A twenty, placed in the right hand at the right moment, makes things happen. It gets you past the rope, beyond the door, into the secret files. The twenty hastens and chastens, beckons and tugs. The twenty, you see, is a verb. It’s all about action.
As an experiment, Chiarella travels from Indianapolis to New York carrying one-hundred twenty-dollar bills. “I am the original twenty-dollar millionaire,” he writes, buying his way to executive treatment $20 at a time. He uses twenties every chance he gets. He uses them to get his car detailed. He uses them to trade seats with a passenger on a commuter flight. And then to bribe somebody out of first-class on a regular flight. He uses twenties to cut in line for a taxi, to get room upgrades at his hotel, to get better seats in restaurants.
But a twenty can’t buy everything — Chiarella finds that people won’t risk their jobs for a twenty.
A twenty should not be a ticket so much as a solution. You have a problem, you need something from the back room, you don’t want to wait, you whip out the twenty.
This sounds like fun, if you have the cash. But you know what? I’ll save my twenties for now. I’m like George Bailey, on his wedding night, rubbing his last two dollars together:
COUSIN TILLY: I wish they were rabbits.
GEORGE: I wish they were too. Okay, let’s put them in the safe and see what happens.
I wish my twenties to be rabbits. If they breed, maybe I’ll be able to pass them around later.
[Esquire, March 2003: The $20 Theory of the Universe]
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