353 – December 19
“Isn’t it frightening how soon later comes, after you buy now?”—Earl Wilson
After the “The World’s Largest Writing Workshop” at the Barnes and Noble bookstore, I wrote to Billy Mernit, thanking him for his time, his expertise, and his relaxed and friendly teaching style. I enclosed a copy of the “Storage Lockers” page and asked if he would allow me to print it and use his name. I also mentioned that if he had any changes he would like to suggest, I would be happy to make them.
I was delighted to receive his charming response, in which he said he was flattered and happy to receive my story and letter. However, he let me know that “the storage space only cost $60.00 when I first rented it—and has gone up in price at $5.00 increments every year since—so the sum total of my ‘toehold debt’ is actually a bit less (you do the math) than $12,000.” He went on to say that “If you can find a succinct way of stating that (i.e., in a sentence that doesn’t distract from your narrative flow and brevity), I’ll feel a little less silly—and your point will still be made. If you feel it messes up your story, on the other hand, you know what they say: Print the legend.”
I thoroughly enjoyed his letter, and his term “toehold debt,” which will now become a part of my vocabulary.
As requested, I did the math, so the actual “toehold debt” Billy has on his storage locker is, as of this writing, only $9,900 instead of $12,000, so that correction is here noted. However, I noticed that since the price will escalate $5 per month next year and the year after that, etc., it will be $12,600 by 2002. By 2010, barring any increases, the total cumulative expense for the storage locker for twenty years will be $22,680. But what if a similar amount of money were saved instead of spent? To use round figures, if $100 per month were invested at 8 percent rate of return for twenty years, it would result in a total of $56,991.
The Billy Mernit lessons are:
- Write thank you letters—they’re fun to give and fun to receive.
- Do your research—people care that you get your facts straight.
- “Toehold debt” accumulates over time—keep track of how much you are willing to pay.
“Whatever I pay for gives me a great payoff.”
In 2010, I estimated Billy’s cumulative expense for the locker would be $22,680. I wonder if he still has it?
I notice that what I didn’t tell you in this story is that I have a little “toehold” debt of my own. I joined the Screen Actors Guild in 1973 when I was an actress working in Hollywood. I quit acting around 1980 and went on withdrawal from the union, which means that I a non-working member and don’t owe dues. When I was hired to do a Dove Soap commercial in 1987, I reinstated my active membership…and I have paid my dues every year since.
It isn’t all that much money – $100 per year or so – and I get all their mailings, the magazine, the casting notices, etc. And I really enjoy keeping up with things, even though I am not active in the profession now. It’s a gift to the actress part of Chellie to stay in touch. I think it’s worth it. Becoming a member of SAG back in the day before I was eligible for membership seemed like one of those fabulous brass rings that are so hard to reach, and therefore such a triumph when you do. I’ve been a proud Union member ever since, and I don’t want to give it up. So. There.
Do you have a “toehold” debt?