived in Mexico and, with her husband, makes frequent trips there still. She tells me that a lot of Mexicans have the same impression of America: everyone there is rich. If you can get into the States you’ll only have to work a bit and the money will come flowing in. I’m sure the reality is a shock.

There was a time when America meant hard work. It was a new world, with forests to chop down and land to clear, railroads to build, factories to work in. As she prospered, her reputation for wealth increased. People in other lands now believe Americans all have great jobs and yachts and vacations around the world. From what they see, money obviously comes easy in the US. And some American writers are quick to support this thinking.

One blogger, quoting the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, felt that the States should just open the borders and let people come. Lots of room! Lots of jobs! Another article writer claims the US has room for a hundred times more people that what are living there now. (Mind you, this writer said nothing about where all these newcomers would find work. A lot of manufactured goods seem to be coming from overseas these days.)

I get the impression that many Americans — those who blog and write articles — are saying, “America is so rich. We can share.” (Or rather, “Our govt can share.”) That seems to be the “Haves” perspective. Those folks with good jobs or pensions, those who’ve won their share of the American lottery and are enjoying it.

Unlike those hopeful Poles, I’ve been in the States, seen enough places, and read enough that I realize there’s a major “Have Not” section in the US, too. So how do the Have Nots – all those folks living in ghettos, tenement slums, on the streets, Appalachian villages, and homeless camps in Florida – look at this “y’all come” generosity? Folks who’ve missed out somehow on the big win, what’s their take on this? If they were allowed to share their perspective, they could tell money-seekers a thing or two.

To Whom It May Concern:
Canada is a tough place to survive; you have to work hard to make a living; we’re almost all relatively poor; precipitation is unpredictable; our winters can be bitterly cold. We’re glad for immigrants but not delusions. 🙂

The Worst Ever!

For Goodness Sake, Read History (Part 2)

A few days ago I received an interesting phone call from some lady wanting to share a few Bible verses with me. She started out by quoting Jeremiah 29:11-12, then began talking about having peace during these troubled times. Especially with this pandemic – the worst that’s ever been!

Reader of history that I am, I reminded her of the Black Death. In the 1300’s the Bubonic Plague was brought back to Italy by sailors returning from the orient; it subsequently swept through Europe in several waves and wiped out about a third of the population of the western world. A person could argue that Covid-19 could have been as bad; however, we’ve taken extreme precautions and also have access to an infinitely better health care system.

Plus, our lot is easier because we have less corruption. I read once that in some Italian cities men were hired to go house to house and bring out any that were diseased. These toughs were given free rein to “diagnose” and haul away anyone they didn’t like or demand payment – in whatever form – from the home’s occupants. Occupants unwilling to pay risked being tossed on the cart with those already infected and/or dying.

Pardon me, but the only reason anyone can say this is the worst pandemic in history is because they don’t know history. Even the Spanish ‘flu was worse, as health care was limited and whole families sometimes died. People may be pretty panicked now, but there’s nothing like the superstition of the Middle Ages. No one has resorted to self-flagellation as some did during the Bubonic plague, going from town to town whipping and slashing themselves to gain the sympathy of the gods in hopes of averting the plague.

Climatic Disaster and Famine

Last night in Bible Study we were going over Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt and Pharoah’s dream, which Joseph interpreted. (Genesis Ch.41) Joseph predicted seven years of plenty, followed by seven lean years. According to the Bible account, this was a widespread catastrophe. It dawned on me that the drought and famine in Egypt would have been a lot like our “Dirty thirties” years.

People in the Thirties may have said, “This is the worst climatic disaster in history,” but I suspect there have been various climatic disasters before that one. Most of us have never heard about them. In most cases records weren’t kept; the accounts became simple folklore.

Thankfully, the Great Plains people learned a lot from those dry years; farming practices have changed drastically since the drought and soil moisture conservation has become a priority.

As to the Middle East famine, Joseph was able to guide Egypt through those years and preserve his own family as well. But over all, the land that was once a breadbasket is now desert sand.

Buying, Selling, and Lessons Learned

One good thing is that Egypt didn’t have a stock market to crash like ours did in 1929. In that sense the Thirties delivered a double-whammy here in North America. Then with a war looming — things must have looked pretty bleak indeed to our grandparents.

In the 1920s the sale of stocks was booming, investors were making piles, and bankers came under pressure to make collateral-free loans to wannabe stock-buyers. All these new players drove the price of stocks up, but seasoned traders were keeping a nervous eye on the trading, knowing stock prices had to level off and maybe even drop.

On “Black Tuesday” Oct 29, 1929 someone(s) got so nervous he/they dumped thousands of stocks on the market. Others investors saw this and figured, “Ah! Someone knows something. Prices are going to drop. We’re selling, too!” Sixteen million shares were thrown on the market that day and more during the rest of the week. By Friday the market was flooded with shares no one wanted to buy. The rest is history.

In the 1990’s the US government, under pressure from builders, increased the sale of new houses by urging bankers to give collateral-free loans with very low interest rates. Mortgages were contracted right and left; new home buyers gave the housing market the shot in the arm builders were hoping for. But when those mortgages came up for renewal at the regular interest rate… The rest is history.

The housing market crash and ensuing depression didn’t hit us as hard here in Canada because a) Canadian bankers are far too cautious to make collateral-free loans and b) you can’t legally walk away from a mortgage you’ve contracted here in Canada. If the mortgage holder defaults, the bank may repossess and sell the house but the holder is legally liable to pay whatever is still owing.

Fifty years from now will someone again come up with some new purchase people must make and urge bankers to make low-interest, collateral-free loans so people can have this new necessity? And it will lead to another depression? Or will our descendants read these histories and learn that this hasn’t worked well in the past?

Money’s Important, But…

Money

by Edgar Guest

Money.CharlesThompsonDoes money bring men gladness?
Yes, at times!
It also brings men sadness
and to crimes.

Earned well, it is a pleasure,
none denies;
but in the love of treasure
danger lies.

Who grasps for it in blindness,
foul or fair,
sells out to bleak unkindness
and despair.

By money friends are parted;
hatred sown;
for money, marble-hearted
men have grown.

Money’s important. All require it
til life is o’er
but it destroys men who desire it
and nothing more.

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

Sudden Reality Check

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LIFE’S ALLUSIONS

My response will be a story about a young couple who’ve come to a crisis-point over life’s allusions and illusions.

THE BUDGET WON’T REACH

Rick pulled out his receipts and the notebook in which he was recording their monthly expenses. For several weeks Lexi had been alluding to the lack of money for extras; this morning she’d actually had to leave some things at the checkout because the debit card wouldn’t cover her grocery bill. The cashier had been nice about it, but she was so humiliated.

Her allusions were getting him down. He’d hoped to give her so much more than a tight budget and no money for extras. If possible he would find some way to free up some more funds for groceries. They did need to eat.

He started entering the receipts in his notebook when he came across one from Turner’s Home Trimmings. Lampshade: $42. Lampshade? Guess that explains why there wasn’t enough to cover the groceries, he thought.

Rick was annoyed. Why on earth did she buy a new lampshade when funds are so tight. She seems to have some serious illusions — or delusions? — about the lifestyle we can live on our income. Well, this lavish spending has to stop. Now.

“Lexi,” he called. “Did you just spend $42 on a lampshade?”

She hurried into the room. “Yes, I did,” she answered defensively. “The shade beside the couch was looking so tattered, I was ashamed to have anyone into our living room. I know what Mom would say if she saw it.”

“We could have made do with it for another year. I hate to disillusion you, but we can’t afford all this nice new stuff at this point in time. I’m not earning the kind of money your Dad is, not yet, so you just can’t spend like your mom does.”

“It’s only one thing — the first new thing this year. And there’s always VISA.”

“There is NOT always VISA. Credit does not mean FREE. Credit means deferred payment — preferably only until the end of the month. We have to cut out ALL unnecessary expenses until I’m earning more commission. Then you can buy new lampshades and such.”

“Well, if it makes you happy, I’ve cut out one expense. I’ve stopped buying birth control pills.”

Rick nodded. “Well, if you can do without…” He stopped and looked at her sharply. “And…?”

She blushed.

“And…?”

“And now we’re going to have a baby.” She sounded embarrassed, uncertain.

Rick put his head in his hands, extra expenses scribbling themselves in his brain. “That’s wonderful.” He took a deep breath and looked up at her again. “We’ll manage somehow.”

Lexi had imagined how she’d share the great news and they’d be so thrilled together. Now her illusions had burst like a pricked bubble, turning her stomach over on their way down. She rushed to the bathroom.

The Car, Harry Potter, or Donald Trump?

I had a fruitful trip to the hearing aid store yesterday; the audiologist upped the volume on my two hearing aids. I can now hear more than I ever wanted to. Shopping in stores was a general roar; our air cleaner sounded like a jet idling beside our window; plastic bag crinkles sounded like icicles crashing onto cement. To save my sanity I soon shut the hearing aids off.

Fortunately I have a little device at home called a Streamer, which I rarely use. It’s the remote volume control for my hearing aids, one that will also turn them to “phone” setting and stream the call into my hearing aids straight from my phone. However, I find it a nuisance for the most part; it’s always bumping against things, which messes up its settings. So the streamer stays in a drawer until urgently needed. We charged it up when we got home yesterday and I turned it on. Oh, joy! I was able to turn the volume in my hearing aids down to a normal level.

My hearing aids are ten years old now, and considered Obsolete — which means not fixable, not replaceable — so I asked the audiologist how much a new set of hearing aids would cost. I told him I need to prepare, decide what to sell so I can afford them. (No one wants your kidney when they find out you’ve had leukemia, so I need to think of other assets.)

He thought a moment, then answered, “Sell the car. A set of hearing aids would cost you about $3400.” He didn’t say “minimum.”

Well, yes, that would be the car. I shook my head. “Maybe I could write a bestseller? I’m a writer…and I understand the Harry Potter books author was broke and made her fortune with that series.”

Then I thought about my own writing. Not enough murder, mayhem, suspense, erotica, etc. “Trouble is, I don’t write bestseller-quality stuff,” I admitted.

“Write a book about Trump,” he said. “That could be a seller. Donald Trump, from a Saskatchewan perspective.”

Mulling the matter over later, I realized I’d easily spend $3400 traveling around the province researching “Donald Trump: A Saskatchewan perspective.” Furthermore, would readers in general, and the folks who make up the Bestseller list, be interested in knowing what we here in Sask think of him?

A Harry Potter-type fantasy, on the other hand, could be dreamed up, researched, and plotted right here at home. Hmm…

Selling the car would be easier.

Defalcation

Hello dear readers. I’ve recently come across another new word, DEFALCATION, and I’m going to share it with you.

Money.CharlesThompson
Charles Thompson  —  Pixabay

This is what public officials, treasurers, and mutual fund managers sometimes fall into, or are accused of. The primary meaning is to misappropriate or divert funds, especially public money, to embezzle. According to Merriam-Webster, another meaning is to fail to meet a promise or an expectation.

I’ve demonstrated its use in these two senryu:

defalcation
that trickle to the slush fund
taxpayers’ tears

defalcation
those expense account holes
auditors look through