The Almighty Dollar

On a recent trip to visit with a friend, I had a slight detour that took me into a parking lot where I had to turn around.  Upon entering the parking lot, I noticed a familiar sight in an unfamiliar setting.  There it was, a half crumpled dollar bill sitting near the bushes.

At first I thought it might have been one of those papers that looks like a dollar but turns out to be a clever ad for saving money or joining a club.  Being curious, I put the car in park, opened the door and looked around to see if there might be a rightful owner.  No, nobody around so I picked it up and thought “possession is 9/10th of the law or finders keepers.”

Heck, it was only a dollar.  But what a dollar…crisp, clean, half crumpled and a story untold.  Where did it come from, who might it have belonged to, what path did it follow to get where I found it?

All questions I couldn’t begin to answer but I certainly thought about various possibilities throughout the day.  By the time I got home, there was more to uncover.  I had to know more about the “Almighty Dollar” that we all work so hard to make, but rarely take time to acknowledge.  Here are a few of the many facts I found about a buck, a single, a bone, a one, a bill.

  • The average life of a $1 bill in circulation is 42 months before it is replaced due to wear.
  • Approximately 42% of all U.S. currency produced in 2009 were one-dollar bills.
  • The first U.S. one-dollar bill was issued in 1862 with a portrait of Salmon Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln.
  • It wasn’t until 1869 that the one-dollar bill was redesigned with George Washington’s picture on it.

Then I was off to the website www.wheresgeorge.com.  This is a website where you can put in information about any denomination and track it.  So, I plugged in all the data but sadly discovered there was no history on this greenback.

Our United States currency has gotten a bad reputation of late.  It doesn’t seem to have the value it once had.  Does that mean we work less hard for it?  Heck no!  For many of us, we are working harder thanks to inflation, pay cuts, and increases in everyday necessities.

Here’s something I had never heard of…the “Big Mac Index.”  It is “a good indication of the value of the US dollar versus other countries’ currencies” in what The Economist once termed the “Big Mac Index.” Since the McDonald’s Big Mac is ubiquitous these days, it was a perfect and, um, digestible way to measure the purchasing power of the dollar against other currencies. (www.airtreks.com)

That got me thinking about other currencies and other countries and what the dollar might mean.  In case you are wondering, here are some of the best places, as of 2010, to maximize your dollars according to www.airtreks.com:  India, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bolivia, Honduras, Peru, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Argentina.    Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really fancy visiting most of those places and I wouldn’t even fathom ordering a Big Mac in most of those destinations.

The “Almighty Dollar” is what we work so hard for and rarely seem to appreciate.  In some ways this is truly an “Almighty” dollar in that I thought “why was it there for me to find? Was it a sign for something?  Am I supposed to do something amazing with it?”  Only time will tell, but I would enjoy hearing what you think I should do with it. Should I give it away to charity, to the man in the wheelchair who sits outside our grocery store, put it in the plate on Sunday, give it to a kid via a car wash, put it in the bank, or invest it in some other way?

While I consider your recommendations, it will remain in my possession. In the meantime, go count your own blessings and then your dollars.

Chasing Fireworks

Sunset on Independence DayJuly 4th…Independence Day!  What a great backdrop to serve as the launch of a new idea rolling around in my head. As Ferris Bueller says “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and take a look around, you might miss something.”

I have never been on a boat, on the water, in THE DARK.  No, never been on a cruise boat, midnight glow fishing or alligator hunting.   Some of you may be saying, really?

We shoved off from the banks of Lake Arrowhead (in Maine) with our crew who included my friend Michele, her husband Dan, my husband Frank, friends of Michele’s Martin and Nancy, our Captain Richard Lindell, his wife Jeanne and their grand-daughter Alyss.  The setting sun’s light was trapped in the trees behind us and reflected off the water’s waves caused by our wake.  We found ourselves meandering through various coves and then we spotted our destination.  We dropped anchor in a cozy spot nestled up to some reeds.  Other boats drew alongside us and then, it happened.

What was IT?  IT was Alfred Hitchock’s sequel to The Birds…IT was a Black Mosquito Swarm.  I looked around and couldn’t help but laugh as to an unsuspecting eye we may have been mistaken for a bunch of convulsing self-mutilating escapees from a mental hospital slapping both ourselves but waving feverously at others as if that would keep these suckers away.  Apparently a boat that isn’t moving through the water, becomes a giant heat target and as such sends a signal to hungry, biting mosquito swarms.  Anti-repellants served only as a marinade for our luscious legs, arms, necks and other savory parts.  Our Captain reminded us that these mosquitos are also known as the state bird of Maine.  Thanks Captain.  Being from Florida I know a thing about mosquitos but these guys must go underground in the winter and suck on steroids.  Love Maine, love lobster, love blueberries…hate mosquitos.

Just as we regained composure from the swarm, the long-anticipated fireworks began.  Oh, but wait “Houston, we have a problem.”  The fireworks were malfunctioning and now were spraying across the water.  It was a little scary as one stray bottle rocket sent our way might torpedo the boat and send its occupants who knows where.   After the first wave of fireworks were finished, it was time to move.  A disappointment as we all thought we were in the perfect location for this July 4th fireworks extravaganza.  It was a bust.

Then, out of the corner of our eyes, fireworks up around the bend.  Captain Lindell went full throttle and made haste in the direction of the fireworks.  Then, there they were FIREWORKS…brightly colored and loud!  We slowed down only to be disappointed as they were coming to a close.  But wait, then just down the way, more and then on the horizon, still more.  We moved closer and cut the motor.    The ooohhhhs and aahhhhhs of everyone on board said it all.  We had finally found the Holy Grail of fireworks.  There was coordinating music coming from the banks and it quickly became obvious that this homeowner and amateur fireworks mogul had connections.  There were all different colors and types of fireworks.  As they illuminated the sky, we realized that we were not alone.   Sitting there, were many other boats filled with passengers all watching and probably experiencing the same reaction on board.  As the fireworks would pause, we wondered “is that it, are they done?”  Much to our amazement, they kept on going.   Another twenty minutes passed and finally the climax of fireworks accompanied Stars and Stripes Forever.  That was certainly an experience we will not soon forget.

It may sound cliché, but life’s opportunities are a little like chasing fireworks.  You can spend a lot of time searching for the perfect view and not see the one right in front of you.  No matter where you watch them, there are bound to be others close by.  Some people are frightened of them and others always want more.  There are all different types and sometimes they malfunction while other times they are spectacular.

Where are you watching the fireworks?  Inside watching on television?  On the bank?  Or are you in the water?  Either way you run the risk life’s mosquitoes biting you.  So, put yourself out there occasionally…on a pontoon boat in the middle of a lake in the dark…with a swarm of mosquitos.  It might just be the best thing to happen to you in a while.   If nothing else, the biting mosquitoes remind you that you are alive, blood pumping, and looking for adventure.

Just remember the following when chasing fireworks, whether on a boat or not:

  • Choose your captain wisely and trust them as they will maneuver you through the rough spots, shallow areas, and get you back to shore safely
  • Laugh with your fellow shipmates
  • Dropping anchor isn’t always permanent
  • Sometimes where you set off to go won’t be the best place to stay
  • Repellants don’t always work
  • Keep looking and be optimistic
  • Listen for the music and sing along
  • Remember to ooohhh and awwwwh when you see the fireworks
  • Always show your appreciation

As for us, we hooted and hollered and Mr. Lindell beeped his horn which sounded like an old Volkswagen Beetle horn from the 60’s.  We were all happy and the boat was too.

You are invited to join me as I continue to “chase fireworks” in my every day life.  You will be introduced to new ideas and concepts, people, and opportunities for personal growth.  Your feedback and ideas are welcome.  Find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stowawaystories.  Share both this blog and my FB site with others.