Confessions of a Bully: The Hustle

The year was 1995, Toy Story has rocked our world and a game of skill has begun to take hold in my elementary. You could hear the faint snaps of wood on wood surrounded by a mob of people, a circle around 2 gladiators of graphite, Pencil break!

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The rules were simple, break your opponents pencil before he/she breaks yours. Fouls can occur ie: hitting a opponents fingers, missing, dropping the pencil, when these do occur you get a free strike. There are foul play though, like any sport. Some would take out the eraser and crop the metal end as to make a "ax" type end but that was frowned upon in our circle. You may ask yourself how did these rambunctious children get away with it? This was obviously illegal in school so the answer was dark corners and back alleys. It was the wild west and our guns had a branded #2 on them.

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As a wild 8 year old I was a mean striker, an angry child with something to prove. My crowning achievement was breaking a pen with my Pentech brand pencil. The most prestigious of all the brands. I had a technique that was sure fire; I would take the pencil between my thumb and pointer finger at the utmost tip and flick it up and down so I could "heat up" the wood as hot as I could. I then would grip the pencil and my pointer finger, acting as the fulcrum my thumb, would put as much pressure on the end as I could without breaking it. Now top hand placement is key. Grab it in the center and you don't get enough force upon release, grab it too high and risk critical failure. When trying to hit the opponents pencil you want to try to use the metal end so you don't damage your own pencil in the process.
Our elementary school had a pencil machine that would vend one pencil for $0.25. A random assortment of all sorts of brands and woods, Ticonderoga, Lisa Frank, Pentech and the list would go on and on. It was a grab bag. Every day I remember bringing my quarter and hoping to get a good brand so I could hear my name chanted in the halls and whispered in the corners. On one fateful day as my friends stood around me I inserted my quarter into the machine and out it came, the mother of all pencils the legendary Pentec brand pencil. My friends and I were abuzz with excitement. My lucky day. One of my friends asked me if he could buy the pencil from but honestly I wouldn't have sold that one for $5 this was my ticket to Wackwood City and I wasn't letting go. Later that day it occurred to me, what if I was to sell pencils for a premium? What if I could use the money I got to buy more and then just like that I would be school yard rich.

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What's the first thing any good business plan needs, Investors, and I knew just the guy. He lived on my street a slim kid with a hard working family that liked to see their child prosper so he always had money. I knew I had to be delicate with my approach because I had bullied this classmate before so we weren't on the best of terms. I did what any one should do when trying to ask favors, bring gifts and compliments in full. I had a Mexican candy lollipop in hand and a sweet disposition. "How would you feel about becoming a investor in my new business model? I need someone with vision and expertise the likes of which only you can provide. I see you paying attention in math class you know what money + money equals? Well let me tell you, it equals give me your money as a investor and I won't hit you any more." Just like that I had a investor and a worker all in one. The next day I brought my few quarters that I could find, but he brought a sandwich bag full of those shiny Washington domes. Off we went to the pencil machine buying pencil after pencil soon we had a pencil box filled to the brim with all sorts of models.

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I had to come up with a pricing model as well so we could move the product quickly. Off brand pencils were 25 cents, Lisa Frank (a slightly better brand) was 50 cents, and the mother of all brands Pentech was 75 whole cents. Before we knew it the pencils were flying out of the box. Anytime we would see a congregation of people around a game we would start to peddle our wares. After a while people were trying to find us. I would see them looking in our class window and trying to buy from us before school, lunch, and after school were our most profitable hours. Before long we had more money then we knew what to do with. Our cup runneth over with profit. So the day finally came for me to ask for my cut, now up to this point I had gotten sales and a few free pencils from time to time but I didn't finance much of the operation. I made a dire mistake I expected money through intimidation alone if I was smarter I would have gone into business with myself and reaped all the rewards for myself who knows maybe I would have been a pencil baron in a different life. He refused to give me any of the profits. I did everything I could, tried to reason with him, pleading with him, and even as far as inflicting bodily harm, but he wasn't budging one bit. In the end I got to see my business become someone else's and so I went back to doing what I was good at. Bullying for kicks.

Posted on June 30, 2018 .