December 2, 2014

The Value of a Dollar

Dear Reader: I encourage you to read the following story. It has an important lesson. It also describes an event when I threw up several times. 
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I come from a long line of teachers. My father was a teacher, and my father’s father was an astronaut. (Okay, I lied about it being a long line.) Anyway, in the summertime, my father would usually get a job to keep himself busy until school started again.
The problem was that Dad assumed that since he was working, his kids should work, too. The nerve of that guy! The fact of the matter was that the last thing I wanted to do in the summer was work.
            When I was twelve, my father got a summer job for which he needed a “helper.” The job was to deliver newspapers in the early morning. What made this sound good was that Dad said that he would share a portion of his earnings with his helper.
 Ha ha! Money! I thought gleefully. 
Dad even made the job sound fun: “It’ll be the middle of the night! Nobody will be on the road, and we can finish the job and be back in bed with money in our pockets before anyone gets up!” 
Even though this was complete baloney, I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. With greedy visions  of MONEY ($ Cha-ching! $), I eagerly volunteered for the job. 
I’ll be rich! I thought.
One part of the job I had not considered was my tendency for car-sickness. Back then, I tended to feel queasy if a street had a lot of twists and turns. (We called a street like this a “twisty-turny.”) As luck would have it, our delivery route was in a hilly district, with lots of  “twisty-turnies.” 
Dad woke me at 3:30 A.M. It was the middle of the night. I already felt sick to my stomach. He guided me downstairs to our VW Bug. By the time we made it to the newspaper pick-up site and loaded up the newspapers, I was feeling green. 
            Then the nightmare began.
            Dad’s philosophy was that it was best to finish the newspaper delivery route as fast as possible. The orange VW Bug rocketed up and down the hilly country roads, with Dad swerving everywhere, safe in the knowledge that nobody else would be up at such an ungodly hour. Dad would take the curves tight, accelerating through them, deftly swerving to miss potholes, and then he would slam on the brakes . . . so that I could stick a newspaper in a tube. 
If Dad overshot a mailbox, he would shove the gears into reverse, wait for my delivery, then quickly shift back up to light-speed. He was driving like he was in a race, and the faster he drove, the more nauseous I became.
            I asked him to pull over.
            “But we don’t have a delivery here,” Dad answered.
            “I’ve got a delivery! Pull over!” I cried, holding my hand to my mouth.
            He pulled over. I made my delivery. Blech! After barfing my brains out, I got back in the car, feeling dreadful. (To read more, click on “Read More”)
            Here’s where my father’s true colors emerged. As an optimist, he felt obligated to point out the good things in even the worst situation. 
            “Boy, you needed to get that out of your system! Well, we’ve got a long ways to go, so let’s get back at it!” With that, the VW Bug leapt back out onto the shadowed asphalt.
            After we pulled over a second and third time for more of my “deliveries,” Dad seemed to consider slowing down. After the fifth time, he said, “There’s really no sense slowing down now because you’re already throwing up! Get it? Heehee.” (I gave him a mean look.) “Just kidding. The trip will be over soon. You can crawl back into bed when we get home, or maybe ask Mom to make you waffles!”
            I wasn’t sure if he was being sincere or enjoying himself at my expense, but my answer was interrupted by a powerful urge to throw up yet again. (Waffles? Baug!) As I got back into the car, Dad offered me a “sure-fire cure”—some Pepto-Bismol tablets from the glove compartment.
            “These will definitely settle you down. I don’t know why I didn’t think of them sooner.”
            I took two of the pink tablets. Swallowing, I could feel my stomach acid and the pink stuff mixing in my stomach. The results of that combination were spectacular and could be seen vividly on the side of the car shortly afterwards. 
            Pulling my head back in from the chill wind outside the window, I waited for the other shoe to drop.
            “You know son, I’ve never seen anyone do that so many times! We’ll have to write a family song! ‘He had the urge . . . to . . . regurgitate! He threw up all that food he ate!’”
Our newspaper deliveries continued. I lost count of my upchuck tally at ten or eleven, but either way, I set a family record. It holds to this day.

            When we finally got home at about 6:30, I brushed my teeth and crawled into bed. When I awoke a few hours later; the night before seemed like a bad dream. 
            Had it really happened? It all seemed so awful and unreal. 
            Then I got excited. Money! How much money had I made for going through that terrible ordeal? It had to be a lot!
With happy and greedy thoughts filling my head, I rolled over to my nightstand. I then saw that the nightmare was not over.
On my nightstand was my payment for being Dad’s helper.
            It was a single, green, one-dollar bill.

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