Numbers don't mean what they once did, do they? When I was a child, a quarter was real money, a dollar was manna from heaven, and a 20 meant you'd just celebrated a birthday. We kept our 10s and 20s in a bank that called itself the "Home of the Thousandaires." Becoming a thousandaire was a realistic goal when your deposit slip was nothing special. I'm sure a few of the people I knew dreamed of becoming millionaires, but the only millionaires I knew were the Clampetts who lived in a mansion in Beverly Hills. For me, millionaires were people on TV shows; Thousandaires were what working stiffs hoped to be. Working stiffs were the people I knew - people who marveled at 10s and 20s and tried to save as many as they could.
And then I learned about billionaires. It was probably during the energy crisis of the '70s with all the news about "oil rich sheiks" and OPEC. I learned that someone could be richer than a millionaire. I learned about those among us who could buy closet loads of shoes, stables of polo ponies, fancy islands and Picasso's best. I learned that being a thousandaire meant being just a few twenties away from bankruptcy. I learned that more than a few millionaires pinched their pennies so they could stay millionaires. And I learned that billionaires never worried about anything. I've met a few billionaires over the years. One had on tattered penny loafers.
He was so rich, he could dress any way he wanted and he did. And he never stopped smiling the whole time I was with him. I'd be all grins too, if I had a few billion dollars and tattered penny loafers.
Now, our multi-trillion dollar debt is the news of the hour. The handful of billionaires I've met couldn't put a dent in the debt, even if they wanted to. I can't even conceive of a trillion dollars. I remember losing a quarter in my front yard nearly 40 years ago. My grandmother gave me that quarter and I searched and searched but never found it. Uncle Sam has lost trillions of quarters in his wild-deficit spending, but I don't see him searching like I did for the one that slipped from my fingers as I danced like a rich man in the soft summer grass.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Covington and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.