Past Love

© 2007 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

I won’t tell you her name, but I will tell you when and where it hit me. It was in Latin class during the spring semester of the eighth grade.

She was beautiful and smart. What a wonderful smile. What a cheerful laugh. Blonde… blonde doesn’t hurt. Poised. Friendly. And smart… did I mention that.

We shared three other classes: Advanced Math, Science and History. How could I have not noticed her before?

At night, as I would go to sleep I could imagine our future life. We would study together. Tell jokes. Hold hands. Kiss, even.

She would be in a car accident and I would take care of her until she recovered.

I would develop a terrible disease and she would stay by my side in the hospital, holding my hand and crying. I’d pull through and we would swear to each other never to be apart.

We would marry.

Our love developed like this from the fall through the winter.

She must have noticed that I was staring at her.

One day she followed me to my locker.

She said, “Hi.”

I was mortified… struck dumb. “I… I…” I stammered, “I can’t talk to you right now. I’m very busy.”

I slammed my locker and ran down the hall. I’d hoped she thought I was needed somewhere in a hurry and that she would not think I was running from her.

That night I could not sleep. What was wrong with me? I was an idiot. Was that any way to treat your lover? She would never speak to me again.

I was right; she never did.

Any wonder? I had treated her badly. I avoided her path; her eyes.

My torture lasted through the summer. I don’t remember when it stopped. Mourning doesn’t end abruptly… it fades away.

I hoped she would never get over me and that she knew that I would one day become her one true love. I hoped she would see that right now I was needed elsewhere for a secret and extremely important assignment and she would wait for me.

So that is how I spent my eighth grade; the first half in the future and the second half in the past.

What a hell is immature love.

Love is found in the now, not in the then or the when.

Science Takes a Look at Love

© 2007 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

In June of 2006 I had dinner with a young newlywed couple in London, England. They had just read my story, How Grandmother Won Granddad in a Beauty Contest, in the May issue of International Family Magazine.

The young bride asked me, “How do you know that you’ve met that one person out there who is just perfect for you?”

I don’t know the answer, but I find the question very disturbing since it implies that there is only one perfect person; yet it is likely that if you’re going to be married for any length of time there will be plenty of opportunity to uncover your mate’s imperfections and convince yourself that you’ve stopped looking too early.

This March I was again in London and again I had dinner with another newly married young couple. They too had read the story of my grandparents. She was beautiful and literate. He was handsome and charming. They held hands, snuggled and kissed a lot

Like my grandparents, they had married within weeks of first meeting.
Isn’t it romantic?

I think so.

But also scary.

I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read the book, The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia. The book discusses the science of happiness. In his chapter Love and Attachments he explains that long-term relationships must be based on companionship, not passion. You just aren’t physiologically capable of extended bouts of passionate love; you’ll develop tolerance to the dopamine you’re producing.

Thinking back, my grandparents never talked about youthful passion. They talked about the great adventures they had together and they talked about how lonely they were before they met.

But passion?

Nope.

For a love to last a long time you must be long time companions, not just lovers.

Advice for Grandchildren

© 2010 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

 

After my dad died, I went through his hard drive and found this in a folder named: adviceforgrandchildren

 

 

Title: Boys and Girls

 

 

Until about 2 years old

 

I have noticed that children at this age carry on soundless interested communication sometimes pointing and laughing and crying from their strollers regardless of whatever color (blue or pink) they are wearing

3 and 4 years of age

 

Very friendly to all their peers regardless of age sex or economic level. Not very intellectual communication except for world shaking statements, like ” Why?” and “If people believe in God and all the people die; What happens to God?”

 

5 to 12  years of age

A great age of discovery about boys and girls by boys and girls. Boys feel sorry for girls because they don’t have one. Both have long hair some times. Some boys notice older girls have bumps on their chest. Boys don’t like girls and girls don’t like boys. Sometimes they have separate school gangs or social clubs. Girls sometimes wear dresses but boys never do, except in Scotland and Greece. Both use separate toilets except in some countries that usually have a cement hole in the ground with two foot prints in the cement.

 

13 to 18 years of age

Boys voices change and they start (hopefully) growing beards, develop into couch potatoes with pot bellies and are slobs. Girls become attractive by taking care of themselves, working out and learning how to make up. Girls make better grades than boys. All are an absolute trial for parents – usually – but not always. Some teenagers are nicer than their parents were at the same age. At first, for boys and girls, is confusion then fascination or extreme dislike of either themselves or the opposite sex. Hormones almost take over completely, but not quite. There is school sex education but that is series of biology lessons and common knowledge which is usually incorrect.

What one must do is learn how to be a lover. This simply means making sure the other person is happier or more satisfied than you are. An adjunct to learning this is how to be a friend to boys and girls without a sexual meaning.

 

If you learn these lessons you will be happy or create happiness for the rest of your life.

 

 

19 to 22 years of age

 

A time to learn ‘HOW TO’:

  • How to think with and without the influence of your hormones.
  • How to get to know the opposite sex.
  • How to find out what you want to like.
  • How to court the person of your attention.
  • How to make a living so that you can support yourself and the result of all those hormones and frantic attention to the opposite sex.

23 to 60 years of age

 

Your internal clock goes off !

And you did not even know you had one.

It is called parenthood.

You will have to find your own way. There are some things you will find out all by yourself. We are all individuals – even our loved ones.

Some observations are classical and catholic:

Birds make much better parents than people; they know when to kick the chick out of the nest, after together knocking themselves out taking care of each other and the chicks.

Children cause one to appreciate one’s own parent.

Adulthood means accepting responsibility regardless of how you feel or resent it.

61 to 70 years of age

 

Freedom!

You can set your own schedule.

You can not get fired because you are retired.

You have little or no sex.

You can speak you mind, but few listen.

You realize how much you love your mate as they pretend to listen.

After 70 years of age

 

I have noticed that grown people this age carry on loud uninteresting communication sometimes  pointing and laughing and crying from their wheelchairs and canes regardless of whatever sex or color their hair is.

Hoping for death with dignity.

Love,

Your granddad Tom.

 

 

If someone is not ready to hear what you have to say, write a memo.

The Magical Power of Imagination

© 2007 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

As an undergraduate I went on a date to see a famous “mentalist”. I find magicians entertaining. My date was eager to show me proof of the supernatural. I was entertained and she found her evidence.

His first feat was to control the minds of two volunteers. He had asked the promoters to provide a selection of decks of cards. Two volunteers each chose a deck and shuffled them. The volunteers sat at desks a few feet apart, each with a face-down deck.

The mentalist then remembered that the effect was difficult if the decks contained any jokers so he quickly removed them.

Each volunteer was asked to cut the deck about a third of the way into the pack and turn those cards over, placing them face up on top of the rest of the deck. Then they were to repeat the process, cutting past the face-up cards and turn them over again.

Finally, he used his mind to command the volunteers to remove the face-up cards so as to find the first face-down card.

Amazingly, they both had found the eight of clubs.

“See,” said she.

“I see,” said I.

He asked the audience to think of a number between one and one hundred, both digits odd but not the same. For example, 15 and 91 would be OK but 55 was not. We all thought of a number.

“I can sense many of you are thinking of 37… or perhaps 73. Raise your hand if I am right?”

Many hands went up. Not all, but certainly more than one percent.

She was thinking of 37.  I was thinking of 88. She was much better than me at following instructions..

“Do the math,” she said.

“I have,” I said.

I left amused. She left with a renewed faith.

While in graduate school I saw an act called the Asparagus Valley Cultural Society featuring two magicians who would later work together as Penn and Teller. They claimed to be no more than entertainers. They were very entertaining.

In 2005, thirty years after first seeing him on stage, I heard Penn Jillette’s essay on National Public Radio entitled “There is no God.”

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5015557

Like many people, he and I believe there is no God.

But I do believe in providence even though one definition is: “a manifestation of God’s foresightful care for his creatures.”

In high school, I imagined I would find something in college that would excite my passions. Three years later I did.

I imagined I could make a living at it, and for thirty years I have.

I imagined I would find a woman to love and ten years later I did.

We imagined having wonderful children and we have.

I imagined writing stories for them and I have.

I imagined that someone would be interested in publishing some of those stories and at Sea-Tac airport I met Catherine Wayland and she did. Here they are.

If you imagine that there is a foresightful God looking out for you, you will find ample evidence that there is. Even if there isn’t.

You don’t need to believe in God to trust in providence.

College Thinking

© 2007 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

Colleges have become marketing experts. They work very hard at convincing you to send them your child and your money. You have to do the work yourself to find out why you shouldn’t send them either.

“Admissions.”

“Hello, is this (name of a liberal arts college in the Midwest)?”[1]

“Yes it is.”

“Are you an admissions officer?”

“Yes I am.”

“I am calling regarding my son. He has been admitted to your institution and he’s trying to decide if he wants to go. He isn’t here now so do you mind if I record this conversation for him?”

“Not at all.”

“Great. My son is a very good student but he is not yet ready to narrow his interests. He feels that a liberal arts college might be just the thing for him, at least as an undergraduate.”

“We fit the bill.”

“Personally, there is only one thing that I’m hoping he gets out of college more than anything else.”

“What’s that?”

“I would love it if he learns how to think.”

“Excellent. We’re in agreement. More than anything else, that is what we’re all about.”

“I’d like him to learn how to tackle problems with insight and creativity.”

“We agree.”

“I’d like him to respect authority and yet feel comfortable questioning it.”

“Perfect.”

“I’d like him to develop his people skills and to become responsible.”

“Couldn’t agree more.”

“I’d like him to learn to make his own decisions without requiring the approval of his peers.”

“We teach independence and responsibility by example. The college puts a great deal of trust in its faculty, staff and students to make decisions on their own.”

“I’d hope that he’ll find a place that facilitates this process rather than gets in the way.”

“That describes us to a T.”

“Good. Now, I have a question. Do you require that freshmen live on campus?”

“Actually, we require all students to live on campus their first two years.”

“No exceptions.”

“Well, we do make rare exceptions for hardship.”

“Do you mean, as in a case where we live in town but we don’t have enough money to pay for tuition and room and board? However, we could swing it if he lives at home.”

“We feel very strongly about this. We’ve found it is important for freshmen to develop strong relationships with other freshmen and these relationships are solidified in their second year. So, in the case of financial need we’d give him enough aid so that he could live on campus.”

“Like a grant?”

“Or a loan.”

“Ok, so you feel it is so important you would have him to go into debt. Now, imagine that the fact is that he has inherited a house right in town. It has four bedrooms and it has a market value of $160,000. Your college costs $47,000 a year all in. Since he has clear title, I doubt he’d qualify for a grant based on financial need. Are you saying you’d force him to sell the house and still go into debt so he could give you the money and live on campus when he’d rather take roommates and live in his house?”

“No. That would certainly qualify for an exemption. He could have seven other roommates since the town zones houses that way for students. He could collect enough rent from his roommates to pay all his other expenses.”

“That’s what it seems like. Rather than liquidate the house and give you all his money he could graduate from college with an education and a house free and clear.”

“Correct. And managing a property like that will certainly teach him responsibility. I’m sure I could get an exemption for him.”

“And seven other students.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you want him to live with other freshmen. You said so yourself.”

“That could be a challenge, but I’m confident we could do it.”

“Excellent.”

“I’ll form a committee right away.”

“Great. We’ll call a realtor.”

“What!?”

“He doesn’t own the house yet, but there are some excellent properties just steps from your main gate.”

“Wait a minute. This is totally different. What are you trying to do?”

“I’m trying to teach him how to think.”

“What you’re teaching him boarders on the criminal.”

“No, I’m teaching him how to tackle problems with insight and creativity.”

“But we have rules for a reason.”

“Is the reason you have rules to avoid thinking? The only difference between my son and the boy you would exempt from the rules is that my mother has not yet bought my son the house.”

“You’re teaching him how to trick people. If he thinks like you do then he will not be welcome here.”

“That’s what it seems like.”

 

Some colleges don’t want you thinking the way they don’t.


[1] This conversation is completely fictional and any resemblance to any real conversations I might have had with small liberal arts colleges in the Midwest is purely coincidental.

Environmentalist, Get Thee to an Editor

© 2007 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)[1] are neurotoxins and potent carcinogens that were once used extensively in cooling oils for electrical transformers back when we were fearless (and stupid).

Transformers can overheat and catch fire. Breathing the smoke from a burning transformer containing PCBs can put firemen at more risk than they signed up for.

At the train station in Hoboken, New Jersey, I spied a large transformer with a sticker on it that said:

“NO PCBs”

What did this sticker mean?

Did a protestor place the sticker there thinking he was working in the best interests of workers, firemen, and the general public?

Or did it mean that the transformer had been tested and was free of PCBs?

A falsely reassure a maintenance person or a fireman might put himself at great risk. Or he might take it as a warning and fail to put out a fire putting others at risk.

These two words (well, one word and an acronym) take my prize for the shortest ambiguous sentence.

Don’t believe what you can misread.

 

Ambiguity is the soul of the nitwit.


[1] Replacing more than one of the hydrogen atoms in a biphenol with chlorine atoms produces a Polychlorinated Biphenol; but you knew that already just from the name.

Imagine a Future

© 2007 Brooke Allen

Being a dad wasn’t working out as I’d hoped.

I grew up on “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best”.

Our home was more like “The Simpson”s or “Married With Children”.

That January I found myself on an airplane sitting next to a woman who is a psychologist and an expert on rearing children. I asked her for advice on how to be a better dad.

We talked for hours and she had many sensible suggestions. As we approached Kennedy Airport, she said, “Well, there really isn’t time left to get into much depth, so let me ask you a simple question.”

“Sure.”

“Can you imagine you and your family in some idealized future setting?”

Alps1
The future I imagined with my sons in the Alps.

“Yes.” It wasn’t a hard question, “When I was in college I traveled around Europe on a rail pass by myself. On the one hand I wished that my parents had been with me as we explored things together. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine that the experience would have actually been a pleasant one.”

“When we had our own children, it was my fantasy that we could be the kind of parents that our children would enjoy having with them on vacation. Right now the thought of spending time together is inconsistent with our concept of a vacation. I’m sure they find our company “no fun” as well. It seems like we spend our days making up rules and enforcing them. They resent all that we do for them. It seems likely I’ll have to give up on that fantasy.”

“That’s perfect,” said my traveling companion. “Imagine what the ideal rail trip would be like. Imagine all of you exploring new things together, sharing experiences, and enjoying each other’s company. Imagine what it would feel like.”

“OK.”

“Good. Have a concrete image in your mind of this trip and set it as a goal. Now don’t concentrate on where you will go, or what you will see, but rather on how you, and everyone else, will feel and how you will interact.”

“OK.”

“Now, as you go through your daily life, each time you are about to do something, think to yourself, ‘Is what I am about to do going to bring me closer to this goal?’ If it occurs to you that what you are about to do now might hurt your chances of reaching your goal, try something different instead.”

I took this to heart. Each time I was about to yell about homework, bath time, or bedtime, I thought again. We found better ways of motivating our children without the acrimony.

In the summer of 1998, less than three years after that plane trip, we planned a vacation in Europe. Other parents assumed we were going as a couple and offered to introduce us to the baby sitters they trusted with their children when they went away. Traveling with their children was inconsistent with their concept of a vacation.

EuroTrains1007
Eve and Glen on our imagined European trip..

But we wanted to see if we could make our vision a reality. We all remember that trip; we visited France, Italy, and Switzerland by rail pass. Eve and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute we spent with our children. They enjoyed their time with us.

I can attribute most of my disappointments as a parent to a failure to remember or apply the things I learned on that flight in 1996.

It is better to keep a goal in mind and make up rules along the way than to follow rules and lose sight of the goal.

Sublimation

© 2007 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

“Granddad, something’s different.”

“What’s that?”

“I haven’t seen you smoking a cigar since we got here.”

“I quit a year ago.”

“Why? I thought you loved those things.”

“Nope. I hated them.”

This was puzzling. “If you hated them, then why did you smoke.”

“It started in the 1920’s. I was the head of the United Press office in Havana. The other men in the office told me that, since I was the highest paid man there, it was entirely appropriate, expected even, that I have a mistress.”

“When I told your grandmother that everyone thought I should have a mistress, she blew a gasket.”

“When she finally calmed down, she said, ‘I guess I have been too strict. I will allow you just one vice, but a mistress is out of the question.'”

“Since cigars were so cheap in Havana, I took up smoking.”

“You didn’t like cigars?”

“No. I hated those things.” He laughed, “I wanted a mistress.”

“So, why did you quit.”

“Anne told me that for my 80th birthday I could have a mistress, so I quit.”

That was interesting, “So, now do you have a mistress?”

“No. It is probably too late and I’m not really interested. But I’m sure glad to be done with those cigars.”
Find alternatives to doing the wrong thing.

Hobbies are good. Carcinogens are bad.

Holiday Remembrances

© 2006 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

I find holidays are an important time to pause and remember things. These days I’m getting older so I do the pause quite well, but the remember part… well… I’ve decided to keep notes.

Thanksgiving is a time to remember how much less I weighed November a year ago. Now that our son goes to McGill in Montreal, it is also a time to remember that they celebrate their Thanksgiving in October and they celebrate mid-term exams at the end of November.

Christmas is a time to remember who sent us holiday cards last year. It is also a time to remember that a bunch of Christians got all whacked about calling them “holiday cards” instead of Christmas cards. Maybe I don’t need to send cards to everyone this year.

Chanukah is a time when I remember that I took an accounting course at Baruch before transferring to New York University.

Easter is a time when I remember that, as pre-teens my sister and I were given two rabbits named Bach and Beethoven. Beethoven turned out to be a girl. Within two years we were feeding more than one hundred rabbits every day after school. I never once saw a single one lay an egg.

On July fourth I remember how much fun an M-80 can be in a trash can.

On secretary’s Day I remember when there were secretaries. 1990 was the first year I noticed there were no secretaries in sight on site, so I sent cards to every generic secretary I could think of, along with a few bucks and a suggestion they buy themselves a small present or a drink. After all, if I had a secretary, I would have sent them out to buy something. It’s part of the job description

Only two replied. They were:

Elizabeth Dole, then Secretary of Labor, and,

Edward Derwinski, then Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

I think they must be really decent people.

Holidays can be stressful. Humor helps.

Tricky Economics

© 2006 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

We once attended a “Tricky Tray” fundraiser. It offered some excellent economics lessons. If you haven’t experienced one of these is, I’ll explain.

“Tricky” means what you expect and “Tray” comes from both the French word “très”, which means “very”, and the Spanish “tres” which means “three”.

A Tricky Tray is a very tricky device for separating you from your money three ways.

1) You pay $40 for a meal worth about $7.49.

2) You donate a prize that is supposed to cost about $20 but since it will bear you name, and since you don’t want to appear cheap, you will spend about twice this amount.

3) You must buy at least 10 tickets for $1 apiece that you will use to bid on the prizes. However, everyone else buys five times this number to increase their likelihood of winning something, so you will too just to stay even.

If everyone spends more to increase their chances, then everyone is worse off. The cost to achieve the same chance of winning goes up. This nicely illustrates the relationship between inflation and money supply.

If everyone has the same chance of winning a prize as everyone else, and if the number of prizes exactly equals the number of attendees, and if the average value of a prize is $40, then each participant should expect to win something worth about $40. This nicely illustrates the concept of expected value. As everyone contributes a $40 gift to join the game, they should all break even.

People then spend money for the tickets to underwrite a process that simply keeps people from going home with what they came with; sort of like the way Wall Street charges you a fee to sell one stock and buy another.

The average person paid $40 for their meal, $40 for the gift that they brought, $50 for the tickets with which to win other people’s tickets. Therefore, the average person received $7.49 in certain value and an average expected value of $40 in prizes, but with a large variance in outcomes. You can see how this could lead into a discussion of risk/reward ratios and breakeven analysis. It could lead to that discussion, but it won’t. Not now.

Anyway, it was all for a good cause. At least we assumed that it was.

In our case, we came with prizes that cost us $20 each (though not evidently so). We followed instructions precisely, and did not care who thinks we are cheap.

We bought the minimum number of tickets because: 1) we are not gamblers, 2) since we already had everything that we needed, we did not need anything else, 3) we already had a house stuffed with things we did not need, the only thing that this might suggest is that we could use a bigger house – however we didn’t expect to find a house among the donated gifts), and 4) we had no desire to collect other people’s ideas of things we did not need.

Eve and I separated upon arrival.

With my ten tickets I proceeded to win five prizes. This was more than nearly everyone else. Let me explain how I did it

A ballroom had dozens of tables holding hundreds of gifts. Next to each was a brown paper bag of the size that typically holds a flattened PBJ sandwich under an apple and a milk carton. You were to inspect each prize and decide if you wanted a chance at winning it. If it interested you, you’d drop half of your numbered ticket into the bag. During dinner, each bag would be shaken and winners called out.

Those are the physical and mechanical aspects of the Tricky Tray.

It was worth observing the behavior of participants.

The whole endeavor was clearly a female thing. Men were in tow, but they weren’t digging it. Of a few hundred items, less than a dozen might possibly appeal to someone with a Y chromosome. Even then, they were a woman’s concept of what a man might want.

A typical exchange in front of a variable speed drill:

She (all a titter): “Oh honey, I’m putting a ticket in this bag just for you. You could use it.” It was hard to force the slip into the bag since every woman in the room had used a few percent of her tickets on one of the man-prizes as a gesture of fairness.

He: “I don’t want another drill. I already have one.”

She: “But you can always use another drill.”

He: “How?”

She: “What if the one you have breaks?”

He: “Then I will buy another one.”

She: “But you could have this one.”

He: “If the one I have breaks, then I will want to chose the one I buy to replace it.”

Dinner began at 8:00 P.M. by which time the inspection of the prizes was to be completed.

By 7:45 the room had emptied, but for me.

On a first pass I inspected each bag. Some of the bags were overflowing, many had dozens of tickets, some had fewer than five; a few were empty.

On a second pass, each empty bag got one of my tickets. The remaining tickets went into bags with little competition.

Of course I won lots of prizes. Some folk with over 100 tickets won nothing.

During dinner, half my numbers were called. The women at my dinner table became upset with me. (The men couldn’t care less.)

Was I cheating? Several people suspected as much, until they began to inspect my winnings.

She: “No wonder you won so much; you bid on the stuff nobody wants.”

Me: “I want these things.”

She: “What on earth are you going to do with a shelf of children’s books?”

Me: “I have children.”

She: “Or those reference books?”

Me: “I can use the atlas, the dictionary, the pocket encyclopedia and the almanac. The only thing I have already is the thesaurus and so I’ll give that away.”

She: “OK, but a basket of pet toys? What are you going to do with them? You don’t have any pets.”

Me: “Yes, but I have friends who do. These will make fine presents.”

Priscilla put her finger on it. “None of the things you’ve won are any fun. I saw your bucket with the mop and the cleaning supplies. Are you crazy?”

“I saw that one too.” Suzanne laughed, “Who on earth would donate such crap? There was a really cute pair of earrings nearby. I wanted them so bad. Brooke, why didn’t you try to win those?”

I blushed, “I don’t wear earrings. Besides, that bag was full.”

She: “You could give them away. They would make a better gift than pet toys.” There was obvious contempt in her voice.

Me: “So, if you won those earrings, would you wear them or give them away as a gift?”

A pause.

She: “Well, actually I probably would pawn them off on somebody. They aren’t exactly my style.”

Me: “Good. This will illustrate the point. Let’s look into my cleaning bucket. How much would you normally pay for all this stuff? Bucket, mop, spare mop head, brush, floor cleaner, tile cleaner, window cleaner, pot scrubbers, pumice, natural sponge… the bucket was brimming.”

She: “More than $30.” There was lots of nodding indicated consensus. “But I could buy that stuff any time.”

Me: “Exactly. You have and you will again as you use it up and so will I. So this prize, that not one other person wanted, will save me at least $30.”

She: “Soooo…What’s the point?”

Me: “How much do those earrings cost? They look like costume jewelry.”

She: “I know exactly. I’ve seen them at the drugstore for $19.95. They have a hundreds on display.”

Me: “Now, if I wanted to give you a pair of earrings, I could take you to the store and let you pick exactly the ones you want. If I did this with the money I saved from taking the cleaning supplies that nobody wanted, I’d still have $10 left over.”

Everyone agreed that the real point of the evening was to enjoy oneself. Somehow, for them, my approach didn’t cut it.

Funny, I was having a blast.

The laugher, shaking of heads, and derisive comments lead me to believe I had not trained any competitors for next time.

You need not have fun nor make economic decisions the same way as everyone else.