Ben Harvey – Money, it’s a gas.

Somebody once said that there are three types of people in this world: those that can count, and those that can’t. I disagree – there are only two types of people; people that are good with money, and people like me, who are comically hopeless.

It’s a disease I’ve had my whole life and it’s a disease that will probably kill me, or, rather, would probably kill me, if I could afford a funeral, or indeed the coroner needed to declare me dead (properly dead, mind, not just lurking in Panama for the insurance). It’s a mental thing; everyone alive has a slight blind-spot in their heads, the thing being that you can’t see your own one, and can only snigger at other peoples’, be it the fact they actually hold their drink or their self-deluding belief that they can sing. I’m the same, except that instead of being oblivious to my karaoke-attempts boiling the bladders of everyone within earshot I actually live in a fantasy dream-world where the ebbs & flows of cash into & out of my various accounts won’t, at the end of the month, result in a net figure that looks like the sort of number physicists use to measure the most underfed & tiny of atoms.

Quite frankly, I’m glad, if only because I’m an irresponsible little tyke and – if I had any money – I would instantly spunk it all on fast women & beautiful cars instead of investing it as apparently you should, in shares and bonds and other things of which I am only even dimly aware of due to the fact that, once, as a small child, I played Monopoly. So at least I’m spared the burden of responsibility – and, also, the threatening telephone calls I get from pimps & car-dealers appeal to my desire to be the centre of attention. But although I may be hazy about the actual bottom-line I am always careful to be razor-sharp on the individual credits & debits themselves, which is why the bills I get are never quite as big a surprise as this one, a mobile bill for $85,000.

What is that, in real money, anyway? £40,000? My god. You could rent one hell of a fast woman for a lump of cash that big. You could even take a slow woman and, through cosmetic surgery, make her a few cup-sizes faster. Eighty five thousand dollars. That’s like winning the anti-lottery. Your front-door is the portal to the rest of the world in more ways than one, and we are – to a greater or lesser extent – all prepared, at some level, for hesitant knock of a policeman with tragic news (…or, if you’re me, the hammering of a policeman with pinching handcuffs, which is most unfair, because that girl *promised* she was 16…) but we always expect really, really bad news to come in human form, and not inside a brown envelope they’ve had to extend so that they could fit all the 0’s onto the end of the bill.

I wonder why it is that stories about outrageously-large mobile bills always get more press-coverage that those stories about monstrously big gas, water, or tax bills – why is it, of all the utilities we cough up for every month, that your mobile bill seems worthy of the most attention…? Perhaps it’s because it’s so linked to those parts of our lives that are either enjoyable or important, instead of just being the cost of having hot water, or a roof over our head, or the fashionable luxury of these newfangled electric ‘light bulbs”. Why do we all care so? Using some armchair-psychology, here, is it possible that we’re all a little afraid, ourselves, of whopping great-big bills? It’s not an uncommon situation, after all, to cut a call short just because – like copping off with someone in the back of a 2am taxi – you’ve always got one eye, figuratively, on the clock.
So, as other generations had fables about not playing with gypsies in the woods, will our modern fairytales end up to be about not playing StarCraft in the cybercafé whilst plumbing your net connection through your handset? No. Partly because it’s a difficult image to illustrate, and will therefore never end up in children’s books but mostly because people who play StarCraft in the first place are rather less likely than most to ever have any children anyway.

As such, since salutary lessons on not being bankrupted by your network make for such lame stories it is the case that the government has actually started allocating time in schools, so as to educate the yoof of today as to the dangers of racking up vast charges, which I think to be a mistake, given that if they’re going to spend all their time downloading twatish ringtones with which to annoy the rest of us then they thoroughly deserve to have their juvenile little legs crushed by debt-collectors. It’s a win-win situation, actually, because the rest of us get a bit of peace & quiet and the debt-collectors have an easier time of it, since teenagers’ legs are far easier to break than those of adults (something to do with calcium deposits, apparently) and thus there’s less wear & tear on their sledgehammers.

Male sprogs, by the way, are even more susceptible than their female counterparts to running up bigger debts than their pocket-money can support, if only because they’re that much more likely to get a bit carried away when it comes to…adult content. This kid, for example, was offing himself so often that he offed himself. However, never fear – because there’s nothing you can do to challenge the biggest mobile bill of all time (pay attention, Ewan, because your own efforts are about to be dwarfed), which was for…

…and you must brace yourself, now…

$218,000,000,000,000. Equivalent to more than 17 times the GDP of the United States of America.

Two hundred and eighteen trillion dollars. Cheques made payable to Dr. Evil…

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