Monday, May 25, 2009

A great day without money

(This is an imaginary story of someone refusing to use money and things going better than expected.)

“What an amazing individual.” I thought as my new friend Mark had just left the bar where he had insisted taking me. I had met him in a subway right after my pleasant conversation with the retiring inspector who had decided not to write me an inspection fee. Mark had overheard our conversation with the inspector and came to have a chat, wanting to know more of leading a life without money.

Now Mark had entertained me for a few hours with his sarcastic jokes, telling his life story in a very humorous manner. He had traveled the world free of charge himself – a little something he started on his hitchhiking honeymoon 15 years ago. Though I felt such a novice compared to him I was happy to hear his story, and get a few pints of free lager.

Sipping my beer I took a moment to reflect on the previous events of the day. I had turned down two job offers from other kind individuals because they would have wanted to pay with free food and accommodation. I had told both of them that I couldn’t take an offer for an offer – that I’d rather pay it forward. For a while I had felt a bit bad because they were so keen to help. Later I understood I had made the right choice because I got a third job offer – this time with agreeable terms. And what a job! From tomorrow onwards I would be teaching kids how to make websites – a combination of two of my passions; teaching and web design.

There was some good karma going on today. Even my lunch had been amazing. I had helped an elderly couple carry their luggage into a hotel. They had answered with a warm smile. I had never been to that hotel before so I decided to take a look around. As I was kneeling down in the garden and taking photos of the beautiful flower bench I heard someone approaching. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw she was an old friend of mine who I had not seen in five years or so. She was now a chef in this hotel and persisted I’d come and taste her delicacies. I learned she had learned all this in a remote Italian village where she had stayed for several years. Just before she had to attend to burning lasagna we exchanged numbers and she agreed to call me later this week so we could catch up more.

In the afternoon I had been wandering aimlessly checking the notice boards of grocery stores. This morning I had left my friend’s place where I had been couch-hopping for a week now. I had left him a note thanking for his generosity and explaining that I’d go and look for a place of my own. And there it was, right in front of my eyes: “Vacancy. Owner moving out temporarily. No rent.” I got the place instantly, in the phone, without even having to explain my situation. The owner was just wondering why no one else had called although the note had been on the wall for a week. Somehow things were going real smooth today.

As I gulped the last of my lager I noticed someone staring at me in the next table, giggling at my foamy nose. She was stunning! I felt so embarrassed and quickly wiped my face. Without asking she moved her chair next to me and introduced herself. I could hardly stutter my name. It was love at first sight. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be going home alone tonight.

A good day without money

(Because I haven't started yet I let my imagination paint some alternative scenarios of how things could go in a life without money. This is an imaginary story of someone refusing to use money and things not going as expected.)

I wake up on a park bench early in the morning as I hear someone shouting at me. I notice an angry guard who’s motioning me to leave the only resting place I could find. I gather my blanket and shove it to my backpack that is filled with a change of clothes, a laptop and an empty water bottle. I’m grateful it was a warm night.

Still tired I feel I could use a cup of coffee to start my day. I see a small kiosk that is just opening. Already from the distance I can smell the aroma of a freshly baked coffee. “Could I please have a cup of coffee for free, please?” I enquire politely, just to be greeted with an awkward stare and incomprehensible mumbling. I check my watch to see it’s still a couple of hours before the office opens. I decide to wait until that to get my caffeine dose.

Inspired by the idea of a free cup of coffee waiting for me, I take a bus towards the office. After being seated I realize the driver staring at me, unwilling to close the door and seemingly waiting for a payment. I explain him that I’m not going to pay for the ride if it’s ok with him. “Then get out!” he shouts. I feel too tired to explain so I exit the bus and leave him a piece of paper summarizing my new lifestyle. He doesn’t even look at it but sweeps it on the floor nonchalantly.

Encouraged by the sun rays warming my face I set on my journey by foot. It’s going to take about an hour but I reckon it’s going to wake me up at very least. I have time to watch an increasing number of other early birds rushing for their jobs. They look not only tired but also annoyed having to wake up so early. I keep thinking what their professions are. I’m pretty sure of the cosmetologist, banker, cab driver and gym instructor. The ventriloquist and vet I doubt, still amusing myself with these crazy first impressions.

Arriving at the office door good 45 minutes early, I rest myself against the wall… just for a while.

“Good morning!” I hear my boss say with an awkward tone in her voice and wake up. “Uh, good morning boss.” I force myself in an upward position and follow her to the office. She keeps glancing at my soggy appearance but doesn’t say a word for a while. As I’m about to enter my cubicle she finally utters: “Maybe you should take a day off if you are that tired. Go home and rest.” I’m speechless for a moment. “Um… Actually I don’t have a home anymore. I refused to pay my rent.” After an uncomfortable silence she motions me to her office.

She demands to know what’s going on in my life. After my thorough explanation she sighs: “That’s the biggest nonsense I’ve ever heard. I’m worried of your mental health. Could you go see the company doctor the first thing you leave from that door?” she suggests. Without hesitation I explain her there’s nothing wrong with my head. “Well, then… If you don’t need money, why are you here? Why don’t you just quit?” sensing a hint of frustration in her voice. A few moments pass in complete silence before I get up. “Ok.” I reply and leave the door.

As I pass my cubicle it dawns to me how many years I’ve wasted in it. Now that I’ve freed myself of money, why should I continue filling spreadsheets every day? I take a blue post-it note and write “Resigned” on it. I paste it on the computer screen and decide that’s the last time I’m going to touch the damn thing. On my way out of the office I take that one more cup of free coffee from the machine.

Next few hours I sit in the shore and think about my next steps in life. The sun is much warmer than ever before this summer. Amazing opportunities start dawning to me as I stare at the white serene clouds. I could hitchhike around Europe. I could go and work in an orphanage. I could get back to painting – something that I loved to do years ago when I still had time for it. Or I could go and check if my old guitar is still in my friend’s garage.

Don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness!

One step in the preparation for leading a life without money is to communicate it to others. This is the note I will print and give out for people who might stop me for what I do:

No for money

I’m sorry if my behavior has troubled you somehow. I have chosen to refuse money. I work for free and fulfill my place in the society.

You might think I’m crazy but I’m just refusing our current crazy system. I’m experimenting with this lifestyle to prove we the people don’t need money to survive: we need love, compassion and sharing.

Please try to understand and let me have what I need. I’m grateful and will pay it forward… without money.

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Preparation for preparation

I'm about to make maybe the biggest decision in life and make The Zeitgeist Movement reality in my life. Stay tuned.