In which we meet quite a few people coping with the transition and something sinister is found.
---------- Ft. Hood, Texas 09:00 Tuesday, January 1, 2013. --------
“Mr. Secretary, I have the first report on the little invasion of New Mexico. Looks like 182 dead, 47 wounded, three of whom may die, and 53 captured. They appear to have been a loose confederation of gangs from Chihuahua who came north to loot some towns. They had heard from local media that there was going to be all sorts of social unrest and chaos when we made the conversion to the new money. They wanted to get a share of the spoils. They were very disappointed when they finally blew open the safe in Columbus and found no currency and they couldn’t even get into the safety deposit boxes which were still locked because they had used all their explosives on the main door.”
“We had no casualties at all except a sprained ankle or two among the volunteers at the Deming site from walking over rough ground in the dark. The only damage reported so far has been the bank, some gasoline taken from a Fina station in Columbus, some broken glass and a few bullet holes in houses. At the Deming road block we had some bullet damage to the trucks we used to make the block and a few bullet holes in a couple of police cars.”
“We came out of this very lucky sir.”
“Yes, we were lucky. But I think we earned most of that luck. Homeland Security really came through for us. It was as if everybody knew exactly what to do. The citizens were suddenly part of the police force and all our moves were coordinated like a ballet. Of course it didn’t hurt that those small town people in New Mexico know how to shoot and take care of themselves.”
“We haven’t been so lucky everywhere, sir. We’ve had some minor rioting at drug stores and groceries, the stores that one would expect to be open on a holiday. At the border crossings we were well prepared and though there were crowds at most of them, all the violence was on the Mexican side. We’re monitoring about thirty terrorist suspects who crossed this morning. We have distant tails on each of them and if they leave public transportation we’ll pick them up.”
“Things seem to be settled then so I’m going to get some sleep. Stay on top of things with Jenkins, then let him take over and you get some sleep. This thing isn’t over yet.”
----------- 7:30 am, Tuesday January 1, 2013 ----------
“Good Lord! Where did they all come from? I expected extra business now that people don’t have to pay for their medication but I didn’t expect this!”
“Looks like we’d better get organized. While you get ready behind the counter, I’ll try to get these people organized.”
As they moved toward the drug store’s front door, some members of the crowd recognized them and started toward them. The babble of voices surged as several people at once attempted to initiate a conversation with the pharmacists.
“Quiet please. Quiet! We’ll get to all of you so just relax. Now let us in and we will open the store on time as usual. Just be patient or we won’t be able to fill any of the prescriptions.”
The small crowd reluctantly parted and allowed them to unlock the door, enter, and with a little pushing back of one over-eager matron, they managed to get the door closed and locked.
As they moved toward the counter at the back of the store (always have your customers see as many products for sale as possible regardless of why they entered your shop) Steven said, “I’m going to call the police. It’s half an hour before opening time and we have that many people. I can just imagine what it’s going to be like in here when we open. I think they’d better have somebody down here in case there’s trouble.”
“You’re right. I’ll call Doris and Tony and see if they can come in to help. I’ll also tell them to come around to the back door to get in.”
“I’ll bet that folks are going to want lots of the stuff in here. We’re going to need somebody at the front register to approve what they want to take.”
“I think we’re going to have trouble on the non-prescription stuff. I can see them wanting to loot the store and take all sorts of stuff they don’t really need. Maybe you’d better ask for several police while you’re at it. Try to explain the situation to them.”
----------- 10:15 am, Tuesday, January 1, 2013 ----------
“Honey, we have a problem.”
“I said we have a problem. I just got off the phone with Jenny. She won’t baby-sit for us because we can’t pay her.”
“Well call somebody else.”
“I already called everybody who’s sat for us in the last three months. They all say we can’t pay them so they won’t sit for us.”
“Give me the phone.”
“What are you going to do? I already tried pleading and begging.”
“I’m going to call old lady Mercer, across the street. She says she’s going to be a payer. She’s been bragging that she’ll be important now. Let’s see if she can handle this situation.”
He said in a louder than necessary voice, “Call old lady Mercer, the one who lives across the street.” The phone obediently placed the call. “Hello Mrs. Mercer. How are you doing? That’s wonderful. I guess you’re happy now that your day has come and you’re an official payer. ... You say you haven’t actually paid anyone yet? … Oh, then that’s just a formality, you can really pay anyone you want? Well we have a problem over here that you might be able to do something about. ... I was hoping you would. You see we can’t pay our baby sitters. ... That’s right; they won’t work for us because we can’t give them money any more. ... Well, I don’t know, Mrs. Mercer, you’re the payer. I thought you would know. ... Try Jenny Tindall, we like her pretty well. ... Thanks and goodbye, Mrs. Mercer. We’ll be eagerly awaiting your phone call.”
“What’s she going to do?”
“She said she’d call Jenny and try to get her to sit for us.”
“Do you think she can?”
“I don’t know but I do know I’ll never let her live it down if she can’t get somebody to sit for us.”
A few anxious minutes passed and the phone rang.
“Hello?” she said. “Oh, hello, Jenny. ... Yes we would love to have you sit for us tonight. Can you be here about 6:00? ... Oh, you can eat whatever you find in the fridge as usual. ... Great! We’ll expect you at 6:00 then. Bye.”
“I’ll be damned. The old bat did it. I wonder what she told Jenny.”
“I don’t know but I do know one thing.”
“What’s that sweetheart?”
“You had better be awfully nice to Mrs. Mercer or I’ll make your life miserable.”
----------- 11:00 am, Tuesday, January 1, 2013 -----------
“I’m home, dear, and I have your medicine.”
“Are you all right? I heard on the radio that there was trouble at most of the drug stores in town. There were even some fights at one of them.”
“I’m just fine, dear. There was a crowd but they handled things okay and they served me pretty quickly. Let me just get you a glass of water and you can take your medicine.”
The elderly gentleman stepped into the tiny kitchen and reappeared moments later with a glass of water and a pair of pliers.
“I’ll have the top off this bottle in just a minute. ... There.”
He shook out two of the pills into his palm and offered them to the tiny woman in the rather old wheel chair. She looked up at him gratefully and swallowed them with water from the glass she held.
“Now tell me about what happened at the store. I’ve been terrified ever since I heard of the trouble.”
The gentleman tucked in around her legs the blanket that had come loose and sat on the couch near her chair. He carefully wrapped himself in a rather dingy comforter that was thrown across the back of the couch. The chill in the room was palpable and occasionally one could see some breath condensation as they spoke.
“Well, I got to the drug store about 20 minutes before it was due to open and there was already a crowd of about 30 people there with more arriving even as I approached. The people were crowded around the doors looking into the store where it was lit but the sign on the door still said ‘CLOSED’. I was scared to try to get to the front of the crowd since some of the people there were arguing about who got there first and who should wait.
“About three minutes before the store was to open a police car came into the parking lot and two policemen got out. They walked over to the crowd and asked what was going on. Several people in the crowd started saying they were first in line or that they were just waiting for the store to open. The police said that the store would open in just a few minutes and everyone would be served.
“The crowd was still somewhat loud and from time to time a voice was raised but the police would move in that direction and they would quiet. Meanwhile still more people were joining the crowd.
“You remember that nice boy, Tony Miller who works in the drug store? Well there’s a hardware store right next to the drug store and Tony came out of the hardware store with a hand truck on which he had several folding chairs, the kind that you put up in your back yard when you cook out.
“He said we could use the chairs while we were waiting. The policemen said that was a good idea and helped unfold the chairs and offered several of us a chance to sit in the chairs. I was really glad because I was more tired than I liked from the walk to the store. You know how my knee gets when I have to stand up too long.
“Well, Tony said he had lots more chairs and would be back with more in a few minutes. It seems that he had called up the owner of the hardware store and gotten him to agree to let us use his stock of lawn chairs. Anyway then somebody who works in the drug store came over to the door, gestured to the policemen to come over, and when they were in front of the door opened it and said that they would like to let in a few at a time and wanted to know what each person wanted to buy.
“One of the women in the crowd said in a loud voice that she wanted health stuff and she didn’t intend to pay for something that was supposed to be free now. The man at the door said he was sorry, that old habits had caused him to say it wrong. He asked who was there to get prescriptions filled. I raised my hand along with about fifteen others. The man said he would like us to come into the store first and then they could let in the others who didn’t need the pharmacy but just a few at a time to avoid overcrowding.
“They let us in then and one of the other men even carried my chair inside for me. I think he was a payer since he had one of those fancy gadgets and it kept telling him the names of people around us. Anyway, they let me get my prescription after only about 10 minutes.
“On my way out I noticed some angry voices from the checkout where the woman who had said she wasn’t going to pay for free things had a shopping cart full of stuff and she was demanding to be allowed to take all of it with her. The clerk said she didn’t need all of that stuff. And she said it was free and she wanted it and to get out of the way. They finally had to ask the policeman to restrain her since she was ramming the clerk with the cart. I left before it was settled but I heard one of the other people who was leaving say that the limit on aspirin was 8 to a customer and they could come back for more tomorrow.
“I think they were trying to ration what they had. Anyway, a number of the people were turning away to leave when they heard that. But that’s how I got your medicine. They really didn’t charge me a thing for it. I also got some cans of soup and some other stuff. So we can celebrate in style today.
He was grinning at her and winked and she smiled back at him and snuggled deeper into her blankets.
------------- 7:45 am, Wednesday, January 2, 2013 -------------
“You’re not the boss of me now and you’re not so big.”
“Shut up you little fink or I’ll fire your ass.”
“Go ahead. See if I care. I don’t need you and your job no more.”
“Hey you. Payer. Get over here.”
“What is it?” the payer asked as he walked toward the crew chief.
“Tell him to get back to work.”
“I’m afraid that wouldn’t do any good,” the payer said with raised eyebrows.
“See there smart ass? I told you. You ain’t my boss anymore.”
“I’m still crew chief and you’ll do what I say or I’ll have you fired.”
“Tell him payer. Tell him he ain’t my boss any more.”
“He’s still your crew chief. He still has his job to do, too.”
“Damn right I do. My job is to tell you what to do and your job is to do what I tell you.”
“You gonna let him talk to me that way? He ain’t got no right to talk to me that way.”
“He can talk any way he wants and you don’t have to do what he tells you if you don’t want to. If you guys don’t want to work together, then don’t work together. If you guys don’t want to get this job done then get out of the way and let somebody else do the job.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that I pay whoever does the job and I don’t give a damn who that is. You guys want to stand here arguing instead of working, so somebody else is liable to do the job for you. It’s up to you. I pay whoever gets the job done.”
“Well shit!” they said in chorus, then looked quickly at each other.
-------------- 3:30 pm, Thursday, January 3, 2013 --------------
“I’ll be damned. Chan, come look at this. There’s somebody got root access on all our servers. What the hell is going on here?”
“What have you got there?”
“Look. … See I’m running a script to check all the input packets and following the effects of each. When something anomalous comes up, the script flags it. Look at the pattern in those flags. Somebody is doing things that need root access and it ain’t pretty. It looks to me like they’re monitoring what we’re doing here. And look at this. See that? It changed our log files here and here and here. It’s covering its tracks.”
“Where is it coming from?”
“Looks to me like it’s coming from all the other sites in the system. . . . See? Here’s half a dozen IP numbers I recognize in the packets but somebody may be spoofing that. Let’s get on the horn to some of these other sites and see whether they’ve noticed anything.”
He reached for the phone and in a few moments had another site on the line.
“Morley, this is Chuck, say, we’ve got some interesting things happening here that look like a root compromise situation. Have you got anything suspicious going on at your site? Some of what we are seeing could be coming from your systems. ... No, it’s nothing like the usual hacker attack. This looks more like they’re trying for a long term compromise situation, like they wanted to be able to control our servers and never be noticed. It’s modifying the logs and everything. ... Yeah, I found it by watching the packets coming in off the network and looking for anything I couldn’t account for. I found lots more than I bargained for. ... Yeah, write a filter that only lets through the simplest transactions and nothing else, and then examine the packets the filter’s rejecting. I can send you the code I’m using if you want to use some if it. ... OK, it’s on its way and the checksums are...”
----------- 3:30 pm, Friday, January 4, 2013 -----------
“Ted, this is Sally.”
“Hi, Sally. It’s nice to hear from you. How are you doing?”
“Just fine, Ted. Listen, I came back in to the office today to pick up a few things and the phone rang and I just answered it out of habit, you know? Well it’s one of our old loan customers. He wants to talk to you. It seems he has some questions about a deal he is working on and he wants your advice. Do you want me to give him your number?”
“I don’t know, Sally. I really can’t do anything for him. Did you explain that we are out of the banking business?”
“Yes, sir. He knows that, of course. He just wants your advice. It seems he respects your opinion in these matters. I think you should talk to him, Ted. It might get your mind off your troubles and he may even be able to offer you a job.”
“Yeah, right. How’s he going to pay me? Answer me that” Ted was almost shouting into the phone.
“Ted, don’t be angry with me. I just wanted to see if I could help you.”
“Oh God, I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I shouldn’t take it out on you. Okay. I’ll talk to him. What’s his number?”
“Janet, is something wrong with our email?”
“Not that I know of. What do you mean?”
“I haven’t read my email in over a week since we’ve been at your mother’s and now I get on and there’s only three or four messages. There’s no spam. Do you think it’s broken or something?”
“What’s wrong with no spam, silly?”
“Nothing, but the spam filter should have been full of the stuff. There isn’t any there either.”
“Maybe it has something to do with the transition. Maybe the email computers are down or something. You remember there was something in the news about computers being down.”
“No, that was the money accounting computers. Somebody tried to hack into them and they shut them down to get rid of the bad code the hackers had put in. No this is something else. I sure hope there’s nothing wrong with our email.”
“Have you tried any of the Web things like eBay or Google?”
“Not yet. Let’s see. . . . Well Google’s still here. Wait. There’s no ads. Let me look at new cars. . . . Well there’s information about cars and here’s some stuff on the new car dealerships in the area. But no ads. That’s weird. Let me try eBay. Boy, look at this, some kind of announcement. It says their whole operation is changed. They still will show things for sale but the prices are fixed, no bidding. It’s first come, first served now except for the shipping, and that’s included in the price. At least that’s the same, they charge more for next day or for long distance. They also say if you have capital goods you can advertise it there. They have an entire section just for capital goods.”
“Now you have to admit that ought to be because of the transition. You can’t tell me eBay would be all that different if we were still using the same money.”
“No, you got me there. This has to be due to the transition. Well if the lack of spam is because of the transition, maybe the idea isn’t so cockeyed after all.”
“This is Sam Sherman with your Wakeup News.
“The disturbances at the Malls across the state seem to have calmed down as people have learned what it means to have free necessities. Those who thought they could take as much of whatever they wanted because it was free have learned otherwise now. In some cases they insisted on learning the hard way. This is film from a grocery store in Rocky Creek Mall. Police got here a little late and had to subdue a crowd fighting over food. The store owner and three customers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. All were later released. Eight people were arrested for assault and battery, theft by force, and vandalism. Police report that the situation is calm now and expected to remain so as a uniformed officer will be stationed at the store on a full time basis.
“Remember people, you may not have to pay for necessities but it’s up to the owner of the necessities how much, if any, of those necessities they’re willing to give you. It’s their gift, not your right. Got that?
“In other local news the rush on the malls and stores was matched by a rush on medical facilities. Nurses were doing triage to determine which patients would be allowed to see the doctors next. Some patients were upset with their place in line. But when they were provided with hot coffee, snacks, and toys for their children in some cases, tempers were soothed.
“Most hospitals say that the rush has eased and the patient load is returning to normal. It appears that free medical treatment also is at the discretion of those who provide it. They don’t have to give it to you but if they do they’ll be paid for the benefit you get, if any.
“Local Department of Transportation official Fred Sparkman has asked all those in the highway construction business locally to meet with him at the auditorium in Town Hall to coordinate work on city streets. Fred says that the freelance efforts to correct problems are very welcome but that things can be arranged more efficiently if everyone is on the same page.
“In national news, the Government of Mexico has apologized for not restraining the several border invasions in Texas and California. They have assured the U.S. Ambassador that their military will take over guard duty within a month and have asked that the U.S. Army withdraw its units from Mexico and cease hot pursuit of the bandits.
“General Portillo has told reporters that they will begin withdrawal operations within the week as soon as certain adjustments to border defenses are completed. He would not say what those were but civilian construction crews were busy on the U.S. side of the border.
“A number of large companies that were instrumental in international trade before the transition are asking U.S. farmers to contribute any surplus to be available for international trade. So, if you’re a farmer, consider their offer.
“Here’s an announcement from the local Heath Department. If you are a drug addict and are entering withdrawal from your addiction, please come immediately to one of the hospitals on this map or one of the clinics shown here for treatment. There will be no questions asked. There will be no police present.
“There also seems to be another companion announcement. The police department wishes to announce that they have better things to do than hassle sick people so believe the previous announcement. I bet you wouldn’t have heard an announcement like that before the transition.
“Jasmine, what have you got for us?”
“Big news for parents of children with reading problems in school, Bob. It seems there’s a local woman who has been tutoring children who have not learned to read in school. She has her own technique that works in 99% of the cases who could not learn in school. That’s right! In the children who didn’t learn to read in school, 99% of them can learn to read using this method. She’s offering to teach this method to anyone interested. She’s even set up a Web site where she explains her techniques. Now I have a ten year old boy at home whom the school said was suffering from attention deficit disorder and dyslexia and that’s why he couldn’t learn to read. Well, I was pretty desperate, I tell you. I took him to this tutor and she said she didn’t have any open slots but she gave me a slim book and a DVD and said I could teach him myself. If I hadn’t been at my wits end with this boy I would never have tried it. But it worked like a charm. I spent 15 minutes a day on it, right after breakfast before he went off to school. By the end of three months he was reading above grade level, his attention deficit went away and, as if by magic, the school couldn’t find any dyslexia any more.”
“How many children have trouble learning to read in school, Jasmine?”
“Over 20% in this state, Bob. Just think of all those lives blighted by reading problems and it’s so unnecessary. You parents out there. You love your children and you’d do anything to help them succeed in life. This is something you can do. It’s easy and fun and best of all everything is free. The book, the DVD, the instruction, all of it is free. You’ll love the joy your children will have because you took a little time out of your day to learn this technique. Here’s that URL again.”
“Thanks Jasmine. I’m sure all those children will thank you in their prayers. Art, what do we have in store for the weather this week?”
--------- 10:15 am, EST, Saturday, January 5, 2013 ----------
“Those damn bastards! Those scummy no good bastards! Did you see what they did?”
“What who did?”
“Those tobacco companies, that’s who. They raised the price of a pack of cigarettes to over $30. Can you believe that? That’s more than a dollar a cigarette?”
“Willie,” she said shaking her head, “that wasn’t the cigarette companies, that was the payers. The payers are the ones setting the prices on luxuries now.”
“The payers? What do they think they’re doing? That’s just plain stupid. They can’t do that.”
“Willie, it was in the papers. All luxuries have their prices set by the payers. Cigarettes are a luxury. The paper said they set the prices based on what it cost to produce and consume the products. In the case of cigarettes they must be figuring in the health costs as well as the resources used to manufacture the things.”
“But $32.50 a pack? It can’t be that much.”
“Well, they do say that cigarette smoking kills hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. every year and smokers miss more work from illness and pregnant women who smoke have sicklier babies and so forth.”
“Do I look like a pregnant woman to you?”
“No, Willie, but you do cough a lot. Also, you keep going out to smoke those things every half hour or so. It does slow down your working.”
“I take a break to think and smoking helps me think. That doesn’t detract from my work at all.”
“Well you’ve been talking and thinking about the price of cigarettes for the last five minutes and haven’t gotten a thing done.”
“If the payers didn’t see me, it didn’t happen.” Willie stuck out his tongue at her, then grinned.
---------- 7:25 am, Tuesday, January 8, 2013 -----------
“Hey! I got paid today! I got $756 and it says it was for keeping that crowd quiet last week. Who’d a thought I’d get that much?”
“I think you earned it, Tony. I can tell you I was pretty scared. I think what you did that got you that money was getting all those chairs from the hardware store next door. Once we had them all sitting down, they seemed to lose some of their emotion.”
“Remember that woman who wanted to just take all the aspirin? I thought she’d choke when you said to take two aspirin and call back in the morning.”
“I sure hope they paid those police who backed us up.”
“I’m sure they did. I mean, they need to be on the good side of the police, too, don’t they?”
“I wonder if they paid those two women who helped us out at the register.”
“I don’t know. It was kind of a surprise to me when that first lady just came around the counter and started counting out 8 aspirin into each envelope and such. But they were a help. I hope they get paid something for that.”
----------- 10:20 am, Wednesday, January 9, 2013 ----------
“If you won’t let me in to see what you’re doing, how can I tell whether what you’re doing is worthwhile? If I can’t verify what you do I can’t pay you.”
“Listen, this is a high security installation. If you want in, you’ll have to get clearance whether you’re a payer or not. I wouldn’t let the Pope in here without a pass.”
“Whom do I see about clearance?”
“All I know is you got to have a badge and you ain’t got one so you don’t get in.”
“Your name is Alfred Edward Simmons?” the payer said looking at what looked to the guard like a phone or a personal digital assistant.
“How did you know my middle name was Edward? That ain’t on my badge.”
“I have a link to the main computer system here,” the old man said, gesturing with the electronic device, “It tells me who I’m dealing with. That way I can be sure I am paying the right person, or in your case, not paying the right person. See you later.”
---------- 10:35 am, Friday, January 11, 2013 -----------
“What do you care whether the payers are allowed in or not? I tell you all of us will be paid, with bonuses even. You’ll get paid in euros if we have to. Trust me on this.”
“But the other guys are getting restless. Lots of people are already getting paid. My kid’s teacher was saying that she got paid for the three school days last week. My wife even got paid for taking care of Noah at home. Can you believe that? She got paid for taking care of her own kid. Anyway, the guys are seeing other people getting paid and they’re wondering how they can get paid if the payers can’t get in to watch them work. It’s only natural.”
“Natural or not, tell them not to worry about this payer shit. They’ll get paid in real money if they’ll just be patient.”
“Okay. I’ll tell them. But some of them aren’t going to like it.”
“If they don’t like it they can always quit and get paid nothing at all.”
----------- 1:35 am, Saturday, January 12, 2013 -----------
[On the phone] “Clarence, I’ve been talking to some of the guys at the other centers. You know it looks like this thing is happening at all of them. Several of the other sys admins also have detected something fishy going on. It looks like some systematic plot. ... Yeah, really organized at a high level. The payers tell me that if we can sort it out and stop it we should get a huge bonus. They say this plot could undermine the whole system and we should do whatever we can to stop it. ... I know, I know. ... Well we need to compare the old test software, you know, the software we were running to test whether it would all work, well, compare that with what’s running on our systems now. Let’s get everybody to find the checksums of the code that’s running on their systems now and compare it with the checksums of the backups of the last code that was supposed to be running now. That way we can easily tell if there’ve been any changes in the executables. ... Right. I’ll talk to those three and you get some others. And have them talk to anybody they can think of who’s a sys admin at any of the other centers. We have got to get organized on this and fast.”
------------ 9:00 am, Monday, January 14, 2013 ----------
“Sir we just got a report of a flurry of phone calls among the computer centers.”
“Yeah? So what? They call each other all the time. They’re like a fan club or something.”
“But sir, the computer says they’re talking about hackers and backdoors and root compromise problems.”
“Don’t those propeller heads talk about that stuff all the time anyway?”
“Sir, I think it has to do with our monitoring and control of their systems. I think they may have detected our programs.”
“What makes you think so? Have they done anything to remove any of them? Have any of them called to complain?”
“Well, no sir. But it is suspicious that we only started using the control software on the 31st and within a week they’re calling each other and talking about hacking.”
“So watch them. These programs of yours are supposed to cover their tracks and monitor what’s going on. So monitor them. If they try to change something, then wait a while and change it back. No problem.”
“Yes sir. But I don’t like the looks of it.”
------------- Tuesday, January 15, 2013 --------------
“So I told him to get to work on the potholes. He just looked at me and said ... well I won’t go into what he said but he wouldn’t do what I told him to do at all.”
“Is it your job to tell him what to do?”
“Well if he wants me to pay him, he’d better do what I tell him.”
“Or else what?”
“Or else I won’t pay him, of course.”
“What if he doesn’t care or does something else that deserves to be paid?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’d have to pay him if he did something else worthwhile.”
“Are you going to pay somebody to beat him up if he doesn’t do what you tell him to do?”
“Are you crazy? Of course not. What if word got back to the people in the neighborhood? My God! What if the other guys I’m supposed to pay heard about it? Nobody would want to work for me again.”
“Does anybody work for you now?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean are these people doing work you want done because you told them to do it or are they doing what they want to do and you pay them if it benefits someone else?”
“Okay, they aren’t working for me, really, they’re working for themselves.”
“Then why are you trying to tell them what to do? Why don’t you just wait and see what they do and pay if it does some good. That way you don’t have to work so hard. Let them do the work. You just watch.”
“But what if they don’t do anything that deserves to be paid?”
“Then don’t pay them. Remember all we’re supposed to do is reward good actions. Nobody has to have our permission to do things and nobody has to do things because we want them done.
“But let’s get back to what would happen if you paid somebody to beat someone who didn’t do what you told them to do. What would happen if you did that?”
“Well, I’d be pretty unpopular, I guess.”
“You’d also be in jail on charges of assault and battery.”
“Oh, yeah. That would be a crime wouldn’t it?”
“And it would be a crime that would be easy to convict you on as well, since you would be on record as having paid for the beating.”
“What if I put down that it was for something else?”
“You have to justify every payment and there would have to be some benefit that justified the payment. Plus, how much could you pay him by yourself?”
“That’s right. I couldn’t pay over $100 without another payer joining me and the two of us couldn’t go over $500 without having a third. Unless the thug would work cheap, I couldn’t pay enough and if we did get together enough payers to pay him enough, that would be a pretty big conspiracy. Someone would be almost sure to tell.”
“Yes. Even if you tried to pay thugs you wouldn’t be able to hide the crime. So you might as well give up trying to tell people what to do. It’s just not going to work for you.”
“Look Earl, I need that insulation for my attic. It’s just fifty rolls. I’ll give you $500 dollars for it.”
“Please Ed. Those are earmarked for a builder. I can’t let you have them.”
“Okay, I’ll give you $700. You can just tell the builder that you had to give them to someone else.”
“It’ll delay the other builder for several weeks if he doesn’t get this insulation. It’ll throw off his whole schedule.”
“Earl, you’ve got me over a barrel here. The wife will skin me if I don’t get this done right away. Her mother is coming to live with us for the winter and she’ll complain something fierce if she isn’t warm and cozy.”
“But you already have insulation in your home, you just want to do the guest house. Couldn’t she stay in your guest room?”
“I don’t want that woman in the same house with me. She nags me something terrible. And those little dogs of hers are fiends. I’ll give you $1000. Please, please let me have it.”
“Besides Ed, what good is that currency to me anyway? The transition was last week. We’re supposed to use the new money now.”
“How much is the other builder paying you?”
“He’s not paying me anything. The payers will do that. Haven’t you been reading the papers?”
“Well I’m offering you $1000 in hard cash. I’ve got it right here. $1000 versus nothing. What’re you going to do?”
“All right. You can have the insulation. Just don’t tell anybody I gave it to you.”
“Mums the word, pal. You can count on me. Can you give me a hand in getting it into my truck?”
“Earl, old buddy. How’s the world treating you. Say, I’m going to need some lawn fertilizer, about 100 lbs.”
“Some buddy. You cost me a lot of money with that insulation deal.”
“What do you mean? I gave you $1000 American. Can’t do better than that. I mean that insulation was only worth about $300.”
“It cost that builder a lot more than that when we didn’t have the insulation we had promised. It delayed completion of the house he was working on for over two weeks. He didn’t get paid for an extra two weeks and I’m gonna get paid about $2500 less than I would have if I hadn’t given that insulation to you. I lost a good customer. And as if that weren’t bad enough, I found that money you gave me practically useless.”
“Useless! That’s ridiculous. How could it be useless?”
“Because there’s almost nothing I can trade it for. I don’t need it for groceries because those are free. We get the stock at the store free because our suppliers get paid by the payers. Most of the luxury places won’t accept it because their suppliers wouldn’t get paid if they traded the luxury for my cash. What the hell good is it?”
“Maybe you could spend it in a foreign country.”
“Ed, I don’t travel in foreign countries. And anyway, why should they want it? They can’t buy anything here with it. It’s just so many pieces of paper. I might as well have been trying to use Confederate bills. At least those would have had some curiosity value.”
“Gee, I’m sorry Earl. I never thought you’d have trouble passing that money.”
“Well, how many people have asked you for cash money since the transition?”
“How many people offered you cash?”
“But Earl, I’m not in retail. I’m a musician. I don’t play on the street.”
“Well, here’s a five dollar bill. You go try to buy something with it. See how far you get.”
“Does this mean you won’t sell me the fertilizer?”
“Ed, I don’t carry fertilizer for yards any more. I only carry fertilizer for gardens, vegetable gardens. People with vegetable gardens don’t need to pay me because the payers will do that when their crop comes in and gets eaten. I’ll get lots more money for that than I will for selling it to some rich guy for his pretty lawn.”
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