One Hour’s Pre-Occupation

photoThe problem is I’ve got to find a job, any job. The four years I spent in New York, I worked for a major bank doing “customer service.” What I actually did was telemarketing. I tried to interest the uninterested in various financial services. My call list included existing account-holders with large savings accounts ($50,000 to $250,000). My job was to encourage them to let our financial representatives help them earn a better return on their capital.

I learned that people who leave that kind of money languishing in savings accounts usually don’t trust the stock market — enough even to invest in a well-diversified mutual fund. They open savings accounts, usually at multiple banks, to have their cash insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to the $250,000 limit per institution. Even short-term investment instruments, such as certificates of deposit, often don’t entice them. More than a few people have said they are “remaining liquid.” No one can convince them to do otherwise.

At least one woman I spoke to had said that, if the bank I represented could help her to buy and secure precious stones, she might be interested in that. She flat out told me she wanted to have something to barter with for food, shelter, and health care when the U.S. economy failed again and the government couldn’t bail out the banks next time.

After awhile, talking to the financially paranoid and risk-averse was depressing; but the work did serve me in one respect. I decided to live on a hundred bucks a week (very hard to do in New York) and save everything else I earned. In four years of living out of a basement in Brooklyn, owning only four dress shirts and two suits and one pair of shoes, I was able to save $103,627.87. Of course, I gave up owning a car, and I ate a lot of canned chili, rice and fruit.  I rarely went out, much to my friend Brill’s dismay.

Now I’m back here, and laying low with a broken leg, I wonder what’s changed? That’s what’s scaring the hell out of me. I don’t want to repeat the break up of four years ago.

“What are you afraid about?” Maria asked me last night.

I told her, “I’m scared of not being able to take care of you.  I know you want to be a mother.”

“Yes, Will,” she said.  Her face went soft, and her eyes grayed.  Remembering the unborn child we had lost five years before always made both of us sad .  “But we can’t let any more fear get to us, okay?”

“Okay. No fear this time. I’ll find work tomorrow.”

She looks down at my leg and shakes her head. “No, tomorrow I have off. We’ll go to Arecibo.”

“What’s in Arecido?” I asked her.

“You will see,” she said.

She opened the birdcage door, and Big Bird stepped onto her index finger and wrapped his padded talons around it.  Then she lifted her finger to her shoulder and he hopped off.  Maria walked out to the balcony, and the bird took wing. I guess he’ll be spending his day in the treetops.

There aren’t enough hours in the day to waste even one being afraid.

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