Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"How Much Do You Make?"

Once, at camp, I ate ten hotdogs at one sitting.

“With the buns?”

A majority of them with the buns.  Did you ever eat ten dogs?


It’s a lot of hot dogs, okay?

“I know.”

Almost a dozen hotdogs.  And I ate them at one sitting. 

“You said.”

So don’t start talking about, “with the buns.”

“Sorry.  I was just trying to accurately gauge your accomplishment.”

May I continue?

“It’s your blog.”

Yes.  Though it appears to have an adversarial “virus.” 


I ate ten hotdogs at one sitting – I got attention and accolades.  Veiled envy from people who could only eat seven hotdogs, but that envy was merely a mirror of my magnificent accomplishment.  I mean, what I’d achieved was not close to the success of those three physicists who won the Nobel Prize I read about this morning.  Although let them try to eat ten hotdogs at one sitting.

The thing is, like me, those Nobel laureates enthusiastically accepted their recognition, providing accompanying “Head Shots” for the adulatory media coverage, their behavior reflecting a pride of accomplishment, which is both natural and normal.

It is the same with voted award winners, recognized heroes, Olympic champions – a guy “cleans-and-jerks” 475 pounds (if that’s possible, I just pulled a number out of the air) – he releases the barbell to the floor, strutting victoriously around the venue.

In every field of endeavor, you hit the designated bull’s eye, you go, “I did it!”  Possibly humbly.  Possibly something a little less Canadian.  No one denies the recognition.  They are certified winners.  And they act like it.

Now, by contrast…

Ask someone in some massively remunerative enterprise,

“How much do you make?”

And – if they are not the National Embarrassment in the White House – they’ll act like you asked them, “Didn’t I see you on America’s Most Wanted”?

Just consider the conversational chill:

I’m just asking you how much you make.

“That is not something I talk about.”

You are obviously very successful.  I’m trying to determine how successful.


So I can accurately gauge your accomplishment.

Do you see what I’m talking about?

I eat ten hotdogs at one sitting – I dance exuberantly around the Mess Hall.  Someone earns astronomical dollars, they go,

“No comment.”

And then blame me for bringing it up. 

I don’t get it.  The Nobel Prize geniuses comport themselves like certified winners.  And they’re probably socially awkward.   What’s up with the spectacularly wealthy? 

They won big the game they were playing, and they don’t want to talk about it.  I don’t know, is it possible, they are secretly uncomfortable with their accumulate incomes?  Why would I say that? 

Because they behave uncomfortably.

Everyone else exults in their successful accomplishments.  But when it comes to lavishly accrued compensation, they pull their coats over their heads and they  furtively slink out of the exit.  Like they made their money in a drug deal.

“How much do you make?” 

They answer,

“That’s personal.” 

“It’s not talked about?”

“It’s none of your damn business.”

I got it.  But why the cultural sensitivity?  Larry David never mentions his money.  And he talks about everything.

Is the problem that some jobs are exponentially more remunerative than others, and there’s some visceral guilt abo`ut the gaping disparity?  (There is the belief that these amassed fortunes economically “trickle down”, a belief confidently espoused, despite the troubling drawback of reliable evidence.)

I know I am selecting “extremes” here.  But just for comparison…

A minimum wage earner, works hard, makes a federally mandated seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour.  Times forty hours, times fifty weeks – that’s an income of fourteen thousand five hundred dollars a year. 

Wall Street banker? – Four hundred and fifty million dollars a year. 

I mean, I get the math here.  Wall Street banker, works all year brokering a merger, earning, let’s say, a three percent commission for their involvement.  The arranged merger’s worth fifteen billion dollars? –  Voila! – four hundred and fifty million dollars.

It’s just three percent.  What’s to be uncomfortable about?

Weigh in about this, will ya?  Nobody wants to talk about what they make.
Including me… when I made money.

Isn’t making your fortune what this country is all about?

Then why the “hush-hush” when you successfully pull it off?

1 comment:

Tom said...

I suspect you wouldn't have boasted about eating ten hot dogs if that had left only six for all the other campers. Are the well-compensated inclined to hide their good fortune lest others resent and dislike them (or pester them for some of their surplus money)?