Columns

2012.06.06 The million $$ question

on . Posted in By The Way

Life was so easy when there were kids running around the house. At least one facet of life was easier: It wasn’t so hard to think up something to write for a column every week.

In 1992 I was writing about becoming a millionaire. Now, 20 years later, I don’t suppose that means so much. It’s a billion dollars that people want, not a measly million. Think how fast a million would disappear.

I spent all day Saturday with state track meet business and I’ve been catching up ever since, so here’s something from June 3, 1992. I should have attended the track meet that year. Angie Sneider won two firsts, a second and a third and Morenci took second in the state as a team, even though it was only Angie competing for us.

That was back in the old days when I didn’t yet know enough to attend the state meet. I had kids to play with.

By DAVID GREEN

“What is a millionaire, Zippy?”

I saw that line in a strange cartoon called Zippy. The person asking the question wondered if millionaires use better toothpaste and better toilet tissue.

When he was asked what he would do if he had a million dollars, Zippy said he would buy a large wing-back chair and a bubble gum cigar. Zip is a peculiar character. When he thought about it a little more, he added these wishes: “I’d also wear my underwear on the outside…and change them every half hour.”

Now there’s the sign of a wealthy guy. Few can afford to do that.

I asked my kids what they would do if they had all the money they wanted, and their answers surprised me.

Ben, 9, started off with a new bike and speedometer, then he advanced on to a television and VCR. Then he came back down a little: “A lot more models and paint and glue. A new alarm clock. A watch that works, that’s waterproof.”

I was expecting to hear things such as a mini-van and his own McDonald’s franchise.

Rosie, 6, thought she might get a new house, but not until she was old enough. For now, she’d settle on flowers and food plants and fruit. It sounds as though she’s been harangued by her parents. It sounds as though we have yet to plant our garden, and that’s mostly true.

Next was Maddy’s turn. What would the three-year-old do with all the money she wanted?

“Eat it all,” she answered. Now that sounds like something Zippy might come up with. The problem is that she thought I said “honey” instead of “money.”

Once I got her straightened out about that, she said she would buy a hundred things. 

“A refrigerator, if I had my own house. A pretend dog. I mean a real one. And, uh, bananas. Bread. Honey on peanut butter. A water bottle. And a door.” And then looking around the room, “That’s all I have. I’m done.”

Zippy got me to thinking about what a million would mean to me. Just get rid of my mortgages and I’d feel rich. Or how about this—paid health insurance with no deductible. I’d be able to retire when I was 50!

If I suddenly had a huge quantity of money, it seems as though I’d get everything paid off that isn’t still owned in partnership with the bank. One choice would be to leave this job behind and live off my money, but it seems instead I would just buy some new equipment for the Observer rather than leave the place. Have a little more fun with modern technology, just to see what I could do with it. Hire another person or two, work fairly normal hours instead of staring at this computer monitor until 3 a.m. That sounds rich.

My wife brought me out of the reverie by saying what a drag it would be to have a million. Huh?

You’d just think about everything you want to buy, she says, and you would want more and more. She thinks it would be a good way to wreck your life.

She’s probably right, and besides, it’s not going to happen anyway. I might as well join Zippy and start buying more underwear.

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