Money as God.

FRED 2AFor years I have worked for people whose sole concern was making themselves richer than they already were. Being a writer, I was mainly working for restaurant-owners and serving their greed by fawning on customers and toadying for upsells. “Oh do try the New Zealand Chardonnay, sir. I realise it’s three times the price of the local brew but it’s worth every cent. It has a delicate peppery essence underscored by a lemony brightness…bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.” And this mind-numbing crap usually, sadly, worked. I’d talk some poor sod into paying $144 for a bottle of Chards that was frankly inferior to the locally-produced wine that cost $32 a bottle. More than I would pay even so but at least it wasn’t daylight robbery.

To maintain what remained of my fraying soul I would practice yoga and meditation in the mornings before my insincere day began. The hoped-for reconnection with my Higher Self never quite took root. Even meditating I was tensing up in anticipation of the thoroughly dysfunctional day ahead. Added to the misery of ripping off decent clientele was the neediness of the various rich owners for “friends” and constant après-work celebratory drinks where the sole topic of conversation was gloating over how much filthy lucre they’d managed to leech out of the public that day.

One particular owner was a lady who claimed to be spiritual, not just I-meditate-spiritual but I-have-a-calling spiritual. Her ramblings of an apogeic nature were reserved largely for me, because, as she explained, I was a talented writer, and one day, I may want to write her story. I cannot tell you how many people have crossed my path convinced that I, a writer of fiction, would abandon my process and interview them in tedious, meandering sessions of self-revelation in order to ghost-write their memoirs.

So, there we were, this self-absorbed lady and I, sitting on the verandah of her multi-million dollar establishment getting tanked on the most expensive imported red and speculating about her calling. Even now, with the benefit of ten years’ distance I am at a loss to see why God should concern Himself with the feathering of her already gilded nest. Of course the  truth inevitably emerges when people are allowed to blather on long enough to actually hear themselves and in the absence of any comments from me she ultimately revealed that she was a lonely train wreck – marriage on the rocks, a son who barely spoke to her, no real friends and no discernible passion left in her. What was she living for, she asked me blearily. I was too tanked at that point to be of much use but I suggested she try being kind to others for a change instead of seeing everyone as a dollar sign. It was the best I could do at 2am.

The next day, a Sunday, was packed with lunchtime customers and she asked me to set a special table for twelve people at the more spectacular end of the balcony, the end that had views over the valley and glimpses of the sea beyond. The staff called it “millionaires’ corner”. At 1pm a helicopter landed on the cleared field below and the Sunday clientele were treated to the arrival of a famous rock band, the lead singer of which, had been to school with the owner’s son. She hoped her son would accept the invitation to lunch to catch up with his now-famous ex-school mate. No expense was spared in the wooing of this celebrity and his band and their possie of sycophantic hangers-on who drifted in from the bar as soon as Mr. Studs and his latest leggy blonde girlfriend were seated. The members of his band were arranged like radiating petals around him except for one seat next to him that remained poignantly empty throughout lunch. The hoped-for son was a no-show. The spiritually-bereft owner sat opposite the rock god and smiled vacantly as he told endless stories about himself. An hour after dessert, as the afternoon was staling and the monologue was stalling, I looked across and caught our lady’s eye and in it I saw the look of a caged bird.

Later that evening, after the glitterati had flown off and the remains of the feast had been cleared away, she sat at a table alone looking wistfully over her acres of unspoiled rain forest which harboured discreetly-placed cabins that rented out at $5,000 a week. She nursed a half-empty glass of our most expensive Shiraz.

‘Anything you need before I go home?’ I asked.

She looked at me blearily, ‘Joel didn’t even call to say he wasn’t coming.’ She drained the glass. ‘He doesn’t know what being poor is like. My parents had nothing and I was so ashamed of them.’ She refilled her glass.  ‘I didn’t want him to be ashamed of me.’

I sat down. ‘Are they still alive? Your parents?’

‘Yes, why?’

‘Call them.’

‘Now?’

‘They’d love to hear from you, I’m sure.’

She didn’t get it, of course, the correlation between her neglect of her elderly parents and her son’s neglect of her but if yoga and meditation had taught me one thing it’s that everything is connected on some level. She always carried her mobile with her and now she scrolled through her contacts hunting for a number she hadn’t dialled in years.

‘Joel sees them every Christmas but of course, I can’t. It’s my busiest day of the year. I make more money on Christmas day than any other day of the year.’

‘Call them.’

‘God, you’re bossy,’ she said, finding the number and staring at it. ‘My son sees my parents but can’t be bothered turning up for a celebrity lunch here.’

‘Call them and invite them to lunch here next Sunday. Tell them to bring Joel. We’ll set up the rock god’s table overlooking the valley and treat them to the best we have … on the house. Pick ’em up in a helicopter.’

She stared at me for a long while and then dialled the number and waited. It was late but not ridiculously so, about 10pm. Finally, someone answered.

‘Mum?’ She bowed her head and I took my leave.

The following Sunday a helicopter landed on the field below millionaires’ corner and three people alighted. Our lady was on the ground to meet them and escort them up the steps to their table. The special guests didn’t intrigue the clientele, but for us, the staff, it was a joy to see her genuinely happy and laughing and not getting plastered. When we all left that evening she and her family were still sitting at that table talking and laughing and reviving connections.

This morning I did my Asanas and meditated. I am now a full-time writer and the air I breathe is purified by a sense of purpose as opposed to rarefied by a sense of privilege. Money can never replace family, whether they be biological or like-minded others. These are the people whose love is worth having and whose good opinion is worth earning. Rock gods and money are transitory amusements and soon spent .

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3 thoughts on “Money as God.

  1. Pingback: Money as God. | Catch The Moon, Mary

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