Editor's Query: Tell us about a time when you learned you weren't as smart as you'd thought

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In November 1961, I was fresh out of college, in my first job in the District. I was thinking of Christmas presents for my parents; for some reason I thought of stocks. I was familiar with AT&T, so I looked in the Yellow Pages, found a stockbroker, called and was told that the cost of a share of AT&T stock was, "One thirty-three."

I set up an appointment. On the way, I thought that at "one thirty-three" a share, I could buy a lot of shares. I decided I would buy my parents 20 shares each.

A gentleman took me into his office. I told him I wanted 40 shares of AT&T stock. I had to sign a form, and then he said, "You owe five thousand, three hundred twenty dollars."

I felt my face turning red as a beet. I told the man that I had made a mistake and thought that one share of stock was $1.33! He looked sternly at me and said: "Well, you own this stock now. I will have to see if I can sell it."

While I squirmed in my chair, he looked at the stock market ticker, then told me that my stock sold. I apologized profusely. He smiled and said: "I have a daughter about your age. I think this has been a good lesson for you. But you are lucky that these odd-lot shares sold so quickly."

I drove back to work trying to think of something else for my parents!

Betty Beauchamp, Hyattsville

New query

Tell us about a time when you were able to "pay it forward."

If you have a 100 percent true story taken from your own experience concerning the above query, send it to queries@washpost.com or The Washington Post Magazine, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include your daytime phone number. Recount your story in 250 words or fewer.

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