All the bad press today about the bonuses paid to AIG executives has reminded the Crone of two encounters she had one day last fall. Directors from public companies–some bailed out and some not–were discussing executive compensation with Obama’s Pay Czar. The Special Master for Compensation explained that a number of bail-out companies had paid out bonuses that seem huge to the rest of us, and that there was nothing he could do–although the companies were spending money borrowed from taxpayers, the bonuses were part of a contractual obligation that the companies had to their executives. Ken Feinberg did say that of course the executives, if sensitive to poor press and outraged public opinion, could have turned down the bonuses. They did not and very few of those in the room with Crone and Comp King seemed to think that walking away from the money would have been the right thing to do.
Later that day, the Crone was driving home to Itchy Ankle and stopped for gas at a station on a not very salubrious part of New York Avenue, NE. Her car had been parked for a week and the battery had been playing up. Once the car was refueled, it absolutely refused to start. The Crone was bone tired and desperate to be home. She was also aware that to be stuck in this particular Washington DC locale as darkness fell was perhaps not ideal. There was no help to be had at the garage. The clerk wouldn’t even pull aside his grille and shield to discuss the matter with the Crone. She called Triple A and they promised to be there within the hour. Just as the Crone ended her phonecall, a middle-aged black man limped over to her and asked if she needed help. Crack cocaine and limited access to dental care had wreaked havoc with his smile, but everything about his approach to the Crone was friendly and eager to help. Once he understood the problem, the man suggested pushing the Blarneymobile off the garage forecourt and round the corner to an auto shop ” They know me there” he said ” and they’ll let me use their jumper leads.”
As the Crone demurred, a small van pulled into the garage. It was a delivery vehicle for a private catering company and was driven by a young Hispanic man. ” Do you have jumpers?” asked the Crone’s down-and-out do-gooder “Yes” said the van man “Just let me fill up and I’ll be with you”. When he pulled his van up in front of the Crone’s poor apology for transportation, the Crone could see that he had a baby-seat in the back.
In moments, the Crone was revving up and turning over. ” Run her for an hour or so and don’t stop” said the man who had seen better days as he pocketed a couple of notes proferred by the Crone. No one could argue he didn’t need the money. ” You don’t want to get stuck again. Not everyone is ready to help” The Crone then tried to give $20 to the deserving van driver who refused to take it “But you really did me a good turn” said the Crone “Go on, take it. Get something nice for the baby”
“No thank you ma’am” said the hero with the crocodile clips ” If it was my wife stuck, I’d like to think someone would stop and help her”