I was seven years old, maybe eight. Sometimes when I look back on my childhood years and certain events, I always have an inclination to say I was nine years old. But I must have been younger than that considering I thought a copy machine could make me a millionaire.
There was one mall in my small beach town. It had two stories and I even witnessed the building of the second one. I remember out-of-towners from more secluded cities would go to the mall to visit and I would always spot them out as they stood in front of the escalator, afraid to let it take them to the second floor. It always made me feel much more sophisticated to know I wasn’t afraid of the escalator. In fact, on days when me and my best friend had nothing better to do, we’d go to the mall and race up and down the escalators.
Maybe it was on one of those days spent at the mall racing against the escalator with my best friend that I spotted the copying machine in the toy section. I was usually attracted to the Barbies or the board games, but for some reason the copying machine sparked an immense interest in me. I held it in my hands and started thinking of how I could charge people for copies and make a lot of money if I bought it. But one look at the price and I was discouraged. It was worth about three weeks of my allowance, 21 reais, which is about 11 dollars. It might not seem like much now, but it was a lot of money for me then. I knew I could ask my parents to buy it for me, but in Brazil kids only get presents on three days of the year: their birthday, Christmas, and Children’s Day. None of those days were even close. I decided then that I’d have to save my allowance. And I would do it because the machine would more than pay off once I started getting rich from all the copies I was going to charge my family members and friends.
Three weeks went by. I got my money ready and asked my dad to take me to the mall. I remember walking down the hall of the mall to the toy section nervous that the copy machine would no longer be there. As I turned the corner I closed my eyes, held my breath, and prepared myself as any other 7 year old would. When I opened my eyes, it was there! I grabbed it off the shelf as fast as I could and went to the cashier to pay for it. I handed the cashier all my allowance money and went home telling my dad all about my business plan.I remembered he encouraged me and said that it was a great idea, though he didn’t think it was fair for his own daughter to charge him for copies. I considered giving him a discount. After all, he did pay my allowance
You must know by now where this story is going… When I got home and set up the copy machine, I realized that it was just a toy. That even though I spent three weeks of my allowance on it, it did not make any copies. Not even one. It was just a dumb kid’s toy, one you played pretend with.
I didn’t want to play pretend! I couldn’t charge anyone for “pretend” invisible copies. Three weeks of waiting and saving my allowance all went down the drain. I couldn’t even return the dumb toy for something equally dumb that would at last be fun to play with, like a barbie. I was stuck with a useless toy.
I fell into my bed and sobbed. I cried so hard that every tear was accompanied by a gasp, a grunt, or some other strange noise that came from somewhere deep inside me, somewhere I didn’t even think existed. Once I stopped crying I laid in bed, cowered under my covers, and I refused to get up for food or anything else.
That was my first experience with despair. It was also my first experience with disillusionment, my first hard dose of reality. As a child, I couldn’t understand how they would sell a toy just for pretend. Didn’t they know kids aren’t dumb? That they want to make real copies and sell them for a profit? I wanted to be rich. It was obvious that dumb toy wasn’t going to get me there.
Today when I look back at my childhood, I realize that was the day its naive bits and pieces started to disappear. I never bought anything ever again with the intention of making money. From that day on, I settled for dumb toys that served no purpose other than providing one with fun. I am still, however, looking for a way to get rich.