There was a spectacular incident of a local politician crashing and burning here last year. The elected executive of a large county in Maryland was indicted on bribery charges after a long investigation into his relationships with county contractors. The best part of the whole thing was that when the feds showed up at his door, his wife called him to ask what to do. He told her to secrete a large sum of money on her person. The result? She was arrested with $79,000 in her bra.
This raises two big question in my mind. First, how big are her boobs? I’m pretty flat-chested so you could hide maybe forty bucks in my bra before the line of my outfit would start to be affected. Large wads of cash are just not an acceptable accessory for me, even if I did manage to conceal it under my boob so that the up-lifting gel padding of my bras were to kind of cover it up. My knockers would just look lumpy.
The other big question is why? What does $79K buy that is so good that it’s worth taking it illegally? I mean, if you have no money at all, and the kids are starving and you’re on the street, then yeah. The motivation is pretty clear. But this family had a pretty good income and I didn’t see any reports about them being in deep debt or having outstanding medical bills or something like that. The bribes were, presumably, gravy.
Is money really that great?
I’ve never had more money than I needed but I’ve also very seldom had much less than I needed. I’ve scaled my needs to my income pretty successfully and never mourned that which I could not afford. I can’t really think of anything I want badly enough to look for $79,000 in under-the-table bra-stuffing payouts.
That’s not to say that a large legal windfall would be unwelcome. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it but I wouldn’t use money to buy stuff. Our house is fine, our cars run, we have good health insurance through my job and we already have C in a top daycare. What else could I possibly want? Liquid cash flowing into my world would get funneled into a college account for C and a retirement account for us and a slush fund for emergencies. After that…well, ok, yeah I’d like to renovate my kitchen. I’m human.
What I’m not is foolish. See, I understand that money is not an ends. Money buys the things that make life easier but simply having money does not guarantee a happy or easy life. Just ask Lindsey Lohan if money was enough to dull whatever psychic pain plagues her. Does Paris Hiltons’s handbag collection fill the void or does she need to fill it with cocaine? Did getting checks and free plastic surgery from TLC turn the Gosselins into happy, well-adjusted, relaxed people? Not so much, right?
There’s this ridiculous notion that the American dream means always having more, more, more. That’s why car companies create new models every year and Steve Jobs can take baths in liquid gold, melted by the heat of a zillions iPads. It’s why kids beat each other up for status clothing and why there’s a waiting list for Birkin bags. It’s why a politicians wife got nailed by the feds with enough money to pay for a college degree pressed against her hooters.
And truthfully? I think it’s dumb.
I won’t insult your intelligence with platitudes about how grateful we should all be for love and a warm home and the clean running water we all take for granted. You know already. And none of us should be ashamed for looking at that Birkin or Beamer with a touch of lust. But to go out of our ways to acquire it, to risk our long-term financial security or flat out commit crimes to have them when there are economical alternatives available? Is the nightmare part of the American dream. The part where marketing takes the place of common sense.
Denis Leary said it best when he talked about happiness being small things like an orgasm or a chocolate-chip cookie. (I think he included cigarettes there too but I’m not going to advocate that. Though I did like cigarettes A LOT back when I smoked them.) I’d add on a hug from a child, a snowy night with your significant other, and a decent bottle of zinfandel. And all of those things are better without a mountain of credit card debt preying on your mind or the feds banging down your door to snatch the ill-gotten gains out of your bra.