Meet George Black.
George was ordinary guy. A guy who put in his 40 hours (plus or minus) slaving away at a dead-end job, in some soul-sucking factory where he polished widgets. Day in and day out, George clocked in and clocked out. Mind numbing drudgery. At the end of the week he’d collect his pay, a pittance that only Scrooge McDuck would make stretch far enough.
George lived alone. His “place” was a dingy room in a rent by the week hotel, one that catered to transients and bootleggers. Every evening, George came home and collapsed in an old recliner and watched the homeless forage through the dumpsters behind the bus station. When the diesel fumes wafted under the warped windowsill and made his eyes water, George retreated to the hotplate and warmed a can of whatever he found on the dented shelf at the corner market. He swore the store owner, an old crab of a woman, bent like a question mark from arthritis, took a wrench to the cans when she knew he was coming. She’d wink and point him to the newly dented stock, set aside for him.
Once a week, he’d buy three, perhaps as many as six, dented cans of whatever the store owner put on the damaged merchandise shelf. George carried the cans back to his hotel room, stopping only once, to drop a can, or two, next to the dumpster, for the homeless behind the bus station.
After months of his dented can shopping, some of the more greedy homeless began to follow George from the store, so they could snatch up the donated cans he left behind. Soon, a knot of homeless, bedraggled people would wait for him outside the store at the end of workweek. Still, George made his weekly trip to the corner store and bought what he cold afford on a widget polisher’s pay. The crowds became thick with impatient, piggish types, jostling one another for one of George’s cans.
The store owner beat back a few overanxious types with a broom. They thought they could push to the front of the store and claim the cans for themselves (until George came and paid for them). But, the old storekeep shooed them off with her corn broom. Some of the dented stock would disappear in the excitement, so the old woman stuck a label on the cans, “Mr. Black.”
The market for widgets, even the polished ones isn’t what it used to be. The widget factory went under and all the workers, George included, lost their jobs. A few lucky souls found other jobs, some joined the crowd of homeless, others vanished.
The end of the week after the factory closed, there was an uneasy feeling in the crowd gathered at the corner market. Would George come? If he did appear, how many cans would he give? He couldn’t give enough to satisfy the mob. A murmur spread through the crowd. The bodies parted as George arrived. He went in the store, spoke with the owner and left without making any purchase.
What had happened?
George, as it turns out ratholed a chunk of his pay into a high yield investment account. Thirty years of widget polishing was enough to buy a beachside shack in Cabo, where he would live out his years in sunshine, cerveza and tacos, without a dented can in sight.
The store owner, having a shelf full of damaged inventory she needed to sell, put up a sign which read, “Mr. Black’s One Day Sale.” The day was Friday. We know it now as Black Friday, the crowded shopping day where unruly mobs fight one another for a dented can.
Thank you George Black.