Ira PilgrimIRA'S CORNERFilename:N-program

September 11, 2003 (Ira Pilgrim)


If you're so rich, why ain't you smart!

People are proud of their accomplishments, and they should be. Children are proud of their parent's accomplishments, for no particular reason. For some, being proud is enough. For others, the important thing is that other people, preferably the whole world, think highly of them.

How do you let other people know about your accomplishments? Well, you can tell them and they might even believe you. If a scientist has made an important discovery and hasn't won the Nobel Prize or been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, only some of his colleagues will know about it. The world will probably think that he's a failure. If he tries to tell the world how great he is, they might think that he is a nut.

If a person's accomplishment happens to be making money, there will be several ways to impress the public. If, like Bill Gates, he's fabulously wealthy, everyone will know about it and he will be able to wear his comfortable old clothes and drive the old clunker that he's fond of. He can live as he pleases. The saying is that "he's so rich that he doesn't have to show it." I knew a wealthy man who used to get his kicks out of going to the San Francisco Stock Exchange in his grubbies and being treated like royalty by the brokers. He would walk in and say "buy me 2,000 shares of AT&T, 1,000 of Xerox, and sell 1,000 shares of PG&E," while the people in their business suits stared incredulously.

Some wealthy people and a lot of four-flushers like to show people how rich they are. They do it by driving Rolls Royces and throwing money around. Not really big money; a few hundred or a few thousand here and there to impress the rubes.

I haven't heard the term four-flusher used since my childhood. Four-flusher is a great label to pin on someone . For those of you who don't play poker, let me explain. A flush in poker is five cards of the same suit: five hearts or five spades etc. and it is an excellent, and potentially winning, hand. Four hearts and one spade is called a four-flush, and it is worthless. In stud(open) poker, four cards are open(visible to everyone) and one is closed(hidden from everyone except the player himself). When the other players see a hand with four hearts, they wonder what he has as his hole (closed) card. If it's a heart, he may have the winning hand. If it's something else, he has absolutely nothing. Sometimes a person will bet heavy on four hearts, figuring that he might bluff the rest of the players out of the game and win. He is a four-flusher; he has nothing of any value, but tries to make it appear as if he has a lot. To call a person a four-flusher is another way of saying that he is a phony. But he is a very special kind of phony.

When I was in high school I had a friend who kept telling everyone how rich he and his family was. He lived in an apartment that was about twice as expensive as the ones the rest of us lived in. His father was a salesman, and I suspect that he was slightly better off than most of us, but not by much. He also would regale us with tales of his sexual exploits, which would have been impressive if true; but they probably weren't. He was a teen age four-flusher. I wonder what became of him. Perhaps he went into politics.

I have known some wealthy people as well as some four-flushers. The really wealthy ones usually didn't show it off. The four-flushers were constantly trying to impress everyone.

How rich someone is depend on his balance sheet. If he owns a lot more than he owes, he's rich. If it's the other way around, his supposed wealth doesn't amount to much.

Whenever I see someone who tries to impress people with his wealth, I wonder: is he really rich or is he just a four-flusher? I don't belabor the issue. It's just not worth the trouble.

Next column

Return to the Unclassified Home Page

Return to Ira's Home Page