How rich? How quick?
February 15, 2005
So, what do you do for excitement in the cold and dark of
deepest winter? Take a luxury cruise in the Caribbean? Snowboard your tail off
at Sima? Produce yet another brand-new Yukoner? Or do you do what I did a few
years ago and throw heart and soul in to a can’t-miss, get-rich-quick,
No matter what you might have heard to the contrary, I am a
woman of average intelligence. OK, there are those sporadic moments of
scintillating perspicacity, and, yes, there can be the occasional interminable
span of abysmal stupidity. But, for the most part, I am your middle-of-the-road,
common, garden-variety, woman-in-the-street sort of a broad: interested but
cautious, receptive but just a tad wary.
I’ve been known to speculate on the advantages of owning
the Brooklyn Bridge, for instance, but after weighing the pros and cons, I’ve
always gone for the rowboat.
And my friends and family know that. And they depend on it
– and me- to provide a touchstone of practicality, as it were, in their
tumultuous and wildly oscillating lives. "Good old Ellen," they cry.
"Good old steady, reliable Ellen, four-square and sturdy, both feet on the
ground, wholesome and dependable as a bowl of rolled oats. Yessir, that old
Ellen, no two ways about it… she’s all wool and a yard wide."
Hmm, well, I never did care much for that last expression or
the oatmeal thing, for that matter. And perhaps that’s why I did what I did,
that interminable January, putting hearth and home and 40 years of relatively
blissful connubiality, to say nothing of children’s inheritance, at risk.
It was after midnight on a dark and stormy night. My old guy
had gone to seek his rightful repose and I was huddled on the couch under the
much-mended orange afghan, doing what I did best: gradually and inexorably
assuming the weight of the world. Never truly happy unless I have at least 16
causes on the go, I was putting in some overtime on Rwanda, the depleted cod
stocks on the east coast, and a family member’s maxed-out Visa, when a bleary
eye happened to focus on the TV screen where a sincere young man was holding
forth on the mail order route to fame and fortune.
"Show me," he said, "bring me an old family
favourite cake recipe, the blueprint for a bigger and better corkscrew, a
psychic formula for breathing new life into the embers of an old love affair,
and I will show you marketing methods that will bring you wealth untold and the
answers to all your financial problems." And with that, he asked for, and
received, a few random and totally unrehearsed testimonials from members of his
"Jane" had advertised her hand-crocheted
antimacassars. "And I’ve cleared $1,750 in only 10 days," she said
with shy pride. "Jasper" was fresh from banking and week’s income of
$3,200 for mail orders of his own version of a rotating gummy-whistler and was
paying off his mother-in-law’s mortgage and taking his son’s entire Grade 6
c to Disneyworld for a weekend. And they both owed it all to having participated
in the sincere young man’s seminars.
Tears streamed from the eyes of the nouveau-riche
entrepreneurs, as well as from those of several in the audience, during this
moving segment. I teared up a little myself, in empathy, but of a sudden, mine
were dry and sharp with inspiration. Impatiently, I clicked off the TV, the
better to concentrate.
Mail order, I mused, plucking at my lower lip. Hey, I didn’t
need a seminar for that.
Wasn’t it just this very day that Phil and I had been
laughing over some silly ad in a supermarket tabloid (we don’t really read
those magazines or believe what they say or anything…we just buy them because
we get a chuckle out of the stories) and I’d remarked that, apparently, some
people would buy anything?
I found the magazine we hadn’t been reading and re-read
some of the classified we’d giggled over. Guilt-free cheesecake. Genuine faux
pearls, no gimmicks, the real McCoy, a mere $59.95 plus $2.50 shipping and
handling. Revenge to order, just contact ritual priestess, Lyndrika, $8.00/24
hr. A tonic promising to restore hair, relieve flatulence, and rejuvenate your
love life or your money refunded. And what did I read on the Classified Order
form? Reaches 10 million people weekly?
Why hadn’t I thought of this before? At five bucks a pop…mumble,
mumble…time 10 million, hell, even just 5 mill…why I could replenish the
entire Grand Banks with fish, pay off the rebels in Rwanda, un-max the
troublesome Visa account and still have enough left over for a down payment on
But what did I have to offer? I’m something of a klutz when
it comes to crafts. I have the imagination to design a bigger or better
anything. Most of my recipes come from Betty Crocker and my best psychic
prediction was that no matter how I played out this new scheme, Phil was
definitely not going to like it.
In the end, going with the knowledge that at least half of
the population of North America is trying to lose weight, I went with my
favourite diet, the one that guarantees a loss of 14 pounds in 14 days, cleverly
refraining from any mention, in the ad, that this was accomplished by eating
grapefruit, eggs and mung bean sprouts in a perfect one to one to one ratio.
Guesstimating (I thought) realistically that if even a mere
fraction of those ten million would be willing to risk five bucks on a
guaranteed reduction plan, we would quite likely be rolling in dough by spring,
I cashed in a couple of paid-up life insurance policies to buy space for my
eye-catching ad and settled down to wait. And as I waited, I wondered. Would I
have to have a separate truck to bring our mail? Perhaps I’d better hire a
person or two to help with stuffing envelopes, another to come by and do the
accounting. And perhaps, just in case the papers from the insurance company
arrived before any of my orders, I should just mention to Phil that we might
possibly be on the cusp of becoming very, very wealthy.
Well, as it turned out, I was right about one thing. Phil. He didn’t like
it. And he told me so many times.
Right along with my morning coffee, he told me and while I folded the laundry
and as I prepared supper, and brushed my teeth preparatory to seeking my repose,
he discussed, in great detail, the good possibility that my intelligence
quotient might be somewhat less than that of our granddog, Dusty.
Yes, indeed, I’d hit that particular nail right on the head. I might not be
above-average in intelligence but I did know my guy!!
Unfortunately, I was just a smidge off on my other calculations, perhaps not
allowing for people like us who just buy the tabloids for laughs.
What percentage of ten million is 2?