Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Little Baby Debtor

Most of us are born owing money. We just don't know it yet.

Some people have to face it sooner than others. A teenager might want to get a job to have some spending money. Another one might need to get a job to help contribute to family survival. Really unlucky ones might even be sold outright or worked hard in return for meager sustenance.

Down in the city, what do the homeless people ask for? Money. At its most basic level, modern human life is a constant search for money. The urban forager can collect food and clothing from other people's trash, and even build shelter from debris, but they always ask for money. I've never had one ask for food, clothing or building materials. The thing that gets them to speak to strangers is the desire to have cash.

As long as you continue to breathe, you need money, too. You pay to have a home and you pay every time you leave it. If you walk and don't go far, it might only cost you whatever you have already contributed in tax money to have a street or sidewalk. If you ride a bike you've already paid for, you can go farther on those public rights-of-way without shelling out any more. But if you drive, be ready. You must buy fuel. In many places you must pay to park. Just turning the key cost you something.

If you take a real journey, you will have to pay to spend the night at the end of each traveling day. If you pull off to sleep in your car at the side of a quiet road, the local police may tell you to move on. Your best bet is to pay for lodging.

Wow. Maybe you should just stay home and watch TV. Cable or satellite? Here's your monthly bill. The electric bill is right under it. Got Internet? Unless you're scavenging your neighbor's unsecured wireless, pay up again.

There are many ways to succeed in life, if success is simply the acquisition of funds. Survival is simply a matter of finding something someone will pay you to do. If you are concerned with the ethics and morality of your choices, that will complicate your decision. I happen to feel it's good to look at the broader implications of a life choice, but I can see many people do not. And regardless of ethics or morality, you need to consider your own safety. You can get all the other kids on the playground to chip in a nickel to see you jump off the top of the swingset, but then you have to jump off the top of the swingset. You can get the same crowd to kick in to see you eat a slug or a handful of boogers, but then you either have to eat the item in question or fake it very convincingly.

Later in life the playground daredevils grow up to be Evel Knievel or Penn and Teller, if they survive their formative years. Then, in the case of the Knievels of this world, they have to survive their adult years.

There's easy money in self destruction, though not necessarily big money. I guarantee you could find someone to pay to have sex with you before the end of the day. Find the right customer for the right act and the payoff might actually be somewhat impressive. But when the slug you contracted to consume is attached to the person from whom you took money to perform, you can't really fake it.

The obviously destructive things are easy to identify. You can then avoid them if you wish. The destructive acts that appear constructive create a much more dangerous trap.

Because we all have to live, and our daily needs mount into our weekly, monthly and yearly needs, we tumble along from paycheck to paycheck, bill to bill, trying not to end up walking the streets, asking in a low voice whether anyone might have any change on them.

Change indeed. If we could figure out how to, we might. But no one has time to look at the situation in enough detail to figure out how to correct the problems without creating worse ones or just shifting the burden to someone else.

Meanwhile, your kid's diaper needs changing. And the total cost for that operation will probably be in the neighborhood of $1.50, once you figure how much you paid for the diaper, the wipe(s), powder, any rash ointment you might need, the fuel surcharge for the shopping trip to buy them, and your time performing the service.

Just put it on his tab.

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