December 1, 2000
My ritual at the end of the day is to
come home, take off my tie and dump about three pounds of coins
out of my pockets.
I don't know why I always have so much
change. I don't start the day with any coins, even though there's
a mountain of them on my dresser. I don't spend that much, and
when I do, it's usually by credit card.
For a while I tried to carry an assortment
of change, but for some reason I never had the right combination
of coins when I got up to the cashier. No matter what I carried,
I was always short by at least ten cents. The result? Even more
change to carry around.
Pretty soon I had to lean to one side
just to balance all the change in my hip pocket. That's when
I gave up and resolved to rid my life of change.
You might say, just get one of those
wallets with a change compartment.
The fact is, I've never thought a change
purse is that manly - for some reason it brings to mind grandmothers
and mama's boys. And nothing makes you look cheaper than fishing
around in that little flap pocket inside a man's wallet. Besides,
a change purse is like advertising that your mother still does
your shopping for you, even if it's a tough guy's wallet with
a chain attaching it to your jeans.
Real men don't do exact change.
The country with the best solution is
Italy, where instead of small coins they'll often give you a
handful of candy instead. Everyone's happy - especially Italian
So when I get change I have to get rid
of it right away. I'm always stuffing spare coins into the fundraising
boxes at the liquor store. I'm all too happy to meet panhandlers
on the street. Last Halloween we only had two kids show up with
UNICEF boxes, but by the time they left our door they could barely
walk under the weight of the pennies, nickels and dimes.
The introduction of toonies has made
me slightly revise my no-coins policy.
With bank machines the twenty dollar
bill has become the standard unit of money. Twenties have become
known as Yuppie Food Stamps. It's getting harder and harder to
get a five or a ten in change, but there's apparently no shortage
of toonies. So when you buy something for two bucks and slap
down a twenty, be prepared to get nine toonies in return.
All of a sudden, change is a major investment
and I can't afford to throw around coins anymore.
I've recently had a change crisis due
to the cafeteria in my building. A grilled cheese and a few french
fries is $2.03. It's a great bargain, but I never have the three
Then I noticed the penny jar at the cash.
I've never taken money out of one of
these little courtesy dishes before. I've often dumped change
into them without thinking, but it never occurred to me that
I could take any pennies back out. It sort of feels like theft.
"Can I take out three cents?"
The cashier looked at me like I was nuts.
She took the pennies out for me and put it into her drawer.
After all, carrying change would just
make me look cheap.