The Millionaire Next Door
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Dan returned home with a laptop computer purchased from the electronics store at the mall. It wasn’t the best ‘top of the line’ system that they’d had, but it was a good solid rugged little machine. He was quite pleased with his purchase until he actually went to use it. It took him an entire evening to download all of the patches. The last patch was installed by the time he was ready to go to bed.
Diana had helped him set up the machine. The pair worked together well. Diana read the directions and only made a comment when he was about to do something that seemed to violate the directions. While watching the machine download patches to the operating system, Diana said, “I can’t believe how many patches this thing requires.”
“I know,” Dan said. He had figured that he’d open the box and be able to start working right away.
She said, “Every time you turn it on it will need to update one program or another. I hate it. Sometimes when you’re working, it will pop up a window to request permission to install another update. It seems to me like every time I turn around to use the computer, I have to wait fifteen minutes before I can actually use it.”
“Very. Sometimes it will actually restart itself if you aren’t paying attention. That drives me crazy.”
“I’ll try not to let it bother me,” Dan said. This was reminding him why he had given the computer to Diana in the first place. It had seemed to him that he was spending as much time working to get the computer functioning correctly as he was using the computer to do his schoolwork.
“There was no need for you to spend so much money on a computer. You could have had your old one back,” Diana said. She glanced at the screen and saw that it was asking them to okay another decision. That was getting old. She hit the mouse and turned to look at Dan.
Dan smiled at her and said, “I gave it to you. It isn’t mine.”
“But,” Diana said starting to object.
“No buts allowed,” Dan said, “I appreciated the fact that you let me use it the past week. It sure has made my life a lot simpler.”
“It was the least that I could do.”
“Well, I still appreciate it,” Dan said. He clicked the mouse so that the installation would continue. This one asked a couple of questions so it took him a few moments to get through it all.
The interruption made a good time to change the direction of the conversation. Two weeks had gone by since his friends had headed off to college and Diana was curious about how Dan was dealing with it. Diana asked, “Do you miss Tom?”
“Yes, I do,” Dan answered.
He would have loved to show off his new computer to Tom. It was the largest purchase of his life, and he had made it with money that he had earned through hard work. As irritating as the patches might be, he knew that he’d always feel that little twinge of pride when he looked at it.
“I figured you would,” Diana said. Her brother had surprised her on how well he was handling Tom’s absence. Tom was a true friend who had always been there for Dan. She hated to think about what would happen to Dan if he needed Tom and he wasn’t there.
“I miss Alison, too,” Dan said. It amazed him how quickly he had come to care a lot about her. She hadn’t wanted him to get too emotionally dependent on her, but that was hard. She was his first girlfriend and he’d always remember her. He had cried when she had driven off.
Thinking about how hard it must be on him to have lost his first girlfriend, Diana said, “I bet you do. I really liked her.”
Dan looked at her and said, “I am responsible for my own happiness. Right now, I’m very happy. I’m working towards my goals and making reasonable progress. That’s all I need right now.”
“You’ve never shown your goals to me,” Diana said.
“I haven’t finished working all of them out, yet,” Dan said. He reached over to the mouse and clicked the okay button on yet another window that had popped up asking permission to continue.
“Why haven’t you completed them by now?”
Dan said, “I’m trying to figure out how to word the goal to teach my little sister that it isn’t nice to be nosy.”
Hitting him on the shoulder, she said, “You’re horrible.”
“Maybe I should make being horrible one of my goals,” he teased.
As life for Dan settled into an easy routine of work and study, September turned to October. The construction market took the normal seasonal downturn, and Mr. Foreman was running out of work for his crews. Over the course of several weeks, his construction sites were handed off to the customers and the crews were let go. Dan was working on the last major effort that Mr. Foreman was contracting and they were in the clean up phase.
It was raining on the long anticipated day came when Mr. Foreman pulled Dan aside and said, “The end of the construction season has arrived.”
“Yes, Sir,” Dan said, “I noticed that. I take it that you are here to give me notice.”
“That’s right. I can only keep you on until the end of the week,” Mr. Foreman said with real regret. There was still the general cleanup of the apartment complex to perform; but that was the last major job, and it would be done by the end of the week.
“I’ve been expecting it,” Dan said with a thoughtful nod of his head. He had been vacuuming the carpets, dusting off the counters, and cleaning windows the entire day. A couple more days of that, and the apartment complex would ready for the customer.
Mr. Foreman had let many people go over his time as a general contractor. Most folks took it rather stoically since it was always expected, but there was always a handful that begged for any kind of job. Dan was taking it better than most. He asked, “Have you got another job lined up?”
“No, but I have a few leads,” Dan said, “I’ve been expecting this for a while, so I’m not surprised.”
“I’ve enjoyed having you work for me,” Mr. Foreman said. The man he had let go earlier that day had talked about going out and getting drunk. It seemed to him that spending all of that money on booze upon losing one’s job wasn’t the smartest of ideas. It was nice to see that Dan was different.
Dan said, “I’ve enjoyed this job. At first I didn’t think I was going to survive it, but I got used to it. I’ve learned an awful lot of very useful things. I think that I will look back at my time on this job with fondness.”
“Well, if you need a recommendation I’ll be glad to provide you with one,” Mr. Foreman said. He smiled and said, “If you want to start work again in the spring, let me know.”
“Thank you, Sir, but it’s time that I learned a little about the food service industry,” Dan said.
Mr. Foreman smiled at the comment. He was impressed by how focused Dan was on making something of his life. He handed Dan one of his business cards and said, “Why don’t you give me a call when you’re ready to establish your business? It never hurts to have an extra pair of eyes look over your business plan.”
‘Business plan? What is a business plan?’ Dan thought as he took the business card. He already had one of Mr. Foreman’s cards along with the business cards of every subcontractor that worked for Mr. Foreman. Then he realized that Mr. Foreman had written his home number on this one. Rather than voice his ignorance, he said, “Thanks. I’ll make sure to give you a call.”
“Great. I expect one day that my crews will be ordering pizzas from your shop,” Mr. Foreman said with a smile.
“That would be outstanding,” Dan said. Usually the crews sent him out to a fast food place to pickup lunch. Considering the number of people on the various crews, that often meant he left the construction site with over a hundred dollars in cash collected from everyone. Looking up at Mr. Foreman, he said, “I’ve really appreciated all of the advice you’ve given me.”
Mr. Foreman said, “A lot of people ask for advice, but very few people listen to it. It’s always a pleasure to talk to someone who listens to your advice.”
Dan walked up to the front of the class and said, “Professor Harrison. Would you like someone to walk you to your ride?”
“Mr. Parker, that would be nice,” she answered smiling at him. He was her favorite student in the class. He was always prepared for the class. The questions he asked usually went to the heart of the material she was covering. In the three years she had been an adjunct at the school, he was the best student she’d ever had. She also appreciated that after every class he walked her to her car.
One of the other students walked past and said, “Suck up.”
Dan glanced over at the student and shook his head. A number of his classmates had made rather unflattering comments about his trying to socialize his way to an A. The comments didn’t bother him enough to tell them that he was just auditing the class because he wanted to learn the material. He wasn’t interested in earning a grade. Ignoring the comment, he said, “I wanted to ask you about business plans.”
“I assume that you have one for your pizzeria,” she said having noticed the comment by the other student. She wondered why Dan didn’t bother to clarify his status in the class.
Surprised that she had assumed that he already had one, Dan said, “I don’t have one. In fact, I’m not even sure what one is. I need to find out how to create one.”
Professor Harrison was running her hand over her desk to make sure that she didn’t leave anything behind. Rather surprised by the admission, she stopped packing up and reached for her purse. Opening it, she searched for one of her business cards. Handing it to him, she said, “Take my business card. Give me a call early next week and we’ll schedule a session with a friend of mine. He helps small business owners develop their businesses.”
After purchasing his computer and paying for his daily expenses, Dan had only managed to save a little more than four thousand dollars over the past five months. Dan nodded his head and asked, “How much money should I be prepared to spend?”
“He’ll help you for free,” Professor Harrison said with a smile. It didn’t surprise her that he asked about money. Money was always tight for people starting a small business.
“Oh, that’s nice, but I don’t want you to call in any special favors on my account,” Dan said.
Professor Harrison laughed at the comment. She really liked Dan. She said, “That’s his job. He works for the Small Business Administration. He already gets paid by the government to help small businesses get started.”
“Oh, that’s very nice,” Dan said. He had never heard of it. He was beginning to get the idea that there were far more resources available to him than he had thought.
Having collected her stuff, Professor Harrison called out for her guide dog, “Lucky.”
The dog, a slightly overweight golden retriever, went over to her and pressed himself against her leg. Although she used him as a guide dog, he had actually failed the program, because he had never learned how to deal with crowds. He was okay most of the time, but when there were too many people he would just stop. She grabbed the handle and said, “Let’s go.”
Dan took his normal position beside her as they walked out of the classroom. It always amazed him to watch how the dog managed to guide her around students who were absently chatting in the hallway unaware of their surroundings. He said, “I’ve really enjoyed this class.”
Professor Harrison said, “Thanks. How are you doing on the project?”
“It might not surprise you to learn that I’ve chosen to set up the books for a pizzeria,” Dan said with a smile.
“Somehow, I’m not surprised at all,” Professor Harrison replied with a laugh. She always assigned the project of setting up the books for a small business at the end of the year. Usually it was for a small retail company, but this semester she had let the students choose the kind of company.
Dan said, “My schedule is changing a little now. My construction job has come to an end and I’m going to be looking for another job. I’m not sure what my hours will be.”
“Will that affect your attendance in class?”
Dan shook his head and said, “No. There are plenty of jobs out there and I’ll make sure that I take one that allows me to make it to class.”
“There aren’t that many good paying jobs,” Professor Harrison said a little disappointed in his claim that there were plenty of jobs out there.
“I’m not looking for a good paying job. I’m looking for a job that will teach me about my future business. I’ll settle for busboy if that is what it requires. There are lots of busboy jobs,” Dan said dismissing her warning.
Surprised that he wasn’t aiming a little higher, Professor Harrison asked, “What can you learn as a busboy?”
Dan shrugged his shoulders and said, “I can learn a little about scheduling employees, inventory management, customer service, and the day to day operations of a restaurant. I don’t have to do a job, to see how it’s done and ask questions. I can talk to the manager and get additional insights into running a business.”
“So you are after a job that pays in a currency other than money,” she said. She remembered entering the professional workforce so many years ago. She had been more interested in the experience that she would get on the job than the pay. Of course, that had been in a large well established firm.
Dan liked the sound of that. He said, “Yes. I’m after a job that pays in a currency other than money.”