Collateral

Collateral: (n) something pledged as security for repayment of a loan

No one is ever interested in hearing about my successes.

Perhaps it’s the flash of arrogance that enters the human voice whenever we talk about ourselves in a positive way.

I gain empathy, friendship and humor with my fellow-travelers by “pranking” myself in a snarky way–especially when remembering a time when it appears that I was infested with the demon of stupidity.

To protect myself I always begin these stories with: “It happened many years ago.”

That way you know that I would not pursue this particular adventure today–and if I did, since I am older, I would have more money to address it.

I wanted to borrow two hundred dollars. This was back in a time when two hundred dollars was my “guesstimation” of the value of Aladdin’s castle.

The person from the bank told me that if I had some collateral he would be “willing to consider” such a loan.

I didn’t question any further–I asked myself, What do I possess that’s worth two hundred dollars?

Ruling out my kidney, liver and lungs, I came up blank.

Yet all at once, I remembered that in the basement of my parents’ loan company, there were some huge slabs of marble left over from when they had decorated the office. It seemed to me–since they were marble–that they were certainly expensive.

I wasn’t a rube, so I called a local lumberyard person and asked him what he thought such a slab would be worth.

After he understood the dimensions, he said that if I bought them at the store each one would cost me a hundred dollars.

I was thrilled.

All I had to do was carry three (playing it safe) marble slabs up a flight of stairs, around a corner and out the door, and I would have my collateral.

The problem was, the only person available to help me was my wife. Though sturdy, she was not at a strength level to lift her share of what probably was two hundred pounds each. This did not deter me. I decided the best thing was to put her at the bottom and me at the top.

It took two days. (Not full days. Twenty-minutes-at-a-time days.)

We took a lot of breaks.

Finally we actually unearthed from the basement tomb three two-hundred-pound slabs of marble, got them into the back of our van and drove them to the bank.

I was so damn proud.

I coaxed the banker to come out and see what I had to offer for collateral. Opening the back door of the van, he stared at the dusty pile of stone.

He laughed.

And not just a little. It may be the first time in my life that I was laughed to scorn.

He patted me on the shoulder, shook his head and said, “That’s a good one, man. I can’t wait to tell everybody about this one.”

I assumed the loan was a no-go.

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Architect

dictionary with letter A

Architect: (n) a person who designs buildings and often supervises their construction.

Have you ever been so ignorant about a subject that even as you explained how ignorant you were, you said something ignorant? That’s the way I feel about building anything.

When I look at the meticulous qualities an architect must possess, measuring corners to establish an edifice, I am not only in awe, but also baffled.

When I was seventeen years old, I took a crack at my only carpentry and building project.

Our dog required a house. This is commonly referred to as a dog house.

If you look at one, it doesn’t seem terribly complicated–basically four walls and a roof. The mutts rarely require a floor.

So I found some scrap wood back behind the local lumberyard and was delighted when they told me I could have it. I purchased some nails from the hardware store, acquired a hammer and saw and set in motion to build my dog a home.

I am not a profane person. But I have never done so much cussing in all my life.

It took me three days to finally get all the pieces to fit and a roof on the house, only to discover that when I set it on the ground, it was crooked. One of my friends affectionately referred to it as “The Leaning Tower of Bow-Wow.”

I was humiliated.

I tried to correct my mistake by filling in some dirt in one corner, to make the construction appear even but then it went from leaning to tilted.

It gave me a great appreciation for those who know how to take nothing and turn it into something.

Fortunately for me, my dog was not picky.

 

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