Money, the Ultimate Motivator

“What makes you call, N?” I answer, surprised. A high school alum (1956) N sticks it out full term to retire as Professor Emeritus, unlike me packing it in after two sabbaticals, unable to endure the stress of teaching, life time tenure be damned.

“I totally agree with your article, Money, the Root of All Blessings,” N says, misquoting the blog title. I listen, flattered that he has read it at all. Generally, alums, especially high school alums, never read your stuff in the firm belief they know you too well to hear anything new that they don’t know about already. “But I strongly urge you to change the title to Money, the Ultimate Motivator.”

“Why so?”

“I’ll illustrate with a real situation, not something made up, as you would, a fictioneer.” Versus a scholar or scientist that he is, fact or data oriented, though unsaid.

“Okay, go on,” I encourage him. The following is a verbatim transcription of his narrative, uninterrupted.


My wife has finally stopped calling Isabella, the cleaning woman, whose every biweekly visit an unfailing cause for a brawl between us.

“I don’t wear a one-karat diamond ring nor carry a ten grand Gucci bag and I also make my own money,” shouts she, a church organist cum music director pulling in about as much as my pension.

“Tell me what she does that I don’t do,” I demand.

“If you have to ask, you just won’t get it. Look, I have no perfectionist compulsion but I deserve a minimum.”

So leaving my study where I’ve been locked in until the rest of the house gets cleaned and I am told to go straight up to the master bedroom, I glance around the wall and see that Isabella is wiping the floor of the kitchen with a mop. That’s the secret. Vacuuming alone doesn’t cut it. So the next couple of weeks I go around the house with a wet rag, picking up every resistant speck of dust or hair.

Two weeks go by and off goes the door bell. I open, expecting an express mail delivery to be signed for. Instead there stands Isabella, grinning from ear to ear, in her rubber gloves and cleaning paraphernalia. I have half a mind to slam the door in her face but I would never hear the end of it.

However, this time I leave my hideout a little early and catch Isabella replacing the grates and drip bowls for our cooktop. Eureka! That’s it. Before embarking on dish washing and house cleaning, my necessary, eternal maintenance chore, I take out the grates and drip bowls and remove any burned in or dried up drips of food, and also steel-wool the marble backboard, marble counter top, stainless-steel hood, knobs of the cooktop, making them factory clean. Some burnt-in spots, a quarter inch in diameter, take up as much as 15 minutes. Exhausted, naturally I go light on the rest of the maintenance. Day after day I focus on the cooktop, until its upkeep takes only a few minutes, freeing me for the maintenance of the rest of the house.

It’s been 5 months and we’ve had some visitors sleeping over, an unfailing reason for an extra visit by Isabella. But there hasn’t been a ding-dong and Isabella at the door. I don’t know whether my wife has forgotten about it but of course I am not reminding her. So I have been able to save 300 bucks a month. Of course it’s not much but you know we are not exactly raking it in these days. You know the dictum, A dollar saved is better than a dollar earned, because, ha, ha, we don’t pay tax on it. I wouldn’t have had a clue to my wife’s fixation with the cooktop, hadn’t I been powerfully motivated by Money, the Ultimate Motivator.

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