Second Job

Kathryn Lynch

Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch

Photo by Richard Loller.
Photo by Richard Loller.

A few years into her retirement, it became abundantly clear to the Old Lady that her Social Security Retirement check of $800 a month would support a very frugal lifestyle, but it would not extend sufficiently to cover extraordinary expenses or expensive repairs. At the age of 80, heart disease had reduced her days to resting in a recliner, and her nights to sleeping in the same chair. A long plastic tube emerging from an oxygenator, pumped oxygen into her system to assist her breathing. She was, in effect, a disabled shut-in. It was not clear, under these circumstances, how she could devise a plan to supplement her income.

The Old Lady pondered this problem for several months. When no solutions came to mind, the stress of unpaid bills frequently interrupted her sleep, driving her blood pressure dangerously high. Finally, in the middle of one very long night, she awoke abruptly and the answer, so awesome in its simplicity, had been right in front of her the entire time. She needed a job to make money, so she would MAKE MONEY!

She began on the net, reading what the Computer Geeks had to say about printers. The new wireless ones eliminated lots of cords and wires. Inkjet printers were thought to be superior to laser printers in copying colors. If the printer had scanning capacity, it would copy pictures or other printed material placed on the machine without a connection or command from any other electronic device.

Some printers were more than $200. However, the Old Lady was neither an artist nor did she have any intention or desire to distribute her product to a wide area. She settled on a copier-printer that seemed to work well for $49. This machine had an automatic dual print feature which would allow her to print on both sides of the paper. It would do the job.

She believed that the paper she needed would be the biggest hurdle. Cellulose based paper of 20 pt. weight was the most available, office supply stores competing to sell reams of it at the lowest price. The Treasury Department produced currency that was washable, durable and resisted tearing, eliminating cellulose completely. The Old Lady needed paper of a weight close to 20 pt. but made from 75% cotton and 25% linen. After much searching on primarily oriental based sites overseas, she was shocked to discover 24 pt. paper of this exact composition at Walmart, sold in quantities of 100 sheets.

The plan was for her caretaker to withdraw $200 cash from her Social Security check deposits each month in twenty dollar bills. The Old Lady would place them for copying in the corners of a paper sheet. Each bill would be copied four times on both sides. With an additional $800, she would double her money.

She was aware that this endeavor carried with it some possibly drastic consequences, including a knock at the door to find Secret Service Agents on her porch with handcuffs and a speedy trip to Federal prison. She would be fed, clothed, and kept warm at this type of facility. Not much different from spending her “golden years” in a nursing home, she thought. The tradeoff having been considered, she decided to take the risk.

There were lesser problems as well. The Old Lady was neither educated nor skilled in the use of electronics. She could not ask for help nor tell anyone about her plan. It would take much practice to develop a product good enough to pass the quick scrutiny of a store clerk. If the bills looked good, they would probably not be held up to the light to spot holographs, water marks, or security threads used by the U.S. Treasury to determine frauds. She must never be greedy, confining her efforts to $20 bills distributed in small quantities. Bills of denominations lower than $50 showing up in a small town were unlikely to lure Treasury Agents from their comfortable offices more than 200 miles away.

At first, the Old Lady struggled to make it work. She encountered paper jams, internet disconnections, empty ink cartridges, and strange error messages which she never understood on the face of the printer screen. The first bills had borders that were too bright, backs which did not line up with the fronts, or printing on the back which was upside down. They were not green enough or too green, not black enough or too black, too faded, too bright. Her frustrations continued to mount from a combination of electronic ignorance and the worry of being discovered.

After three days, her latest endeavors sat on a table next to the originals. At first glance, they appeared to be perfect duplicates. They would likely pass, absent any measures to determine fraudulent bills.

Now she trimmed the copies with a pair of scissors, careful to paper clip them to the original from the bank. In that manner, no more than four bills with the same serial number would be distributed. If more than $20 was going out at the same time, she made sure the duplicates did not have the same number. To give all of the new bills a more used appearance, she simply sat on them.

So it was, the Old Lady's life became more comfortable. The computer she had used to research printers, currency paper, and ways to spot counterfeit money was torn down, disposed of, and replaced by a different pc. All paper scraps leftover from practice copies and from around new bills were cut into very small pieces, bagged, and used in the fire pit owned by her daughter's family to roast hot dogs and other foods.

Eventually, she did not need all of her supplemental income every month. Her hidden purse grew fat.

The new currency aged well, taking on the appearance of bills which had been in circulation for some period of time.

No busy store clerk ever held one of the bills to the light at the time it was passed.

Secret Service Agents never came to call.

Epilogue: Ten years after taking her new job, the Old Lady retired unexpectedly. She simply did not wake up one morning, and the money machine fell silent.

Her adult daughter found the purse. She was at first shocked to see that her mom had squirreled away so much money. Her dismay increased when, upon further examination, she discovered that some of the bills shared a common serial number. She could not understand how her mother, who had led a law abiding life and who spent years as a shut-in, had managed to get mixed up with counterfeiters.

Every week, for many months, she donated one bill to a gas station, changing suppliers in town on a rotational basis to avoid detection. She awarded another “Gram-Bill” or two to Walmart for groceries. The “money” was never wasted, nor was it ever discovered as counterfeit by store clerks, local banks, or the U.S. Treasury.

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