Friday, July 04, 2008

For the love of quarters

Yesterday, I stopped at my favorite orange and pink logo-ed fast food coffee joint to pick up an over-sugared, high fat vehicle for caffeine and a starchy, eggy with porky thingy.

The total was $5.97. I immediately started the mental arithmetic to calculate which tiny coins I could unload in order to secure the highest number of quarters in change. I have an irrational affinity for quarters. I would rather have 3 quarters than just about any other combination of coins worth more than seventy-five cents. At in the drive through window, I handed the lady a five dollar bill and 47 cents in pennies, nickels, and dimes.

She returned to me a one dollar bill with a smile and a "thank you."

I stammered a protest... "No, that's too much... I gave you $0.47"

She smiled at me the way one might smile at a midget recounting his slam-dunking prowess.

I waved the crisp bill at her, "You only owe me fifty cents."

Putting both her hands up, she seemed to want to remind me to keep calm. As I stammered on, her dazed smile revealed a glimmer of fatigue. With disbelief that I had not yet driven away, her pity-filled eyes mocked my enthusiasm. "Really?" she might as well have asked, "You slam it in there without a trampoline or even a spring board???"

I looked at the dollar and then at her and sadly resigned myself to the fact that there would be no quarters for me during this transaction. Plainly I told her, "You gave me too much money back."

"Don't worry about it." She added, "Have a good day."

As I pulled away, I had to remind myself a few times, "one dollar is better than 2 quarters." It didn't feel like the victory-rush "found" money provides a rational person.

When I told kt the story, she reminded me of the dude on the street a few weeks ago who "sold" me 2 quarters for a dollar. I was searching for money for a parking meter and he didn't have 4 quarters. Rather than offer me the standard, "Don't worry about it," that I sort of expected, he picked up my dollar and said, these will have to do. Then he dropped 2 coins into my palm. For me, there was no economic reason to protest that transaction. I only needed 2 quarters and I was happy to take a fifty cent loss to prevent a $25 parking ticket.

From my perspective, I'm now down 4 quarters. Though the karma of quarters is profoundly imbalanced, it's funny that the universe found a way to return 50 cents to me.

1 comment:

C-LO said...

Whoa dude. That Karma stuff blows my mind!