Only two constants in life — birthdays and sales tax

Burt's Eye View

Like all my other schemes to get rich, this one collapsed due to circumstances no one could have predicted. At least, I didn’t.

It certainly seemed better than the time I set up a roadside stand to sell cow pies fresh from the pasture. Who could have known that wasn’t how city gardeners wanted to buy fertilizer?

Nor did it have the drawbacks of the time I stuck a for-sale sign in the front yard.

“But Mom,” I said afterward. “I wasn’t trying to sell the whole house. Just MY room.”

This time, I had perfected the get-rich plan. And the icing on the cake was the birthday cake itself.

The idea began with my third birthday. I opened a card and three $1 bills fluttered to the floor. I snatched them up in fat little fists — and stuffed the bills in my mouth.

“No, no, Burton,” Mom said. “These aren’t candy. You save them.”

She slid the slobbery singles into a bank shaped like a bear, where she could borrow them later when she needed eggs.

On my fourth birthday, there were four dollar bills. I crammed them into the bear bank all by myself.

By the time I was 5, I understood that if you handed these greenish pieces of paper to store clerks, they smiled and gave you Hershey bars and Matchbox cars. I couldn’t fathom why they preferred colored paper to toys and candy, but I dug out my green Crayolas and set out to make us all happy.

“No, Burton,” Dad said. “You can’t draw your own money.”

Another strategy unstrung.

On my sixth birthday, I tore open the card already knowing exactly what to do with the six $1 bills — invest in comic books.

Back then, a Donald Duck or a Beetle Bailey or a Batman cost 10 cents. My new angle was simple: Buy a big stack of 60 comic books (minus sales tax) with my $6 and let other kids read them for a nickel. I have tons of cousins. I was going to be RICH!

Once again, Mom and Dad crushed my entrepreneurial spirit. I was forced to save five of the dollars in the bear bank. This left me a buck to spend on 10 comic books — nine, after sales tax. Worse, my folks decreed that the cousins could borrow them rent-free.

Such cruel declarations — and on my birthday, no less — would have crushed most kids. Not me. I contrived new brilliance. I could almost feel my cousins’ coins piling into my palms.

Every year brought another birthday, more birthday cake and an even-thicker birthday card. So by the time I turned 60, I could load up SIX HUNDRED comic books (minus sales tax). And since I’d be a grownup, my parents couldn’t stop me. It was perfect.

Or so I thought. Only one part of the program held up — I turned 60. A Golden Buckeye Card came in the mail. It did not contain $60. Nor did any card. The whole dollar-a-year thing dried up after my 12th birthday.

Comic books — excuse me, GRAPHIC NOVELS — cost $4 to $5 an issue today. So I went from 60 birthday comic books buying power when I was 6 down to a dozen when I turned 60 — minus sales tax, which eats up more books today.

By the time I’m 100, I won’t even be able to rent a single issue from any of my cousins.

Rich just isn’t going to happen for me. I know that because these days, I’m better at foreseeing the future. I know now that there are only two constants in life — birthdays and sales tax. And maybe birthday cake.

— Scheme with Cole at burtseyview@tribtoday.com, at the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook and @BurtonWCole on Twitter.


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