Thursday, June 5, 2008

Windfalls and what they do to you

It was a Saturday arvie when it happened. A Saturday arvie in the Fence parking lot at Kings Beach. It was during our first holiday back from varsity – my best mate was at UCT and I was at Rhodes.
The wind was blowing homping west and it was on of those surf checks where you don’t expect there to be waves, but you still gotta go have a look just in case.
And we’re old chinas, hey. We met on the first day of Sub A, so we’re just chooning each other swak about how cool our new varsity is and how the other oke blew it by not coming to study at our one.
Tuning, tuning, tuning… until we pull up into a parking space at the far end of the lot in his Opel GSi. The first thing we see is money, cash notes, blowing through the Kings Beach bush.
Fifties, twenties, tens… There weren’t hundreds yet in those days. Pink, brown and green banknotes cartwheeling through the scrub.
We didn’t say a word, just opened the doors and went for it. It’s a gale force west, so we didn’t have a second to spare. We were out there plucking and gathering notes like it was money harvest at the KB cash farm.
He got about R170 and I came in with R140. In 1989, that was like finding a sweet grand lying in the street. And we’re first-year varsity students! So this is like manna from heaven!
But the first thing we do is start guilt-tripping. Where could the cash have come from? We look upwind, but there’s only a single other car parked. And that’s just empty. No one else around.
No sign of anyone looking on the ground for something they’ve lost, no one that’s just got mugged, no one frantically picking up notes like we were a minute ago.
Maybe it blew from all the way up at Denvilles.
We looked up there for anyone who might have lost a wallet. We checked around, really we did.
After that it was like, finders keepers.
We had three hundred bucks. Now what to do with it?
I still don’t believe we said this, all of 18 years old, but our first instinct was, “Bru, it’s a unexpected windfall. Let’s invest it! Let’s open up a fixed deposit.”
“Ja, and let’s check the Weekend Post tomorrow to see if anyone takes out a ad about lost money on Kings Beach.”
“Ja, ja. Definitely.”
We’re sitting there in the Opel with all these banknotes in our hands, counting them. Three hundred and ten bucks.
Dude, by six that evening we were installed at the Marine Hotel ladies bar with a couple of babes that we knew from school. Ordering cocktails like we were millionaires.
Kerry and Candy, I like to think their names were.
Fully, “Can we get you ladies another couple of Sex On The Beaches?”
We’d only been drinking properly for about two months, we’d never been in a ladies bar in our lives… geez, I don’t think we’d even taken girls out for drinks until then.
Until that night, girls had looked at us with a kind of healthy apprehension, mixed with disgust, as if we were smelly little savages who might do anything at any time.
But when we arrived at their townhouse dressed in smart jackets and larney pants and squired them to the upmarketest pozzie in town, they looked at us with new eyes.
And with good reason. The money somehow made us more mature.
I remember having conversations and stuff. Full-on chats. Asking the ladies about their hopes and dreams…
“And you? Tell me about yourself. What are you planning on doing after varsity? You gonna practise accounting or you gonna move into business?”
We were like these urbane, mysterious businessmen, who made their money from shady deals that it wasn’t polite to discuss. Men who were into “this and that”. Smooth operators, like the Sade song.
And then at the end of the evening, we dropped them off again, gave them each a peck on the cheek and said, “Thank you so much for a wonderful evening.” Like full-on gentlemen.
That 310 bucks was all gone.
As the last of the girls vanished behind her closing front door, one of us asked incredulously, “What was that all about?”
“Who knows, bru.”
I still don’t know, because the next day we went back to being smelly reprobates. To this day, I check the surf at Fence, especially during a homping west.
But it’s true what they say. Money changes people.

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