Thursday, December 9, 2010

Needing Cash

Let’s face it. Everyone needs a little extra cash at times. It’s finals week. You need cash for coffee to keep you going. You need cash to go see movies with friends. You need cash for that new date who all of the sudden has all kinds of time for you since classes are done.

So Gonga wanted to share a couple ideas on how to get a little extra cash. His first suggestion is that you learn to play the accordion and go sit on the street corner with a hat or open suitcase. On further consideration, he decided he doesn’t want competition, so he suggests you learn to play the violin, or the oboe. Both take more skill, and both are more affected by cold weather, so he has hopes that you won’t be serious competition.

His next suggestion is that you fork over all those textbooks you’ve been holding on to all semester. After all, finals are here, and if you haven’t read it yet, you aren’t going to. Of course, The Textbook Game offers the best prices, so unless you are too lazy to walk all the way north of campus, you should come sell to The Textbook Game. Or, if you are too lazy, you can convince someone to drive you.

Be careful where you find those textbooks that you plan to turn into cash. Most room-mates really don’t appreciate it if their textbooks disappear. Especially if you have the luck to have a room-mate who is exceptionally studious and is actually studying his textbook this week.

If you simply must have cash, you could set up a booth outside the dorms and offer to collect used textbooks for some charitable cause. You, being poor, are a charity worth contributions. So students should be pleased to shed a few pounds of books for you, right?

Gonga hopes you find plenty of Christmas money, and that you will remember his family back in Congo when you walk past him playing his accordion. If you have an charitable inclinations, he will gladly accept them.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Decorating

All over campus, the signs of Christmas were popping up. Starbucks had their annual Mint Mocha’s coming out, McDonald’s extended holiday greetings, students scurried past, thinking about finals, and the long Christmas break coming after them. There was even a Santa Clause on the corner of Maryland Ave. and Rollins, ringing his bell next to the Salvation Army stand and beckoning to all the inhabitants of Greek town to disgorge their parent’s money into it’s happy red coffers.

Gonga trudged happily across campus as well, toting his accordion and sending glorious Christmas melodies dancing across the frigid air. He loved seeing all the Christmas lights showing up on the buildings down town; the brilliant window displays, the greenery and wreaths. He reveled in the joy welling up for the occasion.

One day, venturing a litter further south than normal, Gonga noticed one spot lacking any spark of Christmas. Old dorms next to the hospital were being knocked down to give room for some expansion project. The carefully fenced and screened area was only a pile of rubble, with huge machines crossing and re-crossing, bent on their task of demolition. From the hospital, one could see the tops of the cranes weaving back and forth, and the heavy bucket of the digger rising and falling rhythmically.

Colored flags waved on top of the cranes, and blinking lights flashed, warning the medical helicopter of their position.

Gonga took one look at those blinking lights and knew that he had to bring Christmas to that place. He spent the afternoon scouting out the largest Christmas wreath he could find. Then he bought dozens of strings of icicle lights. As soon as it grew dark, he strolled down to the construction zone.

The gates were locked, but Gonga didn’t even bother. He heaved the monster wreath over the fence and crawled after it, hauling his pack of lights. Using all his ape-like skills, he scaled one crane, attaching a cable to the top and hanging the wreath. Then he climbed the second crane, stringing up the other end of the cable. After that it was only a matter of sliding out to the wreath and stringing icicle lights all the way across the cable.

Gonga worked quickly, stringing the lights down bother sides of the cranes in magnificent festoons. He grunted happily as he worked. There were no lights like these back in Congo!

Finally he reached the ground and scurried around the construction zone with the final end of the extension cord in hand. After scouring the area for roughly fifteen minutes, he found an extension and inserted the plug.

The lights flashed on in a dazzling imitation of ice.

Grinning marvelously, Gonga swung back over the fence and darted across the street the top of Parking Structure #7. From there, he relaxed against the hood of car and observed his Christmas decoration with satisfaction.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gonga’s Thanksgiving

Gonga managed to Skype his family in from Congo on Thanksgiving day and spent a miserable time trying to imagine his Pumpkin Pie was half as good as the roasted termites his family so exuberantly enjoyed on the other side of the ocean.

After finally saying goodbye, Gonga mournfully pulled out a piece of paper and began drafting a list of the things he was thankful for.

  1. Publishers who update their editions every year. This means students have to choose between buying the new expensive editions, or choosing to buy used.
  2. Professors who require more than one textbook for their class.
  3. Publishes who pay professors to require more than one textbook per class.
  4. Students who drop their books in puddles of water.
  5. Students who sell their books back to The Textbook Game instead of giving them to a junior classmate.
  6. Students bored enough to stand and listen to Gonga’s accordion playing.
  7. Even better, students who throw money in Gonga’s hat for his accordion playing.

I felt the urge to add a few items myself as I gazed on Gonga’s handy-work later that night.

  1. A warm costume in which to mascarade.
  2. A mask which securely hid my identity.
  3. A mission much bigger than simply selling textbooks.

Overall, it was a good thanksgiving day. My superiors had contacted me briefly, confirming that they were actually paying attention to my movements and were please with my performance to date. I even managed to slip home for a quick bite of turkey and stuffing with my family halfway through the day. What more could I want?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How To Not Lie, Cheat or Steal

Your mother has probably pounded into your head the idea that you should not lie, cheat or steal. If she has not, hopefully you have had several run-ins with the law and have now learned how not to lie, cheat or steal.

However, in the small probability that you have not yet learned those all valuable lessons, Gonga has a few suggestions to pass on to you.

If you are wearing a bright red T-shirt that says, “The Textbook Game,” do not walk into an insurance company’s headquarters and tell them you are from the IRS and they need to show you all their financial records. Your T-shirt communicates very quickly that you are lying. If you want to lie about being an IRS agent, at least wear a business suit and come with a posy of similarly dressed friends to try to collect bogus taxes.

There are ways to cheat, and there are ways to not cheat. One way to not cheat is simply Googling for the solution manual for your textbook and then neglecting to verify that the manual matches the edition actually used in class. At bare minimum, you should crack the textbook just enough to make sure the problems are the same. Also, do not copy and paste from the online format. Most html formatting is slightly different than word documents and if you submit the homework electronically, the grader will be able to tell that you copied and pasted.

Stealing is a whole different topic. The best example of a way to not steal is taking your room-mate’s textbooks down to The Textbook Game to turn in for cash, forgetting that your room-mate is working overtime as a cashier at The Textbook Game during finals week. Sneaking the books out of his room was one thing. Trying to convince him to give you the cash from the cash register, when he recognizes the doodles on the cover page, is quite another. At least find out which shift he works so you can avoid him!

Not lying, cheating, or stealing in these ways would be quite an accomplishment. And Gonga is sure that your mother would be proud of you. (Even if you totally ignored all her instructions and have just now figured it out.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gonga’s Financial Advice

Gonga had worked at The Textbook Game for quite a while by now, and the shoebox under his bed was beginning to overflow with crinkly new $20.00 bills.

He watched another handful of coins clatter into the hat sitting in front of him as he played his accordion down at Speaker’s Circle. The wind swirled past, picking up leaves and swirling them in on top of the coins. He was glad no one was throwing in dollar bills at the moment. They would just blow away.

The whirling leaves made him think of a book he had leafed over a few days ago while checking in at The Textbook Game before work. The wind was whirling the leaves away, just like inflation was whirling away the value of money.

The value of money!

Gonga sat up straight, his mind racing back to the shoebox under his bed. He could almost see inflation whirling through his room, picking up the dollar bills and swirling them out the door.

In near panic, Gonga finished out his day of accordion playing then rushed back to his room just to make sure the bills were still safely stacked under his bed. He shivered a little. He could still feel the invisible tendrils of inflation creeping in a stealing away his money bit by bit. How could he stop it?

Investments! That’s what he needed. Something that would earn faster than inflation could take away. He pulled up the browser on his computer and went to check his local bank for savings account rates. The best he saw was .0001%. Yes. That’s the same as .000001. Amazing. Next he checked CDs. Not much better. The money market accounts offered about 0.10%, or 0.001. Clenching his teeth, he pulled up the inflation rate tables. It showed 1.14%. He could feel the icy wind sweeping through the room, ripping bills out of his box, out of his pockets, stripping the warmth from his blood.

“A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow,” Gonga whispered to himself.

That was that.

He closed the browser and turned away from the computer. “A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow.” He smiled sardonically.

“So what do I do with it?” he mused. He chuckled slightly, “Spend it now while it’s worth something!”