Johnson to find $5,600 a day plenty in N.C.

October 30, 1991|By Tom Sorensen | Tom Sorensen,Knight-Ridder

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- I reached into my wallet at lunch yesterday and realized that if a friend had not paid me the $5 he owed me, I would have had to borrow money to eat. And I wondered if this ever happens to Larry Johnson.

The Charlotte Hornets and Johnson, the first pick in the NBA draft, have all but agreed on a $3.3-million-a-year contract for six years. After taxes, this comes to about $5,600 a day. And I thought about what it would be like to go through:

A Day With Larry Johnson's Salary.

We begin with breakfast. We don't feel like cooking, and even if we did we wouldn't be able to since we don't know how. So we go to The Drum restaurant on East Boulevard, stopping at newspaper racks outside to buy a Charlotte Observer and a USA Today. The cost is $1. We check our pocket. It's all there. We have $5,599 remaining.

We order three hot cakes, bacon and coffee. The bill is $3.25. We decide we want orange juice, which is another 80 cents. The service is good, so we leave a $1 tip. Breakfast comes to $5.05. We leave The Drum with $5,593.95.

We go down the street to Wad's and buy a can of tennis balls. We do this about once a week. Then we realize that we don't have to be thrifty, that none of the old rules apply. So we buy two cans of tennis balls. This costs us $7. We still have $5,586.95. And we can spend it anywhere we want.

We can spend it any way we want. We can cruise from mall to mall and shop to shop, and no snooty salesperson can stop us. We can buy tables, books, cowboy boots and leather coats. We can buy jeans and jewelry. Our budget is our imagination.

Money can't buy happiness, but to be able to spend without limit, we must say, does not make us sad. Do we put money down on a place at the beach or a place in the mountains? Or do we buy a place at the beach and a place at the mountains? Do we join an affluent Charlotte Country Club? Since we have money and we're neither black nor Jewish, we probably can get in. While our money is new, we have lots of it.

We probably sound shallow. We probably are shallow. But who hasn't wanted to go on a wanton spending spree? It's not just for us, it's for our country, our way of ending the recession. Because we feel a little guilty, we quietly give 10 percent of a day's pay to charity. We hope we'd give even if we didn't feel guilty. But giving has to be our idea. We give $560. We have $5,026.95 remaining.

We smack the tennis balls around, all six of them, and have a discomforting thought: Has money changed us? And if so, do we care? Suddenly, we've become deep. A Big Mac, large fries and Coke cost $4. We leave McDonald's with $5,022.95.

A guy blows by us on a black Harley-Davidson. Do we have to take that? We're not sure we have to take anything. We drive down Tryon Street to Harley-Davidson of Charlotte and buy an 883 Sportster. It's not black; we feel we have to earn a black one. The 883 Sportster costs $4,570. Luckily, we were not passed by a Porsche.

We have $452.95 remaining. We can either put it away to cover the next rate increase proposed by Cablevision of Charlotte, or we can celebrate. We decide to celebrate. We celebrate because we did not have $452.95 in our wallet Tuesday.

We stop at the Wine Shop and buy a bottle of Ste Chapelle, the finest champagne from all of Idaho, for $7.99. We still don't know how to cook, but we find a friend who does. First, we make her promise she doesn't like us for our $5,600-a-day salary or the $444.96 we have left after buying the champagne.

Led to the supermarket, we buy Brie (not our idea), fresh fruit, steak, baked potatoes and ingredients for a tossed salad and a chocolate pie. The cost is $21. We rent two movies for a total of $6. We are left with $417.96.

We don't feel like going out again, so we save the money for a rainy day. Next time it rains, we'll have $6,017.96.

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