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HUSTLED.

4.15.21

It always seemed a little ridiculous to me that in high schools (or at least the one that I went to) if you were caught making a profit off of something you were punished for it. With the exception of illicit drugs, you would think that the school would nourish a students entrepreneurial spirit, but no.


My senior year of high school I sold Voltage Mountain Dew™ to my fellow peers. Being a three sport athlete made it difficult for me to have a job during the year, so this is what I resorted to. I would take my mom’s Tops card (a north-eastern grocery chain), buy a twenty-four pack for about seven to ten dollars (I can’t remember), and sell each can for one dollar. If you were my friend it was fifty cents, and if I didn’t like you it was two dollars. I can remember one person who was paying two dollars challenging me on this. I told them they didn’t have to buy soda.


This was not something I came up with all on my own. There had been others who had done it in previous years, but from what I remember they were all caught, and received some type of punishment. While I was caught, I was never punished, Here is why.


The system I fabricated was full proof. Even if someone were to look on the cameras, they would never actually see me making a physical transaction, or at least this is what my seventeen year old brain told me.


I had a lunch bag that doubled as a cooler, and never had any lunch in it. I would put an ice pack in there, I could fit about six to seven cans in there, and the bag had a front pocket. If I was approached for a purchase and you were a new buyer, I would give you the low down. “Here’s how it works, I slide the bag to you, you put the money in the front pocket, you take a can out, you zip the bag up, you slide the bag back. Got it?” 


Not only had I taken over the soda selling market, but I significantly improved it from my predecessors and competitors. I vaguely remember someone else selling soda at the same time as me, but they did not have a cooler. They did not sell cold ones.


Seniors were permitted to eat in the atrium at round tables. This is typically when I had the most business. This is when I hustled. One day I was doing my math homework with my backpack at the side of my chair, and cooler right in front of me on the table. A teacher I was friendly with walked up and started asking everyone what they had for lunch. I continued to do my homework, and then, right when it was too late, she spotted my open “lunch bag,” and shot me a look.


“That’s a lot of soda for a little girl.” I could feel the blood rush to my face in embarrassment. How could I be so careless? Why did I leave the bag open? This moved beyond a rookie mistake, as if I was begging one of the staff to wave a principal over and take my teenage rights away. Some dingleberry-of-a-customer didn’t follow the procedure. They left the bag wide open. They left me exposed.


“Are you going to tell on me?” What a juvenile thing to say, but at that point I lost all my dignity, and was trying to get ready for whatever came next.


She turned away, looked back at me over her shoulder and said, “not if you sell me soda,” and just walked away.


What a boss. I could not believe she said that. I wasn’t sure how serious she was so for the next week or so I was extremely paranoid. Every time a school administrator passed me or stopped to talk to me I panicked.


One day I was walking through the halls: pack on my back, cooler strap on my shoulder (no, this was not enough for me to stop selling). Out of nowhere another teacher (not the one who peeked into my bag previously) shouted my name down the empty hall, and scared the daylights right out of me. I nervously acknowledged them, and they replied, “I heard you have soda.”


I ended up selling to three teachers. They never ratted on me, and I never made them pay more than fifty cents. In the end, I think I was the one being hustled.