Sunday, February 07, 2010

Rich People, Go Figure.

There are very rich people that live completely anonymous lives. I knew this very old man once. When he was a little boy, back before World War I, in New York City, he was a street urchin, scrambling for money. One of the things he did was hawk bags of peanuts at Yankee games. He got the idea that he could sell other stuff and made a deal with the management to do so. He started out with team pennants on bamboo canes, which he had made up at a local sweat shop. They sold well. He hired other little kids to sell them and gave the management a cut. Eventually he was selling all sorts of cheap shit to the fans. He made a decent living for several years. Other teams soon copied what he did and he was never able to cash in on his imitators.

He started to get rich when pro football started up. He managed to convince the NFL that they should only allow the sale of "official" curios and got the contract to be the sole provider. Eventually, a large proportion of the profits of NFL teams came from his operation. He also pioneered giveaway nights, where attendance could be boosted by giving everybody some piece of shit souvenir.

As the decades rolled by, all of the professional sports leagues had official products and he became the official provider for all of them, pro, semi pro, even some college sports. A lot of these products, jerseys, hats and warm up jackets, bobble head dolls, became so popular that they were sold in huge volumes at special stores in the stadiums, off site, and through mail order. Eventually, he became one of the richest men in the country and nobody ever heard of him. He was able to keep his competitive edge by going overseas for production and direct shipping to distributors. No infrastructure, few employees, the cheapest possible crap. He never had any plan to pass the business on to his children. He didn't think they could hold on to it. He was probably right. He sold out in the early Nineties to Nike. They paid top dollar. He was a Billionaire. More even than that.

I met him after he had got the cancer that would kill him. He donated a wing to the best cancer hospital in SoCal. He had his own suite and they kept him alive a long time. He would go home as much as possible, long weekends, holiday seasons, special occasions. His wife would bring him home late in the evening and I would often go out from the Visiting Nurses Association, to get him set up. I liked visiting him. Rich people are more demanding and his was always an inordinately long visit but he was an interesting guy. I'd do the assessment admission packet. Get him into bed. Clean him up. Get his Gastric tube feeding going and he'd be good for the night. They had a home aide that would come in the morning.

They lived in a relatively modest one bedroom townhouse in a Newport Beach golf course community called Big Canyon. As those kind of places go, it's OK but not nearly as expensive or exclusive as the top tier. The golf course didn't have country club amenities. It wasn't close to the water or even in a really nice area. I was surprised that people with that kind of money and such a limited end of life horizon would choose a place like that to live. I thought it was cool. They were a cute old couple, both in their nineties, very independent. I liked to think I was their friend. I got a kick out of it.

So, one time I'm out there really late on a Friday night after the wife had brought him from the hospital. He was getting sicker and wasn't really doing very well. I probably spent 2 1/2 hours there. $35 flat rate visit, not even worth my time. He probably shouldn't have been home at all but I knew he really wanted to be and he was going to die soon anyway, so I took my time and made sure he was OK. I set the feeding rate a little lower than was ordered because I didn't want it to back up on him, give it time to absorb. I was on call weekend nights so I gave the old lady my home phone and beeper number so she wouldn't have to go through the answering service if there was an emergency. She seemed relieved and very grateful.

Just before I left I got a beep from my boss at the office in Irvine. That meant he had someplace else for me to go. I asked the lady if I might use her phone to call in and she said certainly. I didn't have a cell phone. They were a new thing and the VNA was too cheap to reimburse the cost, so I just had a beeper and a company phone credit card. So I called in, got the info on the next visit and was off to put a new dilaudid cartridge into the portable IV pump of a malingering junkie woman, abusing the home health care system in Dana Point.

My supervisor told me the next week that the wife had called to file a complaint against me for not using my credit card on the phone call. Newport to Tustin, 35 cents. I got mad but I was embarrassed too. I should have used the credit card. You had to go through a whole routine and punch in about twenty digits. It never occurred to me that they would care. I guess it should have. They still needed evening visits and sometimes even late night visits after that, he didn't die for a few more months. I would never go. I made Gerald, my supervisor go. I never got along with Gerald that well. He was afraid they would give me his job. Let him waste his time for no money with the old rich people. It wasn't out of spite. I knew if I went back, I would give the old lady a buck to reimburse her for the call and a little extra, for the trouble I put her through and that would just be mean.


Corpseman said...

Rich people are usually very cheap except when it comes to their ostentatious lifestyle.

By the way, were you a Corpseman in the Navy?

reddog said...

Nah, QM. I'd a liked to have gotten a merchant seaman card and after a few years try for a second mate's license but the merchant fleet was dying in '77 when I got out. No way you could get a berth unless you knew someone with pull.

I almost got on, through a friend, with an ocean tug hauling log rafts to Japan but that fell through an the crews were small with infrequent openings. It was a tough gig but I'd of jumped at it.

I went back to the local JC and picked up an RN license. I liked it. You can always work, pretty much wherever you want as long as you're good. Anybody gives you shit you just walk away. Being a male in a mostly female profession was good for an eccentric loner like me. I'd do it again.