Divorcing Toward a Barter Life

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —At my first job, as a summer sales clerk at a hippy boutique, I befriended a woman coworker who was whispered to travel the world by private plane. This was hard to figure, given that we both made less than $200 a week selling tie-dyed T-shirts. I asked her about it one day. It turned out that she had in fact recently flown to Nice, Marrakesh, and Martha’s Vineyard by Lear Jet, courtesy of an older couple and their circle of wealthy friends.

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Eventually, she gave me the details. The first time she hopped a plane, she said, she was desperate, because her flight had been cancelled after she’d made plans to see a boyfriend up in Maine. She was cute as well as French, so the airplane mechanic was ultimately persuaded to introduce her to an older couple flying from Washington, D.C. to Bar Harbor. Back in the days before airport security, it wasn’t hard to charm them for a ride. During the trip, they mentioned they had a two-year-old granddaughter. After landing, they exchanged addresses, and my friend sent a thank you note and included a toddler size sweater she’d knitted herself, complete with the child’s name embroidered on the collar. The couple was so touched that they included her on future trips and even passed her name along to friends who were only too happy to offer a seat on their Cessna in exchange for a hand-knitted scarf or hat.

Since splitting from my husband three years ago, I’ve discovered for myself the value of bartering. I got the house in our divorce but lost much of the cash to maintain it. Added to this, I was starting a business with a paltry amount of capital. Around the same time, I met a neighbor down the street, also divorced, who had managed to secure himself a new stove (actually a vintage garland stove — even better!) in exchange for his design services. This was truly inspiring.