Waiting for Change

Got Change?

Got Change?

A while back, I belonged to a writer’s group in Capitola, California. Our illustrious mentor, Corinne Loveland, started each session with a writing prompt. We wrote for twenty minutes and then read our work out loud to the group. I do not consider myself a humorist, so when my “audience” was laughing out loud, I was puzzled.

“Whaaaat? I’m just telling my story over here!” and I continued to read the piece. It wasn’t until the next reader and the one after that read their work that I realized why it was funny.

So, the prompt was “Waiting for Change.” Here’s what I wrote:

Waiting for change always seems to take longer than you would expect. You stand there in the checkout line concentrating on looking casual while your jaw clenches tighter and tighter. You take a few deep breaths without making any noise lest your impatience becomes noticeable making the cashier nervous causing her to miscount due to the anxiety you have instilled in her, and she has to start over. After all, you know she’s doing the best she can. It’s obvious that English is her second language and she most likely grew up with a different monetary system. How would you like to be making change in say, Costa Rica? Let’s see, if there are three hundred colones to the dollar … hmmm, not so easy when you put it that way. 

I’ve taken to carrying small bills and two change purses in addition to my wallet. One holds only pennies while the other keeps the quarters. The change compartment in the actual wallet has the nickels and dimes. Whenever I can whip out exact change, I do so; down to the irritating little penny. Some places have penny bowls next to the cash register. Give a few, take a few. Theoretically, it all evens out in the end, but my understanding is the value of a penny is less than that which it takes to manufacture it. That just doesn’t make any sense (cents).

The only problem is sometimes I don’t get the trio of purses out fast enough. On these occasions making the exact change seems to take longer than it should and the people in the line behind me get annoyed. If I feel the pressure on the back of my neck, I abandon my effort and thrust the bills into the cashier’s hand. Let her take too long to make the change and at least I don’t have to shuffle out of the store with my eyes cast downward because I took too long to make exact change.

Once in a blue moon there is a standoff. I have deftly slipped out exact change never taking my eyes off the three designated purses which are lined up on the counter. With fingers flying, I race through the main players; the quarters and the pennies. I love the penny holder – it’s made of red satin Chinese printed fabric and was designed to be a lipstick holder with a built-in mirror on the inside of the cover. If I hold it up to shoulder level, I can sneak a peek at the person behind me in line to check the annoyance level. If it’s mild, I continue. If I see blood boiling, I whip out those paper bills. When I have exact change ready and the cashier has already counted out the change anticipating my payment by the reserve $20 bill I have tucked between my fingers, I lower my head and look through my eyebrows. That look says, “Don’t make me return these coins to their individual purses. Return your counted out coins to the black compartments in the register, smile and say ‘Have a nice day’ and everybody will be happy.”

Everybody else in the group wrote about “Life Changes.” Tells you something about how I think.


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