Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Liberal spending: world class and school class


By G.D. Maxwell

Some days you just can’t believe your luck. A lot of those days, unfortunately, the luck you can’t believe is bad. But when it’s good luck, really good luck, those are days to savour.

So it was the morning I found half a buck walking down the street to catch the school bus. It was a very long time ago and half a buck was two weeks allowance, a veritable fortune for a nine year old to find laying on the ground. Pocketing the scuffed fifty-cent piece with paranoid nonchalance – which is to say looking around like crazy half expecting to be pounced on for taking it – my mind raced through the possibilities. My discretionary funds world revolving pretty much around comics and candy, it wasn’t much of a race.

But then, clarity. It was like the plan revealed itself to me in a single burst of mischievous creativity instead of slowly falling into place.

I dashed into the Sinclair gas station across the street from the bus stop and excitedly told Cecil I wanted 50 pieces of bubblegum. As luck would have it, the gas station just happened to have the best bubblegum available on the market. Soft, succulent, with an almost subliminal underflavour of banana – none of that rock-hard Bazooka Joe, National Association of Dentists and Candymakers crap – the gas station’s bubblegum was what we liked to call a good chew.

Fifty pieces was just about a whole box and Cecil – named after the dinosaur that was Sinclair Gas’ mascot – being both accommodating and up to his elbows in a grease job, said "Take the box." No can do, the box would be a dead giveaway. So counting out 50 pieces, I crammed 24 into each of my front pockets and two in my mouth and rushed back across the street as the bus pulled up.

My pockets were so full of bubble gum I couldn’t sit down without cutting the circulation off to both legs. John Wallace, the school bully and a good friend – me being a wannabe bully – demanded his tithe. He settled for one piece after I shared the plan with him. He was devious enough to recognize brilliance when he heard it.

When we got to school, I emptied my pockets into my desk when the teacher was distracted by 30 kids invading her world and waited for the day to unfold. Mrs. Johnston was the kind of teacher we should all have been lucky enough to get at one time. An archetype, she was prim, bunned, and as strict as they come. She was also a brilliant teacher who intuitively understood how to motivate each of her charges and get the best they had to offer. Scrupulously fair too, I suspected.