Last weekend, Wife and Daughter packed their bags and drove south. Now, because it had been snowing when we got up, instead of driving to the cottage, as planned, they only drove south for ten minutes, parked the car at the In-Laws’, and spent the weekend at their imaginary cottage, giving Son and me the male bonding weekend we had talked about. (And the female bonding weekend to them).
This was to be a weekend of life lessons, something they would make a Hallmark movie about. Son and I would talk and hang out, watch movies, eat hamburgers, and while doing that, I would drop some words of wisdom his way.
Like, “Did you know that they just found the Apollo 11 engines?” or “Did you know that there are actual flying cars these days but they’re now called roadable aircrafts.”
And Son would nod, and take notes like I was going to ask him to. That was the plan. But first, we had to run to the train so we’d make it to the 12.10 showing of the 3D version of “The Phantom Menace”.
I stopped at the ATM, and as I was about to punch in my code, I heard Son’s voice next to me.
“How much are you gonna take out? 6 000 or what?” he said.
Here. Here it was. My first teachable moment.
“Hey, buddy, do you know how much 6000 is? Do you know what you could get with it? No? Well, let me tell you. You could buy 600 hotdogs, except that the guy standing there probably doesn’t have 600 hotdogs so you’d have to go to the next guy and the next, and the next.
“Let’s say they all have a hundred hotdogs, how many vendors would you have to go to, to get your 600 hotdogs that your 6000 kronor would get you? Yes, six. But then, you’d have nothing to drink. Think about it,” I said.
“And by the way, I’ll only take out 600. How many hotdogs would that get you?”
“I’m hungry. Can I get a hotdog? Please? Just one, though,” Son said.
“Yes, Son, yes, you may. I hope you learned a lesson now,” I said. “This is not Monopoly money.”
That gave me an idea.
That night, I challenged Son to a game of Monopoly, which I intended to turn into a fun father-son activity and a lesson on the value of money, and the mechanics of an economy.
Lesson number one: “I’ll challenge you to a game of Monopoly, Son. Go get the board from the basement.”
He did, and as usual, he wanted to be bank, which I considered a good move. That way the boy would get to handle money, he’d get a tactile relationship with cash. And, he’d have to do some adding and subtracting.
He wanted to be the wheelbarrow, I chose the sack of money as my piece. The symbolism was so obvious I laughed a little. I was going to beat him in the game and give him a lesson in economics: I would go home pushing that sack of money in that wheelbarrow of mine-to-be.
He gave both of us two crisp, yellow bills, 200 dollars, wished me good luck, and rolled the dice. And so the game was on.
I bought the first property I landed on. Connecticut Avenue. Price 120 dollars.
“Mine!” I say and handed the two bills back to Son.
“Now, I may not have as much money as you, but now I can start developing the property, maybe buy some more, and then build houses there to drive up the value. See, while I don’t have as much money as you, because you still have the 200 dollars, I have made something called ‘i-n-v-e-s-t-m-e-n-t’,” I said.
We took turns throwing dice, buying properties, and ending up in jail for a half an hour. Well, mostly Son threw dice, and bought properties, and I sat in jail for a half an hour.
When I got out, I had 300 dollars, Connecticut Avenue and Virginia Avenue. Son had built a hotel on Boardwalk. That did annoy me. Not because I was losing the game, but because I was losing the game despite the fact that of the two of us, I was the one with a Master’s degree in business.
I tried to think back to my Economics class, but the only thing I remembered was that the professor had told us that if one nation had four fingers and no thumbs, and another nation had citizens with big thumbs, they’d be better off if each of them specialized on one thing and then traded with each other.
Granted, I only took Economics 101 and Bookkeeping 101 because I majored in marketing. I decided to use that knowledge so I started to work on my brands.
“That Connecticut Avenue sure looks good! That’s where I’d want to stop. The biggest candy store in the world is there,” I said. “Want some candy?”
Son landed on “Income Tax 10% or $200”.
“Yes!” he shouted.
To my question about candy.
“But first,” I said and smiled, “Income tax. Do you know what that means?”
Before he had time to say anything, I ran upstairs to my office, trying to look for “Economics” by Baumol and Blinder, the first book I bought in college. I didn’t have it, and somebody had snatched by Taxes for Dummies, too, so I grabbed my laptop and ran back down, while typing “taxes” into Wikipedia.
I cleared my throat as I put the laptop on the table.
“To tax, from the Latin ‘taxo’, meaning ‘I estimate’”, I started, and looked at Son. He was just staring at me.
“… it means, that a financial charge or other levy is imposed upon a taxpayer – an individual or legal entity – by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law.”
He was still staring at me, his eyes big and blank.
“So you have to pay,” I said.
“Ten percent or 200 dollars, it’s capped that way. In some countries, taxes are said to be progressive so that the more money you make the bigger share of that you have to pay in taxes, and in some, like here in Monopoly, we have a flat rate – at ten percent,” I said.
“How much you got?”
“So, you just drop one of the zeroes to get the ten percent,” I said.
“Just drop one of the zeroes.”
“Um, the second one.”
“What!? 170 dollars? No way,” he said.
“But, see, we need the money to pay for the roads and the train stations – that you own – and the water works – that you own,” I explained.
And that’s how Son became a good taxpayer.
An hour later, we called it a night, and counted our assets. Son had beaten me handily, so I just called a timeout and said we’d continue the game in the morning. He brushed his teeth, and went to bed. Five minutes later, as I watched him turn off the lights and then turn his back towards the door, and me, I said:
“Hey, buddy? Did you know that there are actual flying cars these days but they’re now called readable aircrafts? Really.”
“Good night,” I said then.
No answer. He had fallen asleep.