Rusty Grove, OH – With the price of a barrel of crude oil approaching $130, it’s not hard to see why thousands of wanna-be oil barons are flocking to the small Cleveland suburb of Rusty Grove and forking over $500 for a seat in a seminar called “How To Start Your Own Home-Based Oil Business” put on by Harold “Don’t Call Me Crude” Solowski, the self-proclaimed “Sheik of Shaker Heights.”
Solowski knows why the crowd is there. “Who wants to live in house with a snow machine in the attic so you can ski all year round? How would you like to drive a Rolls Royce to the bowling alley? Wanna see my titanium American Express card? That’s what oil can do for you!” After the screaming dies down, Harold tells his story. A laid-off auto worker with two ex-wives, six-maybe-seven kids and ungrateful parents who won’t let him move back in, Solowski found himself one night in an abandoned gas station holding a shotgun and contemplating suicide. A childhood bout with amblyopia left him with a lazy eye and a bad aim, causing Solowski to miss his head completely and instead fire the shotgun into the ground. That cues up the theme from “The Beverly Hillbillies” as Harold explains that he discovered not crude but abandoned oil from the thousands of oil changes once performed at this gas station. “Every gas station owner in the country dumps oil out back,” says Harold. “Even the ones in California – they just call it “dinosaur-based organic fertilizer.” Seeing the oil, Harold grabbed a garden hose and a trash can, siphoned it full and hauled it to the nearest oil company office where they gladly paid him $5 less than the current market price. Within weeks, Harold had sold enough oil to move to the exclusive Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights where he has a snow machine in his attic, a Rolls full of bowling balls in his driveway and a third ex-wife who was a lot more fun than the first two.
By this time, the floor of the room is covered in drool and the attendees are breathing heavily. Harold begins his sales pitch. For $10,000, he’ll provide a basic home oil business kit containing a shotgun, 100 shells, a garden hose, a garbage can and a map of gas station locations. For those in a hurry, $20,000 gets a legally-modified semi-automatic rife, 5,000 rounds and a list of gas stations certified to have been run by guys named Bubba. For the ambitious, $50,000 gets a topographical map of Saudi Arabia with locations of oil deposits highlighted in sandy colors. Every kit comes with a letter from Vice President Dick Cheney welcoming the new oil mogul into the fraternity and revealing the secret phone number to call for meeting times.
An hour later, the room is empty except for Harold Solowski and a stack of checks. It’s obvious the Sheik of Shaker Heights has moved on from the oil business to the get-rich-quick seminar business. As he checks his titanium Blackberry for messages, Solowski shakes his head and laughs. “There’s a driller born every minute,” he chuckles. “Cheney told me that.”