I'm not a big fan of coins. I mean I like money as much as the next guy, but coins in general are a bit cumbersome. And for someone like me who likes to travel with as few items as possible, heavy metallic change is kind of the enemy.
But I have found myself paying a lot closer attention to my change lately. Perhaps I'm becoming more frugal, or maybe it's my fear of a complete economic collapse, either way, I'm not forsaking my coins any more for their dollared brethren. I am taking care of them, nurturing them, and using them. And it's making me realize certain things.
The first thing I've realized is that using change makes me feel like a child. I'm not sure if this is an insecurity of my own creation as much as it is imposed on me by society.
I keep all of my change either in my desk at work, or at home in an empty Gatorade bottle. When that bottle gets full I take it over to my bank and dump that change into the automatic coin counter.
It is a large machine with a touch screen and a tray that sorts and counts your coins. It then prints out a receipt which you can take up to the counter and exchange for paper money, which is my favorite.
You get some pretty interesting characters waiting in line at that machine. Characters including the creepiest looking people in the world with mugs, jugs, and dirty socks full of coins. So many coins that they often break the machine making us all wait a half our for the manager to fix it.
But it's not the machine itself that makes me feel like a child. It is the instructions. These are given loudly by audio in the voice of an 8 year old girl.
Well I guess they assume, like I do, that the only people trying to buy anything with change must still be in elementary school. They also apparently think I can't read so i have to listen to another smarter elementary school kid tell me what to do.
So as I am shaking my Gatorade bottle full of nickels into the sorting panel, this cartoon brown noser on the screen is shouting to the whole bank;
"DO YOU WANT TO GUESS HOW MUCH YOU HAVE?"
No I don't want to guess how much I have. How about this guess... Not enough!
And when I finish emptying, and she finishes sorting, she shouts with mock excitement;
"WOW YOU SURE SAVED A LOT OF MONEY!"
Shut up you little snot! I know things are different in cartoon world, but in mine $23.86 is not a lot of money. That's not even half my grocery bill. So stop patronizing me. I don't need you telling me I don't have enough money. What do you know?
About 15 years ago, maybe I would have thought a bit differently. Back when I was a kid the only things I bought were baseball cards and candy. And I always used change, piling my silver on the counter of the corner store like I was a pirate and I had just dug up me plunder.
But at my current point in life, piling change on a counter does not make me feel like a pirate. It makes me feel like an incompetent moron. Like when my drawer at work gets too full of change, I take it downstairs to the hole in the wall coffee shop to buy a breakfast sandwich. And even thought the sandwich only costs 2 bucks, I still feel kind of uncomfortable paying for it with 6 quarters, 2 dimes, and a nickel.
I wonder what the guy behind the counter is thinking.
"Oh great. Here comes the man-child with no real money."
Does he wonder if I am extremely cheap? Broke? Maybe I operate a tollbooth on the weekends and I'm skimming the profits?
Perhaps, because I can put myself in his shoes.
I bartend on the weekends at a place that gets pretty busy. Many people pay by credit card but most people pay by cash. Things usually go pretty smoothly, but there is one situation that always trips me up.
When somebody's bill comes to something like $19.95 and they give me a twenty dollar bill and stand there waiting for the nickel while I go and make change, for some reason it leaves me in disbelief. I pause for a moment and then scream, "Do you really need this you cheapskate?"
And then I fling the nickel at their face.
But when the tables are turned and I am the customer, I don't really know what to do. For instance, if I give someone a twenty for something that costs $19.95, while I stand there waiting for my change I have a small panic attack.
What does the person behind the counter think about me while I stand there waiting for my nickel.
Do they think I am some scrooge hunting after every last cent? Like I wouldn't dare let any of my tremendous net worth out of my sight. So then I contemplate letting them keep the change.
But what am I supposed to say?
"Hey there friend, buy yourself a nice piece of Bazooka Joe."
How does that make me look? Oh yea I'm so wealthy that you can keep that nickel. Or do they think that I think that I am doing them a favor? I don't know! I think the best thing to do is just walk off like I didn't even notice a nickel was involved. That way we both win.
And maybe as I walk off I can add;
"WOW YOU SURE SAVED A LOT OF MONEY!"
Or maybe not.