Thursday, April 9, 2015

A fistful of dollars

I'm sure you've noticed there are times in my writing when I dance around using real names- of people, places and/or things.

When I was writing about my encounter with a fellow multiple myeloma sufferer for last week's column, I felt I needed to be especially careful. Not for just the usual reason- that he didn't ask to be part of it. He shared some serious concerns and observations with me that I don't think he would share with just anybody.

I have become so open about my disease, and in fact, my life in general, that I forget people like to keep some things to themselves. Really. I think they do. Right? I mean... Don't you?

It isn't like with my friend Peters, though. When I wrote “Peters (not his real name),” I was stating a fact. When I first knew him it was part of the name he used when he was on the air at the same radio station I worked at. No subterfuge necessary.

Most of the time, working around names is not that hard. It's usually a privacy issue more than anything. But this week I'm faced with a doozy. I think the other person might be embarrassed, so I want to be careful. Even trying to describe what happened is tricky because it gives a lot of clues.

See, if I wrote, for example, that the conversation took place in a building where you could pretty much ignore the advice “neither a borrower nor a lender be,” you might guess- library. That would be correct. What about a place where there are constant comings and goings and people try carry no more of a burden than absolutely necessary? Airport, right? Oblique baggage reference and all.

So, when I was transacting some business the other day and the person I was dealing with said something that actually left me at a loss for words, I knew I had to work out some way of using the incident, but without getting anyone in trouble. C'mon, Jim Arnold was at a loss for words??? How am I going to let that go? It's almost like an eclipse- you'd have to view it through a cardboard telescope, otherwise seeing me without a snappy comeback might actually hurt your eyes. Brothers and sisters- I needed to tell the story.

So I walked into... this establishment and asked the... person... who was working there a money question. Let me say right off that it wasn't a bank. No. Nuh uh. Not a bank. It was another money-type of place. Yeah. Another place where money would change hands. Right. And it wasn't Western Union. You can still make money transactions at WU, I think, but that's not what or where I was doing this particular transaction.

There I was, then, not at a bank and not at Western Union... Oh, it wasn't a bottle deposit return place either. I mean, I wasn't picking up the story from when the cans and bottles had already been handed over by me which would allow us to start talking about money. Right. Not a bank, not a Western Union, not a bottle deposit return place. Got it? Clear?

I needed this person at this place to give me 40 one-dollar bills. Not for nothing, mind you. I handed over two $20 bills and made my request.

“What are you going to do with 40 one dollar bills?” the person asked.

I was taken aback, because, as I pointed out in my answer, “That isn't really any of your business, is it?”

We both smiled, since we were apparently enjoying a nice piece of verbal jousting, badinage, if you will. Notice, though, I was surprised, but not speechless. That came next.

“Oh, I know, You're going to...” and the person pantomimed what could only be taken to as a reference to sticking dollar bills in a key portion of an exotic dancer's costume. I'm not kidding. This person was, jokingly, I think, suggesting I would take my dollar bills and reward a st... str... strip... A... you know.

First let me say this: I have no problems with strippers. I was friends with a female stripper once who used a boa constrictor in her act who was surprised when her husband left because he couldn't stand the snake crawling into bed with them at night, looking for warmth.

For a time, I also lived below a male stripper. My teen-age daughters really enjoyed that one. I lived in the basement and any time they heard his upstairs door close they would climb all over each other and anything else to get a glimpse of this guy out the window.

So. Strippers? Good people. I think I was left speechless because I couldn't imagine what in my demeanor would suggest that even watching exotic dancers would be something I would do, never mind going to a non-bank, non-WU, non-bottle deposit place to gather one dollar bills to stick in their- let's call that what it is- underwear.

Admittedly, I don't know what such a person would look like, but I knew they wouldn't look like me. If the person had called me a jerk, a goof, a creep (although in some circles, I suppose that's what they were calling me), or a potato head, I would have had a snappy retort.

I admit to occasionally playing the cancer card when I want something, but this may have been the dumbest use of any of the get-out-of-jail variety of cards ever when I said, “I'm very ill. I wouldn't do that.”

And let me just say that the whole incident was funny. I wasn't offended, but amused. But it was sort of like a “Nobody puts baby in the corner” moment. “Nobody leaves Jim Arnold speechless. Nobody.” Well, now it has to be “almost no one leaves Jim Arnold speechless.” So kudos to you, nameless person in an unidentified location. Kudos to you.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere