The Millionaire Next Door
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
The end of summer seemed to rush up and surprise everyone. Before Dan knew it, everyone was getting ready to leave. Mary had returned home weeks before. Tom’s girlfriend, Susan, had already left for college. Tom was going to leave the next morning. Alison was leaving in two days.
Sitting in the backyard with Dan, Tom was drinking the ever present root beer. Putting down the nearly empty can, Tom said, “It has been one hell of a summer.”
“You can say that again,” Dan said.
“It has been one hell of a summer,” Tom said with a grin. He laughed at the look that Dan shot at him.
“It has been a good summer,” Dan said. He wasn’t sure what had been the best part of the summer.
“I’m going to miss you,” Tom said.
Shaking his head, Dan said, “You’re going to be too busy to miss me.”
Tom knew Dan well enough to know that denying it would be fruitless. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “You might be right.”
“I am right, and you know it,” Dan said. He looked over at his friend and said, “I kind of feel like I’m being left behind.”
“I know. I feel bad about that,” Tom said. It seemed to him that the end of summer had snuck up on him.
“It’s okay. We knew this day was coming,” Dan said.
It was a Fact of Life that ‘The only constant in life is change.’ Sometimes the changes all came at once, and at other times they came at you slowly. Tom knew that Dan would do well.
He said, “I’m not worried about you. You’re going to do okay.”
“Thanks,” Dan said.
“So what are your plans?” Tom asked although he knew the answer to his question. He wanted to hear what Dan had to say one more time before leaving.
“I’m going to continue working construction for a couple more months. I’ll keep saving my money, and figure out how to pursue my goals,” Dan answered.
“Are you going to open Parker’s Perfect Pizza?” Tom asked.
Dan nodded his head and answered, “Yes, but not right away. It’s going to take some time to get everything together. There are a lot of little details that I need to understand in order to stand a reasonable chance of success.”
“Good for you. Remember one of the golden rules of pursuing goals — it’s often timing that is the difference between success and failure,” Tom said. One of his fears was that Dan would rush into business before he was ready.
Nodding his head, Dan said, “I’ve been doing my research. It’s going to cost about a hundred thousand dollars to get established. If I’m lucky, I can do a lot of the work myself. I’ll try to use the store revenue to pay for it as I go. I’m hoping that I’ll only need about fifty thousand to get it started.”
“That is a bit of money,” Tom said.
“I know. I’m not going to reach a point where I can open it for a year or two,” Dan said. He was also giving thought to the time of year when he would open the business. He suspected that January, February, and March would not be good times to start the business. It would be a good time to get the pizzeria into shape to open in April or May.
“What are you going to do until then?”
“I’ll work. I’ll learn what I need to know. When the construction business slows down for the season, I’ll try to get a job in the food service industry,” Dan said. He was also thinking of taking an accounting course that fall at the community college.
“Smart,” Tom said with a smile. He was pleased that Dan was being methodical about establishing and pursuing his goals. He said, “I’m not worried.”
“You should be,” Dan said winking at his friend.
Mr. Foreman called Dan over and said, “A bunch of the guys working for me are leaving for college. Are you going to be around for while?”
“Yes, Sir,” Dan said with a vigorous nod of his head. He wasn’t planning on leaving the job yet.
“Are you reconsidering your decision not to go into construction?” Mr. Foreman asked. He wasn’t sure if he wanted a yes or no answer.
“No. I’m going to open a pizzeria. Until I’m ready to do that, I’m going to work and save my money,” Dan answered.
“Why not get a loan and open it now?” Mr. Foreman asked.
“I’ve got to take care of all the little details first. I won’t stay in business long if the only thing on the menu is pizza. I’ve got to add salads, a few pasta dishes, and sandwiches. I’ve got to figure out how to manage my inventory. I need to learn a little bookkeeping,” Dan answered.
Nodding his head, Dan said, “I’m taking your advice. I’m auditing a course on accounting at the community college.”
Impressed that Dan had actually taken his advice, Mr. Foreman asked, “When are you thinking about opening it?”
“In about a year and a half,” Dan answered. He had spent a few days working out a detailed plan outlining what he needed to do before going into business.
“You’re planning that far in advance?”
“Yes, Sir. It might take me longer than that. There is still a lot I need to learn,” Dan said.
Mr. Foreman studied Dan and decided that he would seriously consider investing in his pizza shop. He knew that Dan was a hard worker, but that kind of planning had to pay off even if the person wasn’t so hard working. He said, “Let me know when you are getting ready to open it.”
Dan smiled and said, “I’m already getting ready, but I know what you mean.”
“I’m sure you do,” Mr. Foreman said with a smile. He would have liked to talk a little longer, but he had work to do. He said, “You’ve done everything here that I asked you to do. I need you to help the painters over at the apartments.”
Nodding his head, Dan said, “Yes, Sir. I’ll get over there now.”
“Great. I’ll be over there later today. We’ve got to get this house done before the weather gets bad,” Mr. Foreman said looking up at the sky. It was clear blue, but fall was coming with a rush. He didn’t expect the weather to remain good for much longer. This was the last house that he was putting up before the change of seasons.
Dan entered the classroom and looked around. The chairs were not any different from those in high school. The front of the class had white boards across the front of the room. Unlike the class rooms in high school, this room was loaded with audio/visual equipment. He went over to one of the chairs and sat down to wait for class to begin. The woman seated in the chair next to him was at least ten years older than he was.
It felt strange to go to college after having suffered and struggled through high school. Dan didn’t let his memories of that miserable time period bother him. He had a goal and was going to work however hard was required to achieve it. His first surprise occurred when his instructor entered the room with a guide dog. He stared at the instructor wondering how she had managed to get through school.
He watched as the woman introduced the goals of the course. He wondered how she was going to grade his work if she couldn’t see it. He looked down at his book and wondered how she read it. For a major portion of the class he thought about how she had to overcome a greater reading disability than his.
When the class came to an end, he went up to the front of the room to talk to her. After everyone had finished with their questions, he said, “Professor Harrison, I have a question for you.”
The woman turned to face him and asked, “What is it?”
“I don’t know how to ask it without offending you, but I have to know,” Dan said. Although her face was pointed in his general direction, he had the feeling that she was looking over his head. It was a little unnerving talking to her.
“How do you read our work?” Dan asked.
“I have a program on my computer that reads it to me,” Professor Harrison answered rather surprised to have gotten that question so early in the semester.
“Excuse me?” Dan asked shocked at the idea that her computer could read their papers to her.
“I have a text to speech program that reads the material to me. I use a speech to text dictation program to write my papers,” she answered.
“How about books?” Dan asked.-
“The textbook we’re using comes in an electronic format. That’s why I adopted it,” Professor Harrison answered.
“I had no idea,” Dan said feeling a little dizzy.
“Why the interest in how I read?” Professor Harrison asked.
Dan said, “I have dyslexia. Reading has always been a problem for me.”
“Ah. You might get the program. The one I use isn’t very expensive,” she said. She had gone ahead and purchased one of the commercial programs rather than use the one that came with her computer. She liked the voices of the commercial program better.
Stunned at the revelation, Dan stepped back and sat in a chair. He asked, “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me about that?”
Professor Harrison answered, “They probably didn’t know about it.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Dan said. He wondered how many hours of torture he could have avoided by having those programs. Hours? It would have been years.
“I have to go now,” Professor Harrison said. She grabbed the handle of harness worn by her guide dog and gathered her materials.
Dan watched her leave unable to believe what he had learned. He looked at the textbook and realized that he had an alternative to reading it. He sat there thinking about it until the next class was about to start. Excited about his discovery, he raced out of the room to head home.
Dan burst into Diana’s bedroom without knocking. The sudden slamming of the door startled her and she screamed. She turned to yell at him, but stopped when she saw the excited look on his face. Without waiting for her to say anything, he said, “I need you to search for something on the web.”
“Text to speech and speech to text programs,” he answered.
“What are those?” she asked looking over at him blankly.
Waving his hands around in the air, Dan said, “I don’t know. My professor at college is blind. She uses those programs to read and write.”
“Sounds useful,” Diana said. Almost as soon as the words were out of her mouth, she said, “My God!”
“Yes,” Dan said. He watched his sister turn and start typing. He held his breath as he waited for the search engine to return a result.
Looking at all of the results, Diana knew it was going to take some time to sort through it all. She asked, “Have you eaten yet?”
“No,” Dan answered.
“Why don’t you eat while I go through all of this material?” she suggested. She didn’t want him hovering over her while she was trying to read.
“I’m too excited,” Dan answered.
Smiling, Diana said, “Go! Eat! I’ll let you know what I find.”
“Okay,” Dan said. The idea that there was an alternative to spending hours trying to work through a few pages of his book had energized him. It struck him that there were always choices and that it was important to learn about all of the choices available to him. He ran his fingers through his hair and said, “I hope you find something.”
“I will,” she said glancing at the web page returned by the search engine. She had seen links to a dozen different vendors selling products.
Distracted by his thoughts, Dan went to the kitchen and found the plate that his mother had left for him. He popped it in the microwave and pushed the buttons for two minutes. Usually that was enough to reheat one of her dinners. This time, the two minutes were long enough to get him thinking about the discovery rather than reacting to the news.
He had no idea how much the software cost, but he considered the news in terms of his goals. It was obvious that there would be a lot of advantages to having those programs. Getting them depended on how much they cost. He decided that it was better to learn more about it, before getting too carried away.
The timer on the microwave oven rang. He went over and removed the plate. After carrying it to the table, he went back for a knife and fork. Looking at the steaming hot meatloaf, he said, “I should have looked at what was on the plate before I nuked it. I prefer meatloaf sandwiches.”
Shaking his head, he sat down and started eating. His mind kept returning to what it could mean for him to have text read to him. The ability to generate text by speaking was almost as significant. Maybe the result would have errors in it, but there would be far less of them than were produced as a result of his poor spelling.
He had finished eating when Diana entered the kitchen with tears running down her cheeks. Looking up at her, he asked, “What’s the matter?”
She sat in the chair next to him, swallowed and said, “The computer you gave to me already has the software installed on it.”
“That was quick,” Dan said with a smile. He couldn’t believe that his sister had been so quick. He couldn’t wait to try it out.
Diana started sobbing and said, “No. The computer comes with that software installed on it.”
“What?” Dan asked not sure that he understood her correctly.
She felt guilty that her brother had given her the computer. It had been purchased to help him with his school work. After trying it for several weeks, he had gotten frustrated with it and had given it to her. They had no idea that the tools that he had needed were already installed on the computer. She felt so guilty.
She said, “It comes as part of the computer. It was already there. It has been there ever since you got the computer.”
“I didn’t know that,” Dan said feeling like he had been hit in the stomach.
“There is text to speech and speech to text capabilities built into the operating system,” Diana said. She looked at him and said, “You’ve got to believe me. I didn’t know that. I’d have never taken it if I had known.”
Dan gave her a weak smile and said, “I know you wouldn’t do that. We didn’t know about it.”
Dan’s mother entered the kitchen. She took one look at Diana and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“We just found out that Dan’s computer has text to speech capabilities,” Diana answered.
“What does that mean?”
Turning to look at his mother, Dan said, “It means that the computer can read text to me. I don’t have to read it.”
Dan’s mother turned pale. She moved over to the table and sat down in one of the chairs. Fully realizing the significance of what she had heard, she said, “I didn’t know computers could do that.”
“Neither did I,” Dan said.