Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The 'M' Word Revisited

This quote keeps following me around....

It makes me think of a story I read or heard once of a young man who ran a 'pay what you can' taxi service. He may even have been a fellow Minnesotan and I learned about him on the local news. Whatever the case (can't seem to locate the story online and I've got no patience for searching any longer for it), what I recall of the story keeps following me around, too....

Seems to me this young man was unemployed during the height of the economic crisis, and he came up with the idea of a taxi service that has no set fee. Riders paid what they could afford. He wasn't thinking, "How can I make money?" He was thinking, "We're all struggling. How can I help and still pay my bills?" I like that. I would give him a hug and buy him a beer if I could remember or discover who he is....

My first thought was that people would take HIM for a ride. And I'm sure it was his first thought, too. If I remember correctly, some riders did just that. Others paid with stuff that wasn't money, like an extra sandwich from their lunch or a CD of their original music. For everyone who stiffed him there was always someone generous to make up for it, and at the end of each day, when all was calculated, he made more than he would've done charging a standard rate. And his idea wasn't about getting rich anyway, it was about making enough.

Rich doesn't interest me half so much as enough does. Rich gets my attention only in how I could share it somehow....

About the time I began fleshing out this post (I've been working on it for ages), the lottery was a big topic of conversation. It was up to a nonsensical sum, and numbers were about to be drawn for a possible winner. Occasionally when the total is high like that I'll play, not because I want to win so much as I love how having that two-dollar ticket in my hand makes me DREAM. I would play every week for that reason if I didn't dislike the idea of being $100+ dollars poorer at the end of the year (I'm already plenty poor enough, thank you).

I'll admit buying that occasional ticket does give me a little shiver, though -- not because I have a chance in hell of winning, but because I have a chance in hell of winning. Not only can I imagine the wonderful scenario of suddenly having more money than I can count, but I can imagine the nightmare scenario as well. And it scares me. Someone on the receiving end of a quick bundle like that would be in danger of being victimized, taken severe advantage of, scammed up the wazoo, fill-in-the-blank. And there's also the chance of going down the classic money-winning path of soon finding oneself in deep debt, with perhaps a drug habit.

This post wasn't supposed to be about the lottery, so I'll go back to where I left off with the quote and the 'pay what you can' idea.

I can't help but imagine that everyone in my circle is where I am. Struggling. Living from month to month and wondering where the money will come from to pay the bills. This isn't true. Some in my circle are living like this, of course, but there are more who are financially very comfortable. And some are very VERY comfortable.... But since we don't talk about money together, I'm blissfully unaware. So when I create something and they want to buy it, I already assume they are as penniless as I am. I love that they appreciate my creation and want to own it, but I know from experience that just giving it to them devalues it. (Doing that also makes me angry with myself, as I need something in return in order to continue doing what I do....)

But.... what if....? What if I tried that 'pay what you can' model? What if I followed the suggestion in the quote above? What if I allowed a customer to give me what they felt my work was worth, without judgment? At the end of the day, wouldn't the final total give me a big-ass clue about my work and whether or not I'm wasting my time?

When I brought this up recently with a friend (who'd just got done scolding me for not charging her enough for the work she'd commissioned from me), she countered, "But if you did that, people would just take advantage of you." And I'm sure they would. Some people would. Some take advantage of me NOW. But would those thoughtful and generous 'others' -- like in the above taxi story -- make up for it? Would I find at the end of the day that I've come out ahead? That all of us that did business together that day were satisfied with what they gave and got in return? By doing this, would I not be following the taxi man's example: "We're all struggling; how can I help and still pay my bills?" That's exemplary, isn't it? It says, "It's not about being rich. It's about having enough."

And I'm all about that....

My heart thinks this idea is perfect, my head is pretty dang skeptical, and my close friends think it's crazy. So I'll ask you: What do you think?


  1. I am not an artist. I am not even very smart. But I am thinking, why not try midway between your heart and your head? See what your neck wants to do. Does it want you to stick it out and take a chance? Or does it want to stay put, wrapped in a comfy scarf, risk free?

  2. Norma, thank you for your comment! I never expect to get a response to anything I post here, so this was a surprise. I love your suggestion and I think it's brilliant. I think I already know what my neck is going to say, but I'll be sure to ask it anyway. :)