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Michael Perry: Willing to face the million dollar character test

April 17, 2018 GMT

I hereby announce that I am prepared to accept a million dollars. Or more. I am told all this cash will not guarantee my happiness and may in fact put me in a downward spiral the stuff of lottery winner legends, but I am willing to take my chances. I think it is important to state this publicly in case someone has been holding back on giving me a million dollars out of politeness or not wanting to mess with my laid-back, used-minivan, misshapen T-shirt, gas-station-doughnuts vibe. No. I have meditated on it. I am willing to face this character test.

Here is the part where I am compelled to state for the record that my life is rich with bounties earned and unearned, dollared and undollared. I am operating from privilege and gratitude. That said, numbered among these bounties is not a million dollars.

I suspect this topic has been on my mind due to a pair of factors: An email containing unexpected news regarding some imminent taxation, and an ongoing customer “service” incident involving the billing department of a large medical provider — this latter experience akin to running laps on a Mobius strip woven from used bubble gum and barbed wire.

The tax thing can be handled, and was only a surprise because, well, sometimes I’m bad at math, and equally bad at estimation. What I expected was a note saying I was all paid up. What I got was a request for additional payment that — while it did not take my breath away — did give me the hiccups. Opening that email was like whacking a piñata only to be showered with rubber checks and pea gravel.

As far as the medical bill, it led eventually to me engaging in vigorous correspondence with someone at the very tippy-top of the executive food chain, a conscientious individual of great intellect and dedication who — based on everything I have observed — the institution in question is wise to employ. However, this person also pulls down a salary that — unless he’s blowing it all on pull tabs down at my gas station — rings the million bucks bell in under two years. As such I did not feel out of order politely reminding him that for all his solicitous words, he simply had no sense of what it would be to face this madness with wind leaking around the storm windows and even colder winds blowing through an empty bank account. I was neither snotty, nor was I speaking for myself; we have some savings and some options (among them, his email address). Rather, I was speaking for those for whom an incident like this would be destabilizing to the point of destitution. Those for whom life’s chance equation is not curable simply by solving for bootstraps — that much-vaunted variable so often touted by men in wingtips collecting a government check.

Behold, I am veering self-righteous, so I’ll bumble back to silly: I believe in hard work and will keep at it (not one hour ago I split a whole load of firewood) (using nothing but an ax and my BOOTSTRAPS!). But if you decide to send me that million dollars, I’ll take it. Then I’m gonna call my pal the health care executive and get all his tips on how to stay happy despite it all.