Alan Greenspan will just have to forgive me. I have caused inflation to spiral out of control. I have demanded that the Tooth Fairy raise its rates.
Violet Warrick called the other day, from her home in Falls Church. I could barely hear her because she had her hand cupped over the receiver. She wanted my advice -- but she also wanted to be sure that her 4-year-old daughter, Samantha, couldn't hear.
"Samantha lost a tooth about five minutes ago," Violet said. "She knows the drill from the other kids in the neighborhood. You just give your tooth to Mommy, and Mommy somehow contacts the Tooth Fairy. Then, the next morning, there's money under your pillow.
"But, Bob (whisper, whisper), the trouble is (whisper, whisper) I don't know how much tooth fairies leave these days," Violet said. She wanted Levey, father of two children and veteran of the tooth fairy shtick, to name a figure.
This is one of those moments when you know you've been in Washington too long. Violet wanted a reaction from the heart. I gave her a reaction from the world of practical politics.
"Depends on how much you and your husband can spring for," I offered. "Depends on how many more baby teeth she still has to lose. Depends on how spoiled you think Samantha is, and how spoiled you're afraid she'll get. And most of all, it depends on the Crinkle Factor."
Violet inquired politely what in the world I was talking about.
"In our house, the Tooth Fairy left a quarter per tooth for the longest time. But then my sweet little capitalists heard that some kid down the street had bumped the going rate up to a dollar. Kid must have had big teeth or something.
"Anyway, they say you should pick your battles as a parent, and an additional 75 cents didn't seem to be worth a struggle. So one day, my son lost a tooth, and I told him that as soon as I saw the Tooth Fairy, I'd suggest a buck per tooth.
"That night, just before going to bed, I tiptoed into sonny boy's room. He was deeply asleep. I felt under his pillow. There was the tooth. I slipped it out. He didn't stir.
"But when I tried to scoot a nice, crisp dollar bill where the tooth had been, somehow the paper got scrunched against the pillow case. The bill started to crinkle and make noise. I had the weirdest premonition: `My kid is going to wake up and he'll know there's no Tooth Fairy, only a very clumsy father.' "
In fact, my son did stir slightly, and glared at me. "Just checking on you, sweetheart," I lied. He groaned and rolled over. I tried to shove the bill farther under his pillow, but he groaned some more. So I removed the bill as quickly and quietly as I could, figuring I'd go back later and reinsert it.
Of course, I fell asleep before I could do that. The next morning was Disillusionment City.
My son came clomping down the stairs, toward the kitchen, where I was already nursing a java, straight up. In his right hand, he was holding a tooth. His tooth. The tooth the Tooth Fairy had failed to turn into money.
"I hate you so much!" he announced.
What he really hated, I explained to Violet, was having a father who couldn't even run a con effectively. It wasn't even a matter of the dollar -- I gave him one right then and there, to soothe his hurt feelings. As my son said, "Other daddies can be Tooth Fairies, and my Daddy can't (sob!)"
My kids have long since stopped losing teeth, but I haven't stopped losing sleep over that miserable performance, I told Violet. So I offered to provide a dollar for Violet to slip under Samantha's pillow. "Shuck all the guilt -- you get the idea," I said.
Violet declined politely. She said she'd provide a dollar of her own. But she said she'd fold the bill over itself and attach a paper clip.
"I don't care if that confuses Samantha," Violet said. "I just couldn't bear it if I tried to slip a completely unfolded bill under her pillow, and she found out that mommies can be clumsy, too."
Speaking of tooth fairies, how about the letter that Nathan Katz, a Silver Spring dentist, has framed and mounted on his office wall?
It's a piece of stationery, with a quarter taped to it. "Thank you for pulling my tooth," a child's script reads. "Here's your share of what the Tooth Fairy left me."
Please don't try to tell Goldie Gehley, of Falls Church, that the Depression wasn't a tough time.
Goldie's husband, Lawrence Edward Gehley, died in June. Goldie was going through his personal effects the other day when she came upon a piece of yellowing paper. Goldie had known that her husband waited on tables while studying at a local business college in the 1930s. The piece of paper was a pay stub, reflecting Lawrence Gehley's earnings.
His pay for the period (apparently a month) was $2.90. But the boss had deducted a few pennies for every dish Lawrence had broken. He was docked a nickel for a water glass, 12 cents for a pie plate, a nickel for a sherbet dish and nine cents for a saucer. The "adjustments" added up to 31 cents -- nearly 11 percent of his salary.