Third Best Decision I Ever Made

22 01 2014

I believe I was 13 years old when I got my first paper route. I was delivering the Raleigh News and Observer and my route included about 125 regular customers and another 50 or so for Sunday only delivery. One of my customers was a neighbor living two blocks away.

Psst! Wanna Make Some Dough?
I delivered the News and Observer until I was 15 years old. About 6 months after turning 16 and getting my driver’s license, this customer called me on the phone one night. He asked me if I was interested in earning some money. Do I want to earn money? Is a pig’s butt pork? Does a shark eat seafood? I thought what a silly question. What sixteen year old boy doesn’t want to earn money? Thinking about the prospects of making a little cash, I responded with the excitement of a sixteen year-old boy on the verge of coming into some money, “Sure!”

He said, “All you need to do is drive an RV to Florida and drop it off with a friend of mine and I’ll fly you back home. That’s all you have to do and I’ll pay you $10,000.00.” Yes, you read that correctly and it’s no typo…$10 grand.

That sounded simple enough but why, I wondered, would he ask me, a rookie driver with less than a year of driving experience, to drive something as large as an RV to Florida. And wasn’t that a steep price to pay a kid just to drive to Florida?

At the time, there was no Interstate 95 running through Wilson, North Carolina. Highway 301 was the main drag from Maine to the Florida Keys and ran right through Wilson. And Wilson was definitely a tobacco town. It was, at the time, considered the world’s largest tobacco market, as more of the demon weed was sold there than in any other city in the world. And, highway 301 from South Carolina to the Virginia line was lined with places to buy cheap cigarettes. North Carolina has today and did then, one of the lowest taxes on cigarettes in the nation while New York had the highest. For that reason, Yankees passing through Wilson would stop off and buy enough cigarettes to fill the trunks of their cars. I don’t know what the limit was before you were considered a smuggler, but I’m sure there were plenty of smuggling tourists burning up highway 301.

Well, as they say, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is; and, this deal smelled like a carp under the car seat. I thanked him for thinking of me but turned him down.

A few months later, I read in the newspaper where my neighbor had been arrested and thrown in jail for smuggling cigarettes to Florida. The third smartest decision I’ve ever made!

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