East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A coin tossed from the bridge


I have mentioned in the past the movie Le Bossu (On Guard for the English-speaking markets), a fine French swashbuckler from twenty years ago that I like very much and used to watch every time it passed on TV hereabouts, and now have on DVD and watch at least once a year.
Great action, fine story, excellent cast.
Great movie, watch it!

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

In the movie, the main character, Lagardere, recalls the time when, as a Paris street urchin, he had developed a stunt that allowed him to make some money: he would ask the passers-by to toss a coin in the Seine, and he would dive behind it from a bridge, and retrieve it as it sank in the water of the river.
He even had a short rhyming song, to hook the punters.

Needless to say, Lagardere’s skill of diving from bridges and disappearing under the surface of the river will come handy later in the story.

Now we’re halfway through November, and as it usually happens, bills are starting to come, and I get worried about money not being enough to cover everything.
It’s a sort of anxiety I am now used to. I have strategies to deal with it.
No sweat.
Now, there’s a number of clients that still owe me money for my translations, so I started doing the rounds, checking for news of my payments.

It’s nothing aggressive, mind you. I realize times are hard, and delays are normal, and we’re all in the same boat. I usually excuse myself for asking, and explain that I’d just wish to know when my money will be coming in. Just to be able to plan ahead my expenditures.
A few days ago one of my clients replied to me

Easy, I’ll see you get some spare change.

He used the Italian word “soldino” (literally “small coin”), that is the same that Lagardere uses in his rhyming routine in the Italian translation of the movie.

Gentlemen, throw us a coin
Have pity on the poor Parisian boy

(a quick and dirty translation by myself)

I was not delighted.
The payment due for my job is not spare change (it’s what would keep me going for two months), and much as I like Lagardere, I am no street urchin asking for charity before I dive from a bridge for the entertainment of rich idlers.

Those words hurt me.
And yes, pride is a mortal sin, but I do take pride in my work.
My bank accountant dos not get “spare change” at the end of the month – he gets his salary.
I don’t toss spare change at my baker, or at the cash register girl in the supermarket.
My client, indeed, is not working for spare change.

And yes, I know – it was probably a bad idea of what a joke is on my client’s part – bad timing, bad choice of words; but still a bad joke he would not have made to his landlord, or his grocer.
It was not nice, or respectful of my work. Especially not on the part of someone that haggled mercilessly to get a lower rate than standard.
But I am a cheap freelance that works out of home in order to pay the bills. One that asks for his money saying he’s got bills to pay.
A beggar, by all means.

And yet, here I am, standing on the bridge’s balustrade, waiting for the coin to drop in the river.
And the coin’s nowhere to be seen.
Now what?

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “A coin tossed from the bridge

  1. Hard to say… my guideline is: different sources of income (different customers: publishing houses, common people, entrepreneurs…). And never ever work again with greedy sons of bitches. Whoever don’t pay, will discover I can be a pin in the ass and in the end I will fuck them off, event loudly. Yet this kind of situation is upsetting.


    • Thanks for the suggestions.
      Different sources of income is my second name, but sometimes there are bad months or unexpected expenses.
      Never working again with greedy son of bitches is a rule that’s hard to keep when the pool is small and shallow, and the fishes scarce.
      But I tend to have a long memory, and to keep track of clients.


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