What would you do if you had $18,000 to burn?

We should all have such problems.

In case you were wondering, yes, that was me in the Oorah catalog this year, posing with a lot of money. And no, I didn’t just submit a picture on my own and say, “I don’t want to give you money, but here’s a picture of me and my money if it helps promote your catalog.” Oorah called me.

During the summer, Oorah contacted me and said that they were going to have celebrities, and possibly their kids — plus some Fiveish machers, whatever those are — pose with their auction prizes so they could run those pictures in their catalog with no captions or anything that lets you know which celebrity or whose kids you’re looking at.

As I see it, I’m not even a real celebrity. I’m an introvert who sits in my living room and isn’t sure what to say when people on the street tell me they like my writing.

So I asked, “Do I have to come down to you, or are you going to come here?” And they said, “Just take the picture yourself.” And I said, “But I don’t have the prizes. Which prize do you want me to pose with?? And they said, “One of the money prizes.”

So now what? I wasn’t going to go to the bank and withdraw $18,000 so I could return it the next day.

“What are you going to do with this?”

“Roll around in it. No, I’m not weird; it’s for charity!”

But it was for a worthy cause. So I said, “Fine. Can you send me the money?”

And a week later, I got an envelope in the mail containing over $18,000 in cold, hard, fake cash. (It turns out fake cash is cold and hard as well.)

Oh, well. I tried.

Now before you get up in arms, Oorah is not printing counterfeit money, as far as I know. I think they bought this. It came in a package, along with a couple of little bags with dollar signs on them—like burglar bags, but smaller. They’re cloth and reusable, in case the burglars want to rob another bank but also care about the environment. I’m totally keeping the bags, by the way, in case I get real money someday.

But I know for a fact that it was fake money, because I did all the tests. Also, it said it was from the “Vnited States.”

Vnited. That shows a lot of creativity. What about the Wnited States, at least? Maybe that was already taken by another brand. This is the off-brand off-brand money. It’s not even the regular off-brand money.

And that wasn’t the only difference between that and real money. For example, these were signed by the “Secratary of the Tresuer.” I’m not sure if this typo is on purpose, or if they’re not paying for a proofreader for their fake money. The bill also claims that it’s from “Series 2091.” In other words, this is what money will be like in the future: full of typos, and it will dissolve in water.

There were actually a lot of purposely-made mistakes on these bills. The printers want to be very clear that it’s not real money, so they can sell it to you and you’ll give them real money for it, and they won’t be arrested for counterfeiting. Though if they’re putting a price value on their fake money, and you’re paying them for it, doesn’t that make it real money?

And the mistakes seem unnecessary, anyway. I don’t think that whoever misses the words “PROP MONEY NOTE” at the top will squint and say, “Wait. That guy was never the Secratary of the Tresuer!”

But then the question was, what should I be doing in the picture? I couldn’t just fan the money out and drool over it like almost everyone else in the book who posed with cash. Because that’s what you do when you win a ton of money, right? You fan it out like playing cards, and you salivate.

I’m asking seriously. Is there a benefit to fanning the bills? I’m not an expert on money.

I also had to do something unique. As a comedian, people judge your worth by how funny you are doing everyday things. So the question was, how do I show the readers that by entering this raffle, they’ll win so much money that they won’t know what to do with it?

I can’t even do something where I’m surrounded by stacks of cash, because they sent me six small stacks. One thing about being an adult is that you slowly come to realize that $18,000 is not a lot of money, as far as actual pieces of paper.

Maybe posing with some of the other prizes would have been easier. I would love to have them send me a fake minivan. Or a fake sheitel. Or maybe the prize called “fine furniture,” if only so I can figure out whether it’s “fine” as in “nice,” or “fine” as in “OK.”

“How’s the furniture?”

“I don’t know. It’s fine.”

So I hatched this idea that incorporated origami, which is an ancient Japanese word meaning “the art of wasting time in class.” My idea was that we could take a picture of me surrounded by bills folded into all sorts of things to illustrate the idea that I literally have no idea what to do with so much money.

And this is how my kids and I spent the last week of our summer vacation.

So I looked up decent origami projects to do with dollar bills, such as houses, stars, hearts, rings, rabbits, leaves, flowers, boats, bowties, pants, and short-sleeve shirts that come with a tie, like a tiny Pirchei leader.

I also found out that taping bills together is a federal offense, but folding it into a pair of pants is not.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really account for how long it takes to fold all those bills. We tried making all these increasingly cool sculptures, until we realized that the more we folded a piece of paper, the smaller it ended up being. This is pretty obvious in hindsight, but we needed the projects as big as they could be to take up room on the table. The longer something took to make, the less room it took up. Time is money. The more time, the smaller the money. That’s what the expression means, right?

So then we started speeding up, making simpler things, taping sets of bills together so that the finished products wouldn’t be microscopic, and taping money to the outside of real items, such as balls and hats, so it would look like we made them out of cash. Like we’re so talented that we could make a functional water bottle out of origami.

It was about then that it occurred to me that folding money in front of an open window all day wasn’t a great idea. Luckily, everyone in the house was up late that night anyway, because our dining-room air-conditioner died, and then while we were replacing it, all the plaster from the wall fell down, and this was the night before we were having Shabbos guests for my nephew’s bar mitzvah. But that’s a topic for like three other articles.

Finally, we were ready to take our picture. We did it on Friday afternoon, so the tablecloth is white, as opposed to the one that’s on our table the rest of the week, which is green. I’m glad we didn’t stage this whole thing on a green tablecloth only to find that none of the cash showed up in the picture. It’s bad enough that the paper airplane I was holding somehow blended into the background so it looks like I’m holding two fingers up in the air for no reason.

We scattered cash on the table in front of us and the bookshelves behind us. We decided to do it in front of a bookcase for three reasons:

  1. So I could put origami behind me at various levels,
  2. To advertise the books I’ve written. In other words, the gist of the picture is that money is no object for me, but please buy my books anyway. It is literally all I have on my sefarim shranks.
  3. None of the walls in my house are nice enough to use as a background. We have thousands of dollars on the table in front of us, and people would be like, “Why are you doing origami? Fix your wall!” Right, because if I posed with no money in front of a shiny new wall, people would say, “Yeah! $18,000! I get it!”

So that’s my story. I don’t know how many other celebrities are posting their stories anywhere. Maybe the singers are going to turn them into songs. (“Taking a picture of a minivan … Staring at cash that I’ve turned into a fan… Why does the money say it’s made in Japan?”) I think I wrote this article so no one looks at the picture and thinks that writers are swimming in money.

I also don’t want to tell you what we said to the meshulach who knocked while we were doing this. I couldn’t give him a whole shpiel about what was happening, so I just gave him a few hundred dollars in fake cash and sent him on his way.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.

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