The past few days I have been obsessed with change. Not the exciting CHANGE of political campaigns and social justice, but the humble change of our pockets. The various containers on my bedside table where such coinage gets dumped, were over full and I am too lazy/cheap to take it to a bank/coinstar machine for bills. Also, I get satisfaction from spending coins. I love having a few pennies on hand so I can give exact change. When relinquishing all my quarters nightly in one little tin, conveniently adds up to just enough, on laundry day, I feel pride that I don't have to "buy" a roll of quarters from the bodega on the corner (and this feeling is the only thing that keeps me from being irate that our laundry room is oddly devoid of coin changer machines).
I certainly have an appreciation for the monetary value of coins. There was even a semester in college where I lived off of the "couch change" from a roommate who, at the time, was making so much cash as a waiter that he didn't care to even pick up the quarters that practically rained from his pockets when passed out on the couch. And although this weekend, I only had a few instances to use my loot, all of them were so successful on a couple of levels that I have started to value coins for more than their ability to make coffee appear. Here's what happened
Maybe I am a little OCD about the change because, when I clean it from my bag at the end of a day, I immediately sort it into different containers. As I said, quarters have a special place as do pennies and for some reason nickles and dimes hang out together in another jar. I counted and sorted the N&D jar, about 10bux! Still, I went out feeling a little nervous about the responses I would get here and there when I paid by counting out my change at the register. Presumably this would annoy the person behind the counter and at best I'd get groans from people behind me in line, and as this is nyc I wouldn't have been surprised if this enraged someone beyond that. Alas, I was determined to move ahead with my plan and I needed the satisfaction of having emptied the N&D jar.
The first time I pay entirely in dimes. I am at a coffee shop in my neighborhood which is the border between Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. It doesn't get me a second look when I count and place two neat one dollar piles of dimes the bar. Server just says "thanks." and I sit down and enjoy my caffeine. I come here often but not enough to say I am a regular so I don't expect to be known. The folks are pretty friendly but I have to say I have never before gotten a cheery "thanks, see you later!" yelled at me from across the room as I exited from this server or any other, as I did on this day. The only thing I could think of that I did differently, was pay in change. Maybe it endeared me or made me stand out in some way subconsciously. Hm.
That evening I am running late to a party and I need to pick up a bottle of ginger ale on the way. I run into the only place I see open, a Walgreens, and as I get to the register remember the sack of nickels that is all I brought with me. Shit, this lady is going to kill me. I wish there was a bodega open, I feel instinctually they might be cooler about this. I sheepishly tell the 20-something woman across the counter from me, "sorry its going to be a minute just have all this change to count out." She smiles big and says with genuine excitement in her tone "I love doing that!" Whew. We have a brief discussion about how much we both like giving exact change and collecting the change from the bottom of your bag and seeing it add up to dollars. I pay her in nickels and tell her I am so glad she was working tonight. I walk out with my head high, I feel like I am particularly clever and in cool kids club with this Walgreens employee.
Next day, I need to kill time between meetings and stop into a cute little cafe place that appears to serve primarily the college kids from the school buildings directly across the street. I pull out my satchel of change, it is a mix of nickles and dimes. Before I can even apologize for the time it will take me to count it out, the man behind this counter gets super excited and says "YES!". I look up from my task, perplexed but then I realize he commenting on the silver in my palm. "This is what I like to see!" He is absolutely thrilled I randomly stumbled into his cafe and am gifting him with all the nickles and dimes he will need to make change the rest of the afternoon. I am a godsend. His over-the-top response has me laughing. I hand him the sum I owe and say something like "I think its right but you might want to double check". He tells me he doesn't care, as he excitedly transfers the coins into his register drawer. We are both smiling big.
It turns out paying with change can not only buy you a coffee but it can also make you stand out, as a consumer, create a connection over an otherwise anonymous interaction and provide a real service for a small business. Next time I decide (or need) to nickel and dime it, I will do so with pride!