by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
September 17, 2002
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- On those hot summer days of our teenage years, we'd sit around the ice-cream parlor convincing ourselves the fans overhead were doing something that made it far better to be inside than out.
Of course, we were bored. In those days when no one thought smoking was something not to do, we found smoking was certainly something we must learn to do. We bought them one at a time from Harry Cohen, the store's proprietor, and we called them "loosies." When conversation ran out, we'd play a game called "don't drop the dime."
We would put a paper napkin over an empty Coca-Cola glass, held snuggly in place by dampening the rim. A dime was placed center and one at a time we would touch the tip of our cigarette to the paper, then watch each burning circle extinguish itself before it would cause the dime to drop.
Oh, the lacy patterns caused by the cigarette holes until finally the dime clinked to the bottom. And there was a distinct "clink" that only dimes of that era could make. Today, dimes, no longer made of silver, drop in silence and cigarettes are now something not to do, something you most certainly want to learn how to stop doing. But, this was then.
Along with don't drop the dime, we would have a run at tic-tac-toe, followed by an hour or so of connect-the-dots. When all these less-than-exciting pastimes ran out, someone might say, "Who thinks they could spend a million dollars?" We all took a go at that one.
"Oh, that's easy," someone would offer. "I'd buy a huge house on a lake with a 40-foot yacht to go with it."
"But, you'd still have the value in the house and the boat," the game master would say. "I mean, exhaust the money until you have no more."
We all agreed, it was impossible to spend a million dollars and have nothing left - short of gambling it away.
We may have to adjust that "million dollar" figure in the '50s to compare with an equal value amount in today's economy, but we'll still come up with a great deal of money pretty hard to spend to the point of "nothing left."
And these are my thoughts when I see nothing short of out and out greed that would cause a CEO of a company, earning $17 million a year, plus perks that add up to everything he would have to spend money on in the course of living a very high lifestyle. He would never run out of money. What would possess him to take trusting shareholders' funds to buy him even more?
And what beside greed would cause a wife of nine years sue not only for divorce but to be able to maintain the lifestyle she had become accustomed to with his corporate "perks?" She wanted to continue the company jet, the apartment here, the condo there, lavish entertaining and gold credit cards where purchases are charged to the corporation where her husband was CEO.
In the case of this wife, her husband's lifestyle was in place, his career well established and his income beyond measure when they got married. She did nothing but help him enjoy what they shared during the good years. Even if she leaves that marriage with a pittance in comparison, she'll still never be able to spend it all.
Five years ago, Lorna Wendt, the corporate wife to a CEO whose 30-year marriage was ending (because he said so), stood up and said 10 percent was not going to do it. For 30 years, she entertained, maintained the home and family, the garden and the garden parties. Her husband, Gary, couldn't have risen to GE Capital's CEO had she not managed the rest of their lives. As I recall, she settled for $25,000,000.
Lorna won her case and now heads an organization calling for equality, knowledge and dignity - especially in marriage and divorce. But, she'll never spend all that money.
There's a distinction between standing up for your rights, for what you are worth to yourself and the world, it's quite another to have such an inflated sense of worth that greed sets in.
It's greed that causes someone to fix a fight, the greed of the fighter who takes a fall, and the greed of the one who arranges it. This kind of greed spills over into all sporting events where the greedy are satisfied with nothing less than a sure thing.
This week's headlines about crooked corporations, insider information, divorces of millionaires all have a common denominator: These involve self-made men and a woman. They did not inherit millions; they earned it - hard work, intelligence, determination to make something of themselves, and they did. But, it's not enough. There's more to be made and the old "What if... ?" grabs them. "What if I borrowed some shareholders' money, invested it in stock, and then kept the return?"
There's never enough for them. They traded their smarts for a minimum security prison stay and the loss of their most precious possession: their good name.
King Midas wanted more and more. He ended up in a golden prison of his own making, and lost his most precious possession: his daughter. He didn't lose his name, though. His story has been with us for generations. It's synonymous with greed. Every little child has heard the story at least once. The lesson is taught, but it's just not being learned.