The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased
as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor
and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris,
author of My
Wife and Times. —Ed].
The color of digital money
By Daniel Will Harris
I still don't quite understand how money works.
I remember my mother taking me to open my first bank account.
I only wanted one because when you opened an account, the
savings and loan gave you a coin bank in the shape of a Ford
I handed over my $5 and in return the nice teller presented
me with the car, and a little blue bank book. My mom got up
and we were leaving and I said, "Where's my money?"
The teller said, "In the bank." I shook the toy
car bank and heard nothing. I started to get cranky. "No
it's not," I said, getting all teary-eyed. " "It's
in *our* bank," she said.
I looked at the car. I looked at her. I looked at the little
blue book. And then, at the top of my lungs, I screamed, "I
gave you five dollars and all you gave me was this stupid
The young woman explained that they kept my money for safekeeping,
and when I wanted it back, all I had to was show them the
book. It sounded like a racket to me. I showed her the book
and said I wanted it back—now. She said, "all right,
but you'll have to give me back the book and the car."
My brain froze. This was too complicated for a five year
old. Money. Car. Book. Book. Money. Car. What did these people
want from me? I wanted the money. I wanted the car. And now
I even liked the little blue book because it was the littlest
book I'd ever seen and it had gold stamped on the cover.
I decided to outsmart them all. I'd take the book and car
now. Then I'd come back tomorrow and get the money. I put
the little blue book in a place so special I immediately forgot
where it was. But I loved the car and still have it in a box
in the garage (which, given the fact that we have a couple
hundred boxes, is like saying, "It's somewhere in the
state of California").
My wife will tell you that my grasp of money hasn't improved
much since then. I know if you do something people want, then
they'll give you money. And I know money is necessary to get
toys, but that's about as far as my comprehension has ever
It must be even more confusing for kids today. Often there's
not even any actual money—just numbers on a screen.
As the web progresses, payment systems like Paypal let anyone
send money to anyone else, via e-mail. You can probably understand
that. But what about kids? How hard must it be to understand
that you can type $20 in one place and it means nothing, but
if you type it in another it means you get a genuine birchwood
model of a T. Rex?
When young web designers and builders ask me how to get their
start, I tell them to start by trading. Build a web site for
a local restaurant or store in trade for food or toys (though
I tend to say "peripherals" which is the new word
for toys). Not only can you learn a lot by working directly
with a local business person, but you get something tangible
out of it, not just some numbers on a screen.
Because, as little as I know about money, I do know this
much, courtesy of Thornton Wilder's play, The Matchmaker:
"Money is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless
it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow!"