Friday, June 22, 2012

Find a penny, pick it up...


…all day long you’ll have good luck. How many of us remember this old rhyme? It was a constant when I was growing up. Found money of any demonination was always considered a good thing.

Do you pick up pennies still today? I ask this because I was chatting with a friend and she complained about the pennies she received after buying a soda at a gas station, and told me how she just threw them in the trash as she left the store.

What?

To make sure I heard her correctly, I made her repeat herself. I mean, she didn’t even throw the pennies on the ground where people like me might pick them up. She threw them straight into the trash.

Really?

I’ve heard rumblings of the get rid of the penny groups who all complain that the penny is outdated and a hassle to deal with, and I’m always surprised. Do people truly not like pennies or find pennies a burden? Really? Who has time to worry about these things?

Maybe this is a generational thing? Am I truly getting that old? I mean, I understand that there are entire groups of the population that don’t use cash, period. I get that. But throwing your pennies in the trash with disgust?

I can remember learning to count and using pennies as my base. 5 pennies equaled a nickel, 10 pennies equaled a dime, 25 pennies equaled a quarter, 100 pennies equaled a dollar. The power of addition came to life in front of me. How cool was that?

Flush with that knowledge every time I spotted a lone penny in the dirt I picked it up, took it home, and carefully added it to the other pennies in my coin jar. Five of them became six, which became ten, which became twenty-five, which became… you get the idea.

The power of the penny still held me in its thrall when I was older, living on my own, and needed to count my pennies (no pun intended) to make my monthly rent. If I was short for a month, well, I would empty my coin jar and carefully roll my pennies up. Still not enough to cover rent? I would haul a couple of bags of books to the used book store and sell them off. Don’t worry, I’d buy them back in better times. If I still hadn’t met my number, I would go pick up cans alongside the road and take them to the Golden Goat. (Pre-recycling/can deposits this was a dumpter-type device that crushed cans and spit out cash by weight). Sometimes it was only a few pennies, but when you are .03 cents short on your monthly rent, those 3 pennies become very important.

Luckily, my finances now offer me a little more breathing room. But my love of the penny is still evidenced by each and every dulled bit of copper I pick up, dust off, and put in my pocket.

I didn’t attempt to argue with my friend, there’s no point. But after we spoke I gathered up my coin jar and headed off to the bank where I turned my latest collection of found pennies into five, twenty-dollar bills and took the family out to dinner.

The only real effort expended? Reaching down and picking the pennies up, one by one.

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