Just a heads up, this is a departure from my usual type of blog posts so I appreciate you taking the time to read it. I decided to switch it up since I have been hard at work on the upcoming blog series: Empowering Women in Real Estate, which starts this Sunday to celebrate Women's History Month in March. I figured this post could be a little fun to share in the meantime.
So a few years ago I started a tradition with some of my closest friends. We try to meet every few months or so to do a "Writer's Club." Someone in the group picks a theme and we all write something based on that theme. When we meet we eat, drink, share several good belly laughs. Every writing piece turns out wildly different and equally enjoyable. It's fun getting a sense of everyone's writing style and seeing each other's writing evolve over time. Plus, we usually learn a little bit more abut each other in the process (sometimes too much).
Writer's Club Members, with mustaches...
Looking through my old work I stumbled upon this one titled, "Entremanure." After rereading it, I had to chuckle because it resonates so much with where I am at in my life now. Looking back, I guess I've just always been on the scenic route to entrepreneurship and I'm now finally just coming to terms with it. So here's a little vignette from my childhood based one particular summer and my own antics. I hope you enjoy. :)
Written by Mackenzie Grate
“Well, aren’t you quite the entremanure?!?” he sputtered underneath his graying beard as he tilted his head down towards me. His deep dimples plunged into his cheeks as if an invisible finger were prodding them like the stomach of the Pillsbury doughboy.
“Huh? Waz that word mean? Does it mean poop?!? Cows poop manure! Wait...are you calling me a turd?!?” I raised my strawberry blond eyebrow suspiciously.
“Entrepreneur kiddo!” my mom shouted from the other room. “Not entremanure, entrepreneur!”
Mike chortled, “I know what I said Jules! Don’t confuse her, she’s an entreamanure alright!”
“What’s that mean!?” I demanded again stomping my plastic jelly sandals into our shaggy blue carpet.
“Well it means you’re a hustler! It means you’re willing to take anyone for a ride! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing because you’re good at what you do! But you are a hustler nonetheless.”
Clearly, I was and I was quite proud of that. For most people thought there wasn’t any plausible way to make money on the corner of Rural Street and Washington Avenue. Perhaps they were simply unable to grasp the plethora of untapped resources that I saw outstretched before my eyes. For on one corner stood The Good News Mission (great for a meal of hotdogs and ample ketchup) and on the other stood the library (a gold mine for free stuff if you join the kids summer reading program). That wasn’t it though. Opportunity lurked on the third corner which housed an orange shingled Village Pantry (where I may or may not have clipped a few Jolly Ranchers in my day) and lastly, the fourth propped up the decrepit youth center where running the pool table was a favorite pastime of mine. As far as I was concerned, there was money to be made everywhere. Big money, too! And I was dead-set on cashing out each day.
My hustles, a byproduct of living poor, I guess, were harmless for the most part. I was really only interested in entertaining myself and collecting a few bucks, so I could eventually hop on a bus and go to Claire’s to buy some kitschy sunflower earrings.
My antics started simple enough. Mike, whom I should mention I called Mike-the-blind-guy because he was blind (original indeed) and had plastic eyes that he could pop out of his head at a moment’s notice. Clearly, he was the coolest person in the world in my 7-year-old eyes! The highlight of his day was strutting over to the Village Pantry with Mike (his dog, don’t get confused now) to get some menthols and scratchers. He loved to flirt with the ladies and, dare I say, they loved to flirt back too. I speculate that they probably didn’t get hit on too often since most of them were fairly unattractive, but Mike-the-blind-guy was able to look past that (wink, wink). Later, he would come back and sit on my mother’s decaying porch and ask me to scratch them off for him. There was nothing more I loved to do in the world than clutch his old wheat penny and begin scraping off that thin coating to reveal the glossy underneath. I remember the silver shavings would fly off like peeling skin after a sunburn. Ecstasy! A form of ecstasy that could only be trumped by a $2 winner!
Grinning deeply, he would stand up, grab Mike-the-dog’s harness and begin his strut back to claim his winnings and boast to the ladies. "Sheer victory made a man even sexier," he assured them. After collecting his two greenbacks he would again return to the porch, open his wallet and ask me to fold all of his bills for him. An earmark would indicate a twenty, tenners were bent in half the short way, and a fiver was folded in half the long way. “It’s going to cost you one of them,” I would squeak and he would grin.
“Haven’t you ever heard of community service?!? I’m blind, for god’s sake! Help an old man out!” But not me, I drove a tough bargain. Plus, I knew he would have surrendered one over anyways, so why not demand it up front and avoid the unnecessary song and dance?
Mike-the-blind-guy was my prime customer in my early days. I cut his grass, mended his clothes, he even commissioned me to sew him some pillows (the artistic design was left up to me, another perk of having a visually impaired client base).
When I took my entrepreneurial skills to the next level, I began to venture out onto the block. Duping neighborhood kids was a lot easier than I thought. I started by setting up a “Museum of Natural History” in our upstairs bedroom. It consisted of a molar of mine (billed as that of a caveman), a hollowed out tortoise shell and the biggest attraction was a real, live (*cough, blow up) alligator which was acquired by the aforementioned summer reading program. Can you believe these chumps will each pay me a quarter to see this?!? I thought. Proud and boastful, I was raking it in.
Next came the “watering hole” investment. A lonely mound of dirt sat on the empty lot down the street and I thought of just the perfect use for it...a swimming pool! I headed out with two empty gallon buckets in my hands and decided they were as good as any caterpillar machinery. Yes they would certainly due when it came to bringing able to dig into the center of this pile. After the first couple of scoops, I realized how terrible manual labor was, so I recruited my sister. She would help or I would have to put her in a headlock. It wasn’t my choice. Capitalism called and I needed cheap labor.
Before you know it that mound was as hollow as a jack-o-lantern and ready for the next step: filling it with water. A hose several buildings down wouldn’t extend far enough, so buckets would have to be carried and clearly my sister would have to carry them. Again, no choice I was the foreman after all, not the day laborer.
After pouring the first couple buckets in and quickly witnessing them disappear as though they were water in a shower racing down a drain, I realized I’m screwed! This might not work! Because I had pre-sold five or so tickets at 50 cents a pop, it was imperative that I fill this mound up! So I raced back to my porch to have a discussion with my business consultant, Mike-the-blind-guy.
Again, he chortled, amused by my antics, I’m sure, and then provided me with the most brilliant piece of advice I had ever received in my short little life. “It’s going to rain later. Just wait.” Hot damn! That’s exactly what I would do!
And rain it did. In fact, it rained like it did in the Bible, which led to my next bout of inspiration (mud pool long forgotten by now) because as our street began to flood, I knew exactly how that darn blow up alligator could make me a buck or two more…
“75 cents to get paddled across the street! Only 75 cents! An extra buck will get you under the overpass for the full tour!” Lines and lines of previously dusty, now muddy, neighborhood kids emerged waiving their coinage demonstrating they were willing and able to pay the fee. Only then did I realize that I wasn’t willing to do the paddling thanks to my irrational fear of dead bodies in water, a fear I acquired from reading The Hatchet that summer (thanks Gary Paulsen!). So once again I turned to my humble indentured servant, my sister. She would paddle a kid out with her bare hands, and then spin around and paddle them back in.
As the kids clamored for their turn and my sister panted with exhaustion, I could hear Mike-the-blind-guy chuckling from the porch. “Jules! Look what your little entremanure is up to now!”
A grin spread across my freckled face as I began to mull over my next business venture…