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The Oligarch's Lost Euros and Alice's Gold

Politics / Credit Crisis 2013 Mar 26, 2013 - 12:14 PM GMT

By: Michael_T_Bucci

Politics

I met an old acquaintance, a Russian oligarch. He was in tears. "Why, I asked, are you crying?"
      "As you know," he implored, "I'm already out of favor with Vladimir Putin and being out of favor with him, I'm shunned by my own class here in New York."
      "Yes," I quipped, "but that's old news, yet you are still crying?"
      "I'm crying now because I'm about to take a haircut from the barber in Brussels who is going to confiscate 30% of my $1.4 billion left in a Cypriot bank."
      "Oh, my!" I replied.
      "I don't know how I'm going to eat!" he exclaimed.
      "Well, that's an easy one to solve," I replied. So I offered him a solution. "About four blocks down this street is a bank," I explained. "They will take care of you."


When the oligarch arrived he looked everywhere for a teller but could find none. He always expected New York banks to be posh, Edwardian or post-modern, but this was drab, untidy, noisy, and filled with people seated at tables. He asked to see the manger.

      "Sir, I was told this place is a bank."
      "That it is."
      "But I see no tellers or cubicles or lines of people standing between velvet ropes. What kind of bank is this?"
      "Mister, this is a bank, a food bank. The people you see are poor and without this place they go hungry."
      "Well, I needn't hear more," interrupted the oligarch. "I just lost money to a gang of thieves in Europe and am feeling very poor myself."
      "Then, you understand our plight, no?"
      The oligarch didn't answer.
      "May I ask you," said the manager eyeing the visitor up and down, "how is it you came upon our bank, our food bank?"
      "Well, I made a smart remark to someone and he took it the wrong way. I said I didn't know how I was going to eat now that I lost so much money."
      "Well, you are welcome here whenever you're hungry and don't have food."
      The oligarch remained mute.
      The manager continued. "Judging by the look on you face, mister, you must have lost a bundle of money."
      "That's between me and my heirs," he replied gruffly, "but let me ask you this: just how much does it cost to feed these people?"
      "That depends on whether we receive donations, but our average cost is $12 for three meals per person per day, or $4 per meal."
      "So it costs you. . .let's see . . . about $4,300 per person per year?"
      "That's right. We don't take salaries and the space is donated by the city."
      Trying to add humor to the exchange, the oligarch retorted, "So tell me, how's business?"
      "Well, in your line of work, you'd say it was booming. But the profits you earn here aren't in dollars and euros I'm afraid."
      "Is the food any good?"
      "As good as we can prepare it."
      "Well, it's getting late and I needn't trouble you anymore," said the oligarch as he eagerly sought an exit.
      "You're no trouble to me, mister," replied the manager, "but I think we're trouble to you."
      "Well, my troubles begin and end with money and that is something you'd never understand."
      "But I do understand," replied the manager, "ours begin and end with money too. We have something in common after all, don't we now?"
      The two shook hands and separated.

Walking back, the oligarch mentally reviewed the scene he hurriedly left and quickly turned his attention to investment havens he'd select for the remainder of his black money, ones safer which won't curse him or others like him. Strolling toward his co-op, having a mathematical mind, he calculated his bank loss to be $420 million. That's a lot of money, thought he. How many vacation homes, yachts, paintings, New York condos and Miami mansions could have been bought, he conjectured.

Stopping to buy a newspaper, someone tapped his shoulder. "Here, you just dropped this," said the stranger.
      "Oh, it probably fell out of my wallet," he answered. "It's just a ten dollar bill. Thanks."
      "Don't think ten dollars isn't ten dollars!" corrected the stranger. "For some people it means whether they eat or not."
      "Look here, why don't you take this ten dollar bill, and since you are so worried go out and feed some of them with it, but leave me be?"
      The stranger refused saying it was better if he did the act of charity.
      "Considering what I just witnessed," exclaimed the oligarch, "it'll take a lot more ten dollar bills than mine to ease your worries."
      "How would you know?" the stranger replied.
      The oligarch exhaled, slumped his shoulders, and after a long pause exclaimed, "I don't believe what's happening to me!" He continued his anguished sighs, "first I go to a food bank by accident and now I meet a reminder of it by accident. I'm cursed!"
      "Let's step outside," the stranger suggested.
      "I will not engage you any longer. Good day."

His mind was running in circles now. He admitted that events of the day were of benefit if only as distractions from his $420 million loss. How small to him was that ten dollar bill he dropped. How tiny was $12 a day against what remained of his assets. The oligarchs were big like their bank accounts; the poor as small as a four dollar meal.

Later, I met my oligarch friend on the way back to his co-op and stopped him. "How's by you?" I asked.
      "My good man, we've known each other since the days of Boris, you know how painful it is for me to lose what I did, yet you sent me to a food bank?"
      "I did so because you told me you didn't know how you'd be able to eat," I replied.
      "You know perfectly well I can eat. Whatever your intentions were I don't know and don't want to know. Now, who is this pretty young lady with you?"
      "Alice is my niece. She's fourteen and a genius with math. She can crunch numbers in her head that we need calculators to compute. Want an example?"
      "Sure."
      "Let's take the figure you just lost. How much was it?"
      After shuffling his body, he reluctantly replied in low tones, "I lost three hundred twenty three million euros; that's four hundred twenty million dollars."
      Turning to Alice, I asked her if a nine digit number fell within her capabilities and she replied it did.
      "Alice, please divide 420,000,000 by four."
      Without pause she answered, "divided by four, the quotient is 105,000,000".
      I asked her to divide that number by 3 and then by 365.
      She closed her eyes, waited five seconds, and replied, "that number, rounded down, is 95,890."
      "What is this we are doing?" asked the oligarch. "Stop! I'll answer my own question. You're about to say that my losses, $420,000,000, when divided by four dollars, would have bought one $4 meal for 105,000,000 people or , put another way, would have paid for one person eating three meals a day for 95,890 years."
      "No, no, no. We only wanted to demonstrate Alice's abilities."
      "Worry not, I still have 70% of my $1.4 billion, and with this $980,000,000, I will eat, believe me!"
      "Yes, you'll be eating for . . .Alice, can you help me?"
      "One moment. Yes, he'll be eating three meals per day for the next 223,744 years!"
      "Ooops, I think you dropped something," exclaimed the oligarch to Alice.
      "Thank you. I keep a ten dollar bill in my jeans pocket because I hate pocket books and it falls out sometimes. It's only ten dollars."
      "Ten dollars is ten dollars, my darling . . or so I'm told," replied the oligarch.
      "Sir, pardon my question, but are we being of trouble to you?" asked Alice.
      "My troubles are about losing money and about how to keep what I have."
      "You know, those are the very same troubles I have," replied Alice, "and the very same troubles the people at the food bank have, and the very same troubles everyone I know has. Not to be flippant, sir, but what makes you so special? You are suffering from having too much money to safeguard. I am suffering from having too little money to buy food. Yet, we both are suffering, each in our own way, both the rich and the indigent are suffering, suffering from something, something other than money. Don't you think so, sir?
      "I suppose what you say is worth considering for people who want to spend their time on it, but I'm not one of those people you understand."
      Alice took her ten dollar bill and put it in the oligarch's hand. "I want you to have this to remember me and to remember this day," she implored.
      "I am the one who should be giving it to you, not you to me," he answered graciously.
      "Then go give it to another who might need it and you will have made both of us the happier for it."
      "If the occasion arises, I'll try."
      "Oh, sir, the occasion will arise because it is destined to arise. You and I are travelers together on a planet that is readying to move up, not down. You feel only a sinking inertia that is fighting the lifting. Twilight looks grim because it leads to night, and night is frightening. However, I needn't tell you what follows night, sir."
      "Alice, with all due respect, I have enjoyed meeting you but I must go because of phone calls I need to make. I will take your ten dollar bill and remember your advice. But for now, I have $980,000,000 to worry about."
      "And I, dear sir, have 105,000,000 stomachs to feed."

Without reply, the oligarch left us and resumed walking to his co-op.
      "Alice," said I, "we each have our role to play and cannot switch places, and it is so for a reason."
      Then she asked: "With what money he lost and with what money he still has, do you think he'll ever remember the ten dollar bill I gave him?"
      "Yes," I replied, "he might have inherited the "Oligarch's Curse", he might lose all the remainder of his money, but your ten dollar bill he never will lose."
      "Yes, my loving friend, may it be so," said Alice. "The night is dark and frightening to all, rich and poor. It stirs crowds and incites warriors. If we could but realize that we will be heading upward, not downward. This is destiny speaking. This is destiny's wish. I'll try to be patient. I'll try to move forward not backwards. I'll try to have faith that all this is so.

"I must, for I have 105,000,000 stomachs to feed."

By Michael T Bucci

Contact: mbucci@michaelbucci.com

Michael T Bucci is a retired public relations executive from New Jersey presently residing in New England. His essays have appeared at The Market Oracle. He is the author of nine books on practical spirituality including White Book: Cerithous.

    © 2013 Copyright Michael T Bucci - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


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