As I was walking home today with a hot cross bun, I raced past a nascent capitalist out hawking lemonade to the passers-by for the low, low price of fifty cents. Had I any money I would have purchased a glass, but I was busted and it didn't seem right to ask a ten-year-old to extend me credit just because I was parched. This little entrepreneurial venture reminded me of my own early business dreams. When I was about nine or ten, a friend and I got together and painted a bunch of rocks. Full of fanciful pictograms and little fantastical scenes, we were so thrilled with the product that we felt it was only right, only reasonable, that others would want to own the fruits of our labor. An open-air mall had been christened with great fanfare a couple of years earlier, where we had witnessed countless other entrepreneurs open little stands full of crappy tchotchkes; surely our hand-painted rocks would be no less desirable than puffy rainbow shoelaces and baseball hats with angel wings. So we bundled our wares in a hankerchief and trundled downtown to seek our fortune.
We were unflappably cheerful even though we didn't sell many rocks. People came to browse, but mostly chatted us up. A couple of people actually ponied up a dime or two to carry off some gravel, and we were thrilled, THRILLED that we were being recognized in the court of public opinion as the artistes that we knew we were.
As dusk fell a man came to look at our wares. He seemed to fancy one of my particular favorites. He picked it up, and turned it over in his hand; I anticipated a nice shiny quarter falling into my small sweaty palm. He looked ready to haggle.
He said, "You know you need a business license to sell here, don't you?"
I was a pretty precocious kid, but I don't think I knew what a business license was. I don't think I know what a business license is now. Anyway, two sweet little faces looked up and knew that whatever this "license" was, we didn't have one, and this man was coming to piss on our parade.
Now, I'm sure that we did in fact need a license, but this man only mentioned it because we were innocents. He took great pleasure in taking that hopeful gleam and seeing it wither, watching as that spark of naivete turn just a click closer to his own cynicism. He wanted to crush our capitalist spirit like the carapace of a dung beetle, and in my mind's eye he watched us pack up our pathetic little rocks while dancing a jig and cackling like a demonic crow. Such is memory.
But he was successful in one area: I have to admit that business of any form appeals to me about as much as getting my calluses burnished. And it's not like we were perpetrating the great fraud of the 70's. I mean, we weren't selling anyone the pet rock.
I don't know where he is now, but in my fantasy he's a gravel salesman, thanklessly selling rock fill for highways and driveways, sitting in some little hut with a heating ring for his coffee and a pet canary at home who is the only thing that remains loyal to him by dint of the cage alone.
And then someone pisses on his merchandise, just because it seems symbolic somehow.