My office is an ugly business park, but occasional tenant perks include sample sales and lunch events featuring free food. Last week my co-worker and I headed over to O.P.M. Financial for a cookout. When we saw the sad little tent and two attendees, we should have kept driving, but our hunger and poverty parked the car.
As we sat down to enjoy our charred hot dogs and lukewarm sodas, the host of the gala, Topp Dahler, sat down at our card table to discuss our money management needs. It was an awkward conversation, seeing that I was in zero need of his services. Less than zero. The only way I might hit a windfall (not already earmarked for daycare tuition) was if I had the closest guess to win the cash on the money tree, and, looking around at the empty folding chairs, those odds had to be pretty good. The “money tree” was a small, potted rubber plant with dollar bills paper-clipped to the leaves. To increase the difficulty, you also had to include the spare change sitting in a coffee cup in your total. Yes, I said spare change in a coffee cup, which Topp freely admitted he had cobbled together from various places like his desk drawer, couch, pants pockets, car, etc. Yikes.
Since wealth, as a topic, wasn’t getting us far, we got an uncomfortable glimpse into Topp’s personal life. That Topp’s a good guy, but he should have known that anyone who stopped by to score a free hot dog was not sitting on a pile of money going unmanaged. My co-worker and I ate quickly and grabbed a cookie for the road, agreeing that the free lunch was not worth the painful small talk. Since we had written our money tree guesses on our business cards, I expected to hear from Topp again.
Several days later, O.P.M. Financial popped up on my Caller ID, and I let it go right to voice mail. I was headed out to work off-site, so I gathered up the supplies I’d need and went to tell the department assistant where I would be. I grabbed a handful of gumdrops from her candy dish and popped a couple in my mouth as I headed back to my desk. For kicks, I thought I’d play my voice mail message to see if I’d won the money tree. I tossed a third gumdrop into my mouth as I double-clicked on the log showing the call. “O.P.M. Financial, this is Topp.” My mind began racing:
That’s a strange message…ohhhhhhh nnnnoooooo. When will I get this stupid call tracking software right? I just CALLED him BACK! Well, that’s it, I’m stuck. He has Caller ID, too. He knows it’s me. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I have to talk to him now. Wait, can’t speak, mouth too full of gumdrops. Sticky, gummy, gumdrops. What do I do now? HOW LONG HAS THIS SILENCE GONE ON?
Friends, the best solution I came up with was to slooooowly and silently replace the receiver and then burn with the shame of what I had done: I crank-called a well-meaning wealth advisor, subjected him to the sound of panicked gumdrop mastication for who knows how long, before hanging up on him.