Sunday, July 5, 2009

Change I Don't Believe In

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;


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;


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.

Maybe not.

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;


Or maybe not.


Nancy said...

My husband refuses to carry any change in his pockets so we have a container in his car, we have one downstaris, we have one upstairs, and they always seem full. Now I usually put my spare change either in the "Feed Families" container at the check-stand, or carefully count it out for whatever I'm purchasing. Of course, I always feel the need to comment that I'm only doig it because I have a very small coin purse - as if I need to make excuses. Sort of like I'm a small weird woman-child with no paper money...

Meeko Fabulous said...

I hate coins. I toss them into the coin jar when I get home. Then I go to a CoinStar machine. :)

Anonymous said...

I LOVE COINS...only because here in Canada, our one and two dollars are now coinage. A handful of loonies and toonies means I can buy a few bottles of wine, lol. The $1 coin has a loony on it, thus we call them loonies. And the two dollar coins, well, we're just Canadian so we rhyme it and call it a toonie.

PS: I even wait for my PENNY change, without shame!

Pat said...

"Cartoon brown noser" I love it! I could just picture you in the bank wanting to kick the crap out of the coin changer machine to shut it up! LOL!

We pay with pretty much everything using our debit card. But on those rare occasions that we use cash, it's a draw to the finish of who can take out their coins first if pennies are involved because my husband always wants to get rid of his pennies!

The Girl said...

I panic if I try and pay for things with change. I completely lose the ability to add up (which wasn't a fantastic ability to start with)..."what does 50p + 20p come to?! Oh my god oh my god!!"

At least the coin machine in my bank doesn't talk to me. It's embarassing enough the bloody noise it makes when it switches on as everyone turns round to look at you as you frantically shake your piggy bank up and down trying to get the coins out of it.

craftymug said...

Oh, I love my change. If it is 19.99, I will wait for my penny back and I feel no shame. It is my penny and one more penny in my penny container will make me one cent richer!!
Thank you for the story. I enjoyed the read.