Monday, April 28, 2008

An 8-year-old's brush with The Fuzz

Summer, 1983...

"Kool-Aid! Ten cents a cup! Kool-Aid! Ten cents a cup!" her booming voice rattled windows around the neighborhood. But that's one of the reasons I asked my friend Felicia to be in charge of my advertising campaign; she was a year older than me, and that extra experience gave her more impressive market penetration.

Yes, in those halcyon days in which Gummi Worms were bought seperately, and given to you by a cashier wielding plastic tongs, my 8-year-old entrepreneurial self decided to go into business selling liquid refreshment to the sweaty masses of our Livermore neighborhood.

We lived on a corner, so not only did I have a prime location, but it was also under a giant tree, so I'd stay a little bit cooler. Made in the shade, right?

I offered Felicia a cut of the profits, but she said she'd just be happy with a cup or two of Kool-Aid, which was just fine with my money-grubbing little heart. Besides, we hung out all the time anyway; we'd just be hanging around my parents' card table, me pouring and collecting money, and Felicia convincing any kids who came by that they should buy a cup or two.

I contracted out for the actual making of my product; my mom was happy to mix up batches of Kool-Aid for me, and I was fine with her using whatever flavor was on hand. I had already stashed away my favorite flavor, Sunshine Punch.

So aside from making a sign with my Crayolas and sitting in a chair, ready to make change, I really didn't have much actual work to do. That was the beauty of it.

With it being summertime, kids were out all day long, so we'd get them coming and going. And if it got slow, we could discuss the merits of Knight Rider or The A-Team. Every now and then her brother Nathaniel would come by to see how we were doing, but we were kind of boring, so he'd go find something more fun to do.

Felicia took a break for a little bit during a particularly slow part of the afternoon, and I was left to man the stand on my own. I read my tattered copy of The Great Brain at the Academy and waited for customers.

A black-and-white police car cruised by, and I saw him look at me as he drove by. I realized that technically, as I didn't have a business permit, I was breaking the law.

Yes, I swear to you, I was 8 years old, worrying about not having a business permit to sell Kool-Aid. I was a weird little kid.

I got even more nervous as he turned around and parked across the street. The officer got out of his car, his sunglasses hiding his eyes, and walked over to the stand. I thought he was going to run me in.

"How much?" he asked.

"Ten cents," I said, nodding at my sign with its faux-Superman lettering.

The officer fished in his pocket and pulled out a quarter. Sweet! That was enough for two and a half glasses.

"I'll take one, please." And he handed me the quarter. I already had the dime and nickel ready for him, and I tried to hand it to him. "Keep the change."

I thanked him profusely, and he got back in his car and drove away. Kids were starting to get called in for dinner, so I closed up shop for the day. I was so excited by my profit that I was probably visibly glowing.

Wow, I thought. Imagine what I could do with a flavor besides orange...