Tom Chiarella writing for Esquire explains his $20 theory of the universe, where a twenty “…placed in the right hand at the right moment, makes things happen. It gets you past the rope, beyond the door, into the secret files.”
On the plane, I approached the woman in seat 1A and held out a twenty. She asked if I was serious. I said yes. She took it and ran to 9B like her pants were on fire.
I could have stood in line at the airport cabstand for fifteen minutes like every other mook in the world, freezing my balls off, but such is not the way of the twenty-dollar millionaire. I walked straight to the front of the line and offered a woman twenty bucks for her spot. She took it with a shrug. Behind her, people crackled. “Hey! Ho!” they shouted.
I always grease Bobby H., the bellman at my hotel, and on my first night, within minutes of the pass, he suggested that I might request a room upgrade. He even gave me a room number to ask for. Another twenty at the desk and I was out of two queens, snug in my one king. The next day, we ran the same drill, and wham, I was in the minisuite. The twenty after that, I was in a full suite with a view of Times Square.
In my favorite midtown coffee shop, the Cafe Edison, they maintain VIP seating for a-holes like Neil Simon and August Wilson who supposedly come here to write. They keep the area roped off and generally empty, even at noon while a line stretches out the door. This has always pissed me off. So when I entered at noon one day, I folded a twenty, slipped it to the old lady at the counter, and she waved me into the VIP like she was whacking me with the back of her hand.
At 3:00 that very morning, I had called an Eighth Avenue bodega and told them I’d give them twenty dollars for a pint of milk and a Hustler magazine. The guy who answered the phone had a thick Arabic accent. “You are crazy,” he said. …Twenty minutes later, the guy was at my door with a quart of 2 percent and a shrink-wrapped valu-pack of three Hustlers. He sighed and smiled when I gave him the twenty.
“What do you wanna see?”
“You know,” I said. “I want to see the file.”
He picked up the twenty with two fingers and tucked it in his pocket. “I’ll show you what I’ve got.” He pulled a manila envelope from beneath the counter and took out four snapshots. The first three were simple bare asses–in a shower, at a kitchen sink, faceup on a couch. Beneath that was an enlargement of a cat licking a woman’s nipple. Pretty cool, but hardly what I expected.
“That’s it?” I said.
The guy pursed his lips. “That’s all I’ve got this week. That stuff doesn’t stay around here long. The master file would cost a lot more than twenty dollars.”
Master file! Damn. Clearly, I had priced myself out of the good stuff by coming forward with the twenty too fast.
I bought my way into a good table at a Les Paul show with a twenty. I got an usher at NBC to hold a front-row seat for Busta Rhymes on the Carson Daly show. I got a seat at Dos Caminos, Manhattan’s jumpingest Mexican restaurant, in five minutes despite the two-hour wait. I cut to the head of the line at the half-price Broadway ticket booth in Times Square. I got my shoes resoled in twenty minutes instead of two weeks. I got a little love by shoving a twenty into a homeless guy’s coffee cup.
I imagine this tactic is even more influential in today’s economic times.