2008-10-22 / Opinion

What Goes Around

by Alex McRae

History is like a wheel. And you don't have to be a scholar to know that as long as humans have been around, we've been doing the same things over and over and over, regardless of the results.

It's fun to read about. It's even better when you see major historical events or trends repeat within your lifetime. It's happening now in the financial sector. I wasn't around during the Great Depression but heard enough horror stories from relatives to know that during the 1930s, people did anything they could to get by.

Since cash and jobs were scarce, people used the barter system to pay for goods and services. We've all heard stories about families paying the doctor bill with eggs and chickens or traveling hoboes swapping sweat for food.

Times weren't that tough when I was a kid, but my friends and I had a nice little barter system of our own. By the time I was halfway through elementary school, I had a massive collection of baseball cards and comic books. Lots of my friends did, too. We were always swapping them to upgrade our collections.

The actual price of the comic book or baseball card didn't matter. We decided what the items were worth to us, and the transactions went off without a hitch.

Of course, we never tried to swap a Superman comic or Mickey Mantle baseball card for a milk shake or burger. We knew the retail market didn't work that way.

And since the Great Depression ended, our economy has been mostly based on cash. People still barter among themselves for work or goods, but stores expect money for their products. And not the Monopoly kind.

But as the economy worsens and cash gets tighter every day, desperate people are trying to barter their way through the turbulence.

Unfortunately, a recent attempt at old-school trading didn't go well for a Florida man who showed up at a fast food drive-thru with a whopping appetite and a shriveled wallet. When he got to the window, the clerk asked for cash. The dude didn't have any, so he offered her a small bag of marijuana for his super-sized treat.

The clerk was probably tempted but knew such transactions were forbidden by the employee manual under the heading: "Stupid Things That Will get You Fired and Locked Up."

The doper left disappointed. He felt even worse when the cashier ratted him out, and the cops busted him.

In other food news, grocers know that in down economic times, shoplifting soars. As a result, store security tightens. Sooner or later, shoppers figure it out. Apparently, Mr. Binh Quang Chau of San Diego was wary of being busted for shoplifting, so when he developed a craving for gourmet foods, he went straight to the source.

Instead of stealing them from the store, the man went to a local marine wildlife sanctuary and lifted six live lobsters from their saltwater habitat.

Game wardens were nearby and noticed the guy was walking funny. That's what happens when you stroll down the beach with six newspaper-wrapped lobsters stuck down your britches.

The live lobsters were returned to the sea. The poacher was returned to the same jail where he had already done time four times for the same offense.

By the way, things got so bad recently that a mother and son who wanted to get rid of mom's low rent boyfriend offered to pay a hit man with a truck, a boat and a camper. All of which belonged to the intended murder victim.

No shirt, no shoes? In many places, no problem. No cash? In these desperate times, you might want to think twice before making that trade.

(Send your e-mail comments to: alex@newnan. com)

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