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May 3, 2005

Last night Steph and I went to Walmart for a few things.  We hadn’t had dinner yet and Steph was getting hungry.  So we pull into the Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru across from Wally world.  Steph figures out what she wants as I get out my wallet.  After a one car wait, I give our order to the faceless Amanda at the register.

"Ok, you’re total comes to $9.01.  Please pull up to the first window."  "Ok, thank you!"

I pull up as far as I can, now in my second one-car wait, and sort through my wallet.  Pulled out a five and four ones.  I’m not one to carry change usually, and I was on par for me last night, so I looked down to the console to find a penny.

No legal tender in the front part, none in the cupholders, none in the back seat cupholders.  Alrighty, check inside the console.  Nothing but napkins and a tape.  Nothing on the car floor, nothing between the seats and the console, nothing.  Apparently this is part of our being Type-A that backfires.  No loose change anywhere to be found in the vehicle.  Dang it.

Now, you must understand, I have another dollar bill in my wallet.  I’ve got plenty to cover the $9.01 tab.  But it’s stupid to use a whole dollar bill to pay for a penny.  Everybody knows that.  That’s obvious.  I need to find another way.

There’s always the possibility that I could just ask her to overlook the penny charge and be content with the $9.00.  Retail folks do that frequently.  I’ve witnessed it numerous times.  Perhaps this could be another great example of miniscule generosity.  Perhaps.

Or maybe I should just give the gal 10 bucks and consider it a done deal.  It’s the honest way to go, no one is short-changed this way (pun intended).  I can put the change in our coin jar when we get home, and some day when we need to use it, I’ll appreciate that dollar bill’s sacrifice.  Maybe.

Arrggh, the agony of it all.  What do I do?  I know, look through the car again.  That’s a great idea.  Yeah, still nothing.  Ask for pity?  Suck it up and go for ten?  Arrggh…

I KNOW.  Look outside the car.  On the ground.  Folks drop change all the time, especially around the drive-thru window.  Of course.  Why didn’t I think of this sooner?!  I scan the ground, looking for the bronzed champion that will bring us out of this crisis.  Scanning, scanning.  YES!

Just to the left, even with the front bumper, was sitting the under-appreciated, unrecognized copper disc that would be my momentary hero.  Unbuckling my seat belt, ignoring the thought describing in utter most detail how pathetic I must look to the family close by sitting inside the restaurant, I put the car in park, open up the door and head out to meet my little s savior.

Darkened with time, dull with wear, the tattered Mr. Lincoln is retrieved, and I get back in the car.  VICTORY!  Again I ignore the twinge of embarrasment in the sight of the family in the large glass window (who may not have even noticed the desire for exact change in action) and rejoice with my now laughing wife.  Exact change is mine!  A dollar bill will not be exchanged in vain.  That which was lost and forgotten has now been found and remembered.

With a rather large smile and a sense of accomplishment, I put the car in gear and pull forward to my destination.  "$9.01?" "Here’s the 9… and here’s the one!"  I put the copper-plated penny in her hand with a certain gusto and flair that can only be understood by those who too value the beautiful simplicity of the exact change transaction.

As we pull away, food in hand, Steph accurately observes "Guess mom’s are right when they warn you that you never know where things have been…"

Regardless, I kept my tenth dollar and that’s all that matters.

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