All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

The Sage Does Not Exact His Due

Today’s quote spoke to me.

After a bitter quarrel, some resentment must remain. What can one do about it? Therefore the sage keeps his half of the bargain But does not exact his due. A man of Virtue performs his part, But a man without Virtue requires others to fulfill their obligations. The Tao of heaven is impartial. It stays with good men all the time.

I did some work for a guy (a collections agency of all things), and he stiffed me.   I had known him from the business community, Chamber of Commerce, a church group of all places, and our general neighborhood zone.  We bumped into each other from time to time.  I had attempted to get him to pay me for some time, but my emails and phone calls went unanswered.  I’d see him here and there and make it a point to talk to him, but he always managed to slip away.  I knew that his business was struggling, but damnit, I was struggling too, and I had wasted my time helping him out.  He needed to talk to me, make a payment plan, something, I thought.

It was in that mindset that I ran into him at his church one day.  “Hey J,” I said, “How’s it going?” And I clasped his hand firmly.  Very firmly.

“Hey! Let go of me,” he whined.

“J, you owe me some money.  You know that right?  You’ve not paid me a dime.  Not one dime. Never.  I did work for you and you won’t even talk to me.”

“Hey, let go of me.”

“You know, J, it’s awkward.  We travel in the same circles.   We can’t help but run into each other, talk to the same people.  You know that right?  I need you to pay me something, J.”

And he pulled his hand away.  He was obviously stressed out and nervous at this point.  He turned tail and fled, disappearing into his meeting room where he was on his church council.  Oh the irony, I thought.  I did feel bad however.  I may look like a big tall American asshole, but I’m a softy, and I felt bad for putting on the spot like that.  Fuck it, I thought.  Son of a bitch owes me money, least he can do is say he’s sorry and try to make it up.  I’m not the one who stiffed him.  He called me, I showed up, slaved over his network issues, went to meetings for him at the drop of a hat – everything he asked.  The fees were also discussed up front, so there should have been no surprise.  Asshole.  And my pity faded quickly – aw, who am I kidding.  I thought that he probably felt like shit that night, worried that I would tell everybody I knew what a creep he was.  Poor guy, I thought.

About a month later, I get a nice email from him saying that he has been trying to put things right with his creditors, that he wants to make it right with me, that he feels bad for not being able to pay, that things have been tough.  He wanted to know what sort of payment plan I would be willing to accept.  I said three payments of $750 should do it.  I could spread them out over quarters, if he wanted.

He agreed and I resubmitted my invoice for the initial payment.  It took him a while, but I eventually got a check along with a nice note wishing me and my family a Merry Christmas, that he was sorry for the almost two year delay, and that he hoped this began to mend the business relationship.

That’s nice, I thought, but I’m not writing shit back until this thing clears.  Hah, I’m such a cynic, no?

So, to finish up, I deposited the check, it cleared, I wrote him back thanking him and saying no hard feelings, that I’m cool, and that I’d do business with him again (a lie, but I didn’t want him to think I would be badmouthing him).  His worst fear, I’m sure, was that I would be spreading the gossip of our problem to others in the community.  I wanted him to know that he had nothing to fear from me at that point.  J, you’re off the hook.

And I never submitted the other two invoices.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I wanted to be righteous, maybe I wanted the upper hand, maybe I wanted to be magnanimous.  Maybe I just felt bad for him and figured I was better to be done with it.  I got some money out of it and the poor man had suffered enough.  I’m a softy.  Don’t tell anyone.  I had never considered that I was a sage*, though.  That’s cool, I very much like that.

*Laura says I am not a sage.  Okay, can I be a little itty bitty sage?  Is that all right with you, hon?


  1. Sigg3

    I recently did a website for a friend, a professional site to his gf in the entertainment industry. High quality site in fully validated XHTML 1.0 Strict and CSS 2, that renders correctly in all browsers I’ve tested it in (more than 20). Please note that I don’t have time for this work so I stayed up nights and neglected my own gf to get it done.

    Turns out when I hand him the bill for the job he had expected it to be 10% of what I charged. That is not because I overcharged him. I took the regular price and cut it to one third. STILL he thinks it is too much. Say what? Fuck the motherfucker. I don’t care about the cash, I care about mutual respect.

    So I met him _2 months later_ and he said right away that he had been avoiding me. Then we spent two hours going over how bad his situation was. Because he fucking gave his gf a credit card for several thousands which he can’t pay back. And we all know what interest the banks are charging for this. He’s not entirely sure if they are together or not. Long Freudian case.

    But he HAS to talk to me ’cause I’m the only one with access to the source, server and domain name so that the site can be updated. So I give him another discount on the discount, ’cause I’m a good friend and I want to help out.

    I still haven’t received any money for all those hours I blew away on this project. And now he wants me to update again. *sigh*

    Sages are hairy old guys hanging around mountain tops wearing drags. In what way are they wiser than your average plumber or old village hag? Withdrawn as they are from what is essentially human life? You are a father of three* and not a forgetful old fool chasing the phantoms of academia. I spit on sages! Miracles only happen where people meet.

    *It’s 3 right?

  2. Jim O'Malley


    4 of the suckers here in the primate house. Dude, procreation sex is just so much hotter – ’cause it’s SO dangerous, dangerous for the environment, the bank account, peace and quiet, and sanity. It’s like base jumping – except the splat lasts 22 or more years. You can’t GET that kinda thrill off a bridge. 🙂

    I hear ya on the discount work.

    I’m doing a free web project for someone right now, and he’s being kinda nit picky. I’m like, dude, if I do the work for free my only consolation is creative control. No creative control, I’ll lose interest. You want to be the boss? You gots ta pay.

    But did I say that? No. I’m a pussy. Maybe I’ll just go passive aggressive on his ass and stop returning emails. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I’ll do that.

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