Thursday, March 5, 2009

Billions, Three Million and a Trillion

A long time ago in a galaxy far away a Senator named Everett Dirksen famously said, "a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money." Back then in the 1960's McDonalds was still bragging about a couple of million burgers served, so a billion bucks was a lot of moolah.

A bit after that, in late 1970 or so, a Supply Department Ensign I had gotten to know asked me over breakfast aboard the Enterprise if I could help him out with a little task he had to do preparatory to our departure from Norfolk to go around the Horn to San Francisco. I said "sure."

Shortly I found myself with a .45 on my hip, the first I had ever worn a pistol like an old west gunslinger. I did have some prior experience shooting a .45, although never very accurately after the first shot taught me how violently that sucker was going to kick back each time I pulled the trigger. Later, when I stood in port deck watches alone in Seattle aboard a reserve fleet Destroyer Escort, I again wore a holstered .45, but for all I know that gun wasn't even loaded. We were so blase' about the Navy aboard that ship that I never checked it when it was handed over to me for the watch, and my reliefs never checked it when I handed it over to them.

Anyway, outfitted like Audie Murphy, I joined the Supply Department Ensign, also sporting a loaded .45, and two Marines carrying loaded M16s in a Navy car headed for the a local bank off the base. He went in and was soon followed out by two guards carrying three big suitcases between them.

There followed a somewhat comical loading of the car which ended up with the other officer and me in the back seat weighed down and immobilized by a suitcase on each of our laps, our .45s inaccessible. The Marine in the right front seat was also immobilized by a suitcase on his lap. The two M16s were propped barrel up between his legs, wedged between the suitcase and the dashboard. So much for the security detail of the three million dollars in small bills that we had just picked up. Thankfully organized crime was not very efficient in Norfolk in 1970, so we reached the base alive and still with the suitcases, which we carried aboard the ship without incident.

I carried one of the suitcases up the gangway, so I can attest from personal experience that handling a million dollars in twenties, tens, fives and ones is very much comparable to handling a fifty pound sack a potatoes, quite a few of which I moved around at Harry's Potato Market before I became an Officer and a Gentleman. Both at Harry's Potato Market and in the East End of Norristown I occasionally came into contact with people who would not have spent much time wondering what to do if confronted with four nearly helpless minders in a car carrying three million Simoleons - three thousand Large. Train robberies and bank robberies have been carefully planned and carried out for less.

The Supply Department Ensign who planned that little evolution obviously grew up in a very different kind of neighborhood from the one where I grew up. Also, after a little conversation with him, I realized that he simply didn't think of what was in those suitcases as the kind of money someone might want to steal. To him it wasn't money, it was payroll. A few weeks later he was amused when I showed up at the disbursement window with two beefy petty officers to pick up a trivial little tuck under the arm package of bills that I needed to pay the amounts that the 200+ member Deck Department had requested in cash when we carried out our one and only payroll payment at sea. He just couldn't understand why I might think there could be one sailor among the five thousand in Enterprise who could be both smart enough to observe the parade of officers picking up cash and tough enough to hit one of them over the head for perhaps twenty grand or so.

So much for history. In the realm of current events tThe link below will give you a very good graphic idea of what a trillion Benjamins look like. Barry and his Homeboys and Gals in Congress have spent more than that in the past couple of weeks.

1 comment:

Your son said...

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