Pennies For Coinstar

All the pennies fit into a one-gallon sandwich that was roughly a 6″ x 6″ x 6″ cube.  I hauled that in a blue FoodMaxx canvas bag.  The plastic grocery bags that I had all had holes in them.  Even if I doubled up on the plastic bags, I didn’t want to risk the pennies from falling through and spilling out on the hot pavement outside of the store.  Knowing my luck, that would’ve happened.  No sense in crying over spilt pennies.

I lugged the heavy canvas bag into the store, ignoring the strange glances that people gave me.  No one walks into  a grocery store with a loaded canvas bag.  With my beard modestly trimmed, no one assumed that I was a terrorist planning to bomb the meat department and called the cops.  I’ve been shopping at this FoodMart since my college days in the early 1990s.  All the clerks know me as the guy who usually comes in with a gym bag after working out at the 24 Hour Fitness next door.  They didn’t give me a second glance when I made a beeline to the Coinstar machine.

This was my first time “recycling” pennies through a vending machine.  Whenever I had a surplus of pennies in the past, I rolled them up in paper rolls and took them down to the bank to deposit.  If you go into a bank today with rolls of coin, they may very well call the cops on you.  No one likes coins in the age of debit cards.  I followed the directions on the screen and started dumping the pennies into the tray.  I spent ten minutes listening to the rattle of pennies falling down into bucket inside the machine.

I’m a short story writer.  While waiting for the pennies to be counted, I imagined writing a scene with an old man, probably short and bald, hunched over the tray of pennies he hauled in on his hand cart like a paranoid gambler at a slot machine, watching people come and go through the nearby entrance, and then something weird happens.  I like to write about old people since I understand them better and they tell me interesting stories that no one else wants to hear.  I’m not sure what the weirdness would be if I wrote that into a story.  When I got home and took the elevator upstairs, I found a brown lizard blending in with the brown floor tile that hissed at me as I tapped my shoe next to it.  I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff inside that elevator over the years but that was the weirdest yet.  Maybe they’re connected somehow and someday I’ll write that story.

The Coinstar machine took everything except a Canadian penny that I put back in my pocket.  I had a grand total of 3,711 pennies, seven dimes and one nickel.  After a 9.8% service fee, I had $34.15 USD.  I thought I had like twenty bucks at the most.  That was more than enough for groceries.  I handed the print out to the clerk to pay for my groceries and received the remaining change.  I still have a smaller jar with bigger coins at home that I might bring in if I need the money for groceries next month.  As for the Canadian penny, I tossed that back into the empty penny jar.  I’ll see it again in another five years.


Driving Mister Dad – Part 3

I stopped the truck in the middle of the road.  “Oooo!” sounded liked I was going to drive his truck through the glass, nails and rocks to blow out all four tires.  “Oooo!” to him meant that I didn’t see the turnout and I needed to start making the U-turn. I blew up at him since he still didn’t trust my driving.  When I drove down the street and made the U-turn in a parking lot, he had the decency not to argue with me this time.

The common experience from my other relatives is that when a person reaches the age to be an Angry Senior Citizen, they loose the ability to ask for help and communicate verbally.  Seldom does Dad ever ask for something.  He wants me to read his mind and decode the various throat clearing, Morse code tapping and other noises that he creates to gain attention. When I don’t respond the way he wants me to, he gets mad at me.

After putting up with this for two months, I was going bonkers.

We had visited every Wal-Mart in the area except for the one in Morgan Hill that was smaller even by Wal-Mart standards. This Wal-Mart on Story Road turns out to be a short freeway hop from my place. I thought it was further out since it was on the east side of San Jose. According to expert opinions when I was growing up in the 1980s, east side is the wrong side of the railroad tracks (Mom at home) and the “ghetto side” (Geraldo Rivera on national TV). Times have change and the area looks better than I remembered. The store itself was cramped for space since it was being convered to a super store.  That’s good since the nearest super store is about 30 miles in Gilroy. I might start shopping here in the future when I have money to blow.  I usually spend $100 USD whenever I’m at a Wal-Mart. Dad was shopping to restock his trailer when he returns home.

Naturally, Angry Senior Citizen had to drive like a bat out of hell on the electric shopping cart.

The doctor cancelled his appointment the next morning and he did what I’d been telling everyone for months what he would do: loaded up his truck and took off down the road.  He left behind trash and dirty laundry, and stiffed me on the rent. He claimed that paying $800 USD to fix my car was enough compensation to cover the second month’s rent.  I told him that those repairs were for pre-existing conditions that he should’ve fixed before he gave me the car.  Since he was tighter than Ebenezer Scrooge with money, he never gone to the mechanic to fix a problem that he could’ve gotten on by with. Never mind that I did his taxes to get an $800 USD return that covered the car repairs, and saved him $1,800 USD in car insurance when I help him switch to AAA.

Of course, none of that counted to Angry Senior Citizen.

That was two weeks ago. My place is finally back to normal after a thorough cleaning to kill all the dust bunnies and remove all traces of Angry Senior Citizen.  Except for the carpets that had dribbles from the wheelchair.  I don’t have the extra money to rent a rug cleaner yet. Meanwhile, I’m driving up to Sacramento every two weeks to make sure Dad is doing okay. The first time I went up to his place by myself was on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, he paid me $50 USD for gas and wanted the spare change back.

Some things never change.