Picture this: a grown woman is driving around the Chicago suburbs and encounters three little girls with a lemonade stand. Upon learning that they are giving away the lemonade for free, the aforementioned grown woman goes after them like she just found the fucking Taliban making VX in a garage in Palatine. At the end of this psychotic episode, she writes about it with the intention of publishing it because she is proud of what she just did.
Did you picture all of that? Good. Now do it. Do it and you too can be a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can be the next Terry Savage. It is not often that I read a simple opinion column and conclude that the author is quite lucky to have avoided ending up in police custody as a result of it. This ("There is No 'Free' Lemonade") is one such occasion. In fact it is the only such occasion I can recall aside from Doug Giles' ill-advised 2001 column "A List of Problems I Have Solved By Raping Things."
I ask if you are ready only rhetorically today, because having read this column I know for a fact that you are not.
This column is a true story — every word of it.
Well there goes the insanity defense or the ol' "It was satire / artistic license!" argument.
And I think it very appropriate to consider around the Fourth of July, Independence Day spirit.
Please keep this line in mind as she explains what she did. This is what she likes to do in celebration of major holidays. Check back in November for her column about beheading a vagrant in the Thanksgiving spirit.
Last week, I was in a car with my brother and his fiancee, driving through their upscale neighborhood on a hot summer day. At the corner, we all noticed three little girls sitting at a homemade lemonade stand.
Why, this just sounds like a Norman Rockwell painting. How sweet. How all-American. How totally not a reason to lose your shit and go after three little girls like you are a starving dog and they are wearing dresses made of honey baked ham.
We follow the same rules in our family, and one of them is: Always stop to buy lemonade from kids who are entrepreneurial enough to open up a little business.
Aside from wondering why your family feels the need to have such an esoteric rule, I find it regrettable that the Savage clan does not have rules about the basic tenets of human interaction. They might have come in handy here.
My brother immediately pulled over to the side of the road and asked about the choices. The three young girls — under the watchful eye of a nanny, sitting on the grass with them — explained that they had regular lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and small chocolate candy bars.
I see nothing out of the ordinary here. Then again, I am not Terry Savage.
Then my brother asked how much each item cost. "Oh, no," they replied in unison, "they're all free!"
OH SHIT. OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT.
I know you still can't see how this could be a precursor to a rage-filled outburst for any normal person but RUN. THERE ISN'T TIME. I WILL EXPLAIN LATER.
I sat in the back seat in shock. Free? My brother questioned them again: "But you have to charge something? What should I pay for a lemonade? I'm really thirsty!"
Note that 99.999 percent of…well, actually, everyone on the goddamn planet except for Terry Savage and Brother Savage…would have said "Aw, how cute! Thank you so much!" and enjoyed a cold Dixie cup of Country Time Imitation Lemonade Substitute at this point. That, I daresay, would be a normal response.
His fiancee smiled and commented, "Isn't that cute. They have the spirit of giving."
Well, one person in the car was relatively normal.
That really set me off, as my regular readers can imagine.
OK, from this point forward this reads like a police report.
No, Terry, we can't imagine. Even your most devoted readers cannot figure out why you are about to start yelling at three little girls for offering you free lemonade. Your motives are as comprehensible as a Japanese game show.
"No!" I exclaimed from the back seat. "That's not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They're giving away their parents' things — the lemonade, cups, candy. It's not theirs to give."
Well, presumably this stuff became theirs to own when THEIR PARENTS FUCKING GAVE IT TO THEM. Wait a minute. Why am I debating you on the minutiae of your "argument" when the real question here is broader: What in the hell is wrong with you?
I bet the fiancee was profoundly thankful for this lecture. And she certainly did not turn the car ride home from their visit with you into a "If we have to see her more than once a year, we're getting divorced. In fact I have the divorce paperwork prepared. It needs only a signature." conversation for your brother.
I pushed the button to roll down the window and stuck my head out to set them straight.
Adults should always pick fights with kids in furtherance of "setting them straight." It's not only smart, it's socially acceptable and indicative of a healthy personality.
"You must charge something for the lemonade," I explained. "That's the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs — how much the lemonade costs, and the cups — and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money."
"You must charge something for the lemonade," I explained…TO A GROUP OF SEVEN YEAR-OLD STRANGERS. Kids, if you're reading this, take Mr. Ed's advice on something: if an adult stranger ever says any of this to you, one member of your group should run to ask an adult to call the police and the remaining two should attempt to make a lot of noise and stand together to create the impression that they are a large animal.
True, that is actually how one should respond to brown bear attacks. But it will also work on Terry Savage. Trust me. And don't get between her and her cubs.
I was confident I had explained it clearly. Until my brother, breaking the tension, ordered a raspberry lemonade. As they handed it to him, he again asked: "So how much is it?" And the girls once again replied: "It's free!" And the nanny looked on contentedly.
I would like to hear this story from the girls' perspective. Or perhaps the nanny's. This part would be something like "So after this bitch started lecturing us on classical economics, they asked us how much it cost. We wanted to see if we could make their heads explode, so we told them it was still free. The driver man swore at us and the old lady in the backseat pulled a stiletto knife out of her purse. Then they saw Officer Harry's car at the end of the block and they ran away."
No wonder America is getting it all wrong when it comes to government, and taxes, and policy. We all act as if the "lemonade" or benefits we're "giving away" is free. And so the voters demand more — more subsidies for mortgages, more bailouts, more loan modification and longer periods of unemployment benefits.
Wait. Did you have some lemonade or not? I need closure on this anecdote, not a segue into the worst metaphor in recorded history. "Some nice kids tried to give me lemonade for free, and I decided that the lemonade represents everything that is wrong with society. Because I am psychotic. I pick corn from my own crap and glue it back on the cob. Then I eat it again. And again."
They're all very nice. But these things aren't free.
You know what was nice as well as free? THE DAMN LEMONADE.
The government only gets the money to pay these benefits by raising taxes, meaning taxpayers pay for the "free lemonade." Or by printing money — which is essentially a tax on savings, since printing more money devalues the wealth we hold in dollars.
She is now explaining that when we give the government some of our earnings, we often demand benefits in return for giving them said money.
Slow down, T-Bone. We're not all economists here. Is there any scientific effort to study and explain this bizarre behavior? Personally I am surprised that people want the government to provide things other than the Joint Strike Fighter in exchange for keeping a quarter of our paychecks.
If we can't teach our kids the basics of running a lemonade stand, how can we ever teach Congress the basics of economics?
Reach further, Terry! Reach higher! Reach! This lemonade transaction (or was it a non-transaction? I NEED TO KNOW.) represents everything that is wrong with America. It also explains why Congress doesn't understand "the basics of economics (but I bet Terry does!) The lemonade also represents AIDS in the developing world, the problem with the music industry today, and 19th Century institutionalized racism.
The other day I was shopping and I saw that wax paper was on sale. Of course my first thought was, "This is why we won the space race."
Or maybe it's the other way around: The kids are learning from the society around them. No one has ever taught them there's no free lunch — and all they see is "free," not the result of hard work, and saving, and scrimping.
I think it is valid to conclude that "no one" has ever given American students the hackneyed wisdom that "there's no free lunch."
Maybe the lesson the parents hoped to teach was that sometimes, especially when you are a person of considerable wealth, it is nice to do things for your fellow man without expecting to be paid. That it's OK to give someone 1 cent worth of powdered lemonade just to be friendly. That parents don't want their kids to grow up to be asocial assholes like Terry Savage.
If that's what America's children think
"And based on my random, double-blind study of these three girls, it is fair to conclude that they do,"
— that there's a free lunch waiting — then our country has larger problems ahead. The Declaration of Independence promised "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It didn't promise anything free.
Right. It promised us a government that would allocate the resources we grant to it in ways that are to our benefit. Who ever said we expected the government to do all this stuff for us "for free"? We work. We contribute. Oh wait, I forgot how the Metaphor of the Lemonade explains how we all want things for free. Good point.
Something to think about this July 4th holiday weekend.
Or, you know, fireworks and barbecues.
And that's the Savage Truth!
This is the most embarrassingly bad catchphrase I have ever seen. I recommend something like:
– I Am Completely Fucking Insane!tm
– I Can't Be Trusted with Your Children!tm
– Fluids! My Precious Fluids!tm
Despite the fact that I've trademarked that, Terry, you are free to use it. You've more than earned the right. What's that? No, it doesn't cost you anything. You can use it for free. I don't care. No. I don't want anything for it.
Oh jesus. She's advancing on me with that murderous glare again. You all slip out the back while I distract her. This may take a while.