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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dictionary with letter A

Ap·praise:(v)assess the value or quality of.

I was nineteen years old and I had a great idea–at least, I thought it was a great idea.

My mother and father ran a loan company in our little town and in the basement of the structure, there were slabs of marble used for flooring and trimming. Apparently they were left over from when the building was constructed and placed down there because no one knew what to do with them.

The marble was beautiful, but terribly heavy.

My wife and I decided to bring up five huge pieces–because we knew they had to be worth a lot of money. As a matter of fact, we confirmed this by calling a local store which dealt in such commodities and asking what these units were worth.

Our minds were boggled by how expensive marble was, so we figured we would bring up five slabs, and probably take care of our budget for the next six months. Who knows? Maybe a year.

We didn’t think of getting them appraised before making the arduous journey of carrying them upstairs. So much to our chagrin, even though the marble pieces were very expensive at one time, somebody had determined that this particular design was outdated.

We even carried one of them across town to an actual dealer, who agreed that it was quite lovely, but that he had no use for it. When I complained, stating that the marble was just as valuable as it once was, he replied, “It’s not what the marble’s worth. It’s what people will pay for it.”

I never forgot that.

Without becoming too philosophical, let me say that we live in an age when we appraise human value, human life and even human interaction as priceless.

Yet when it comes right down to it, what are we really willing to pay to see other people secure, content, safe and happy?

It’s all too cheap.

And I would like to be part of a movement that reappraises human beings from conception to death with a more realistic price tag, which could actually be followed up with legitimate concern.

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