Spare Change

10 Jul

Last week, a man who reeked of alcohol and cigarettes approached me and my sister as we were getting into our car in the Concord Depot parking lot. He said that his wife was pregnant, that they didn’t have any money to take the train home, and that she was really overheating in the sun. So naturally – as is best to do in this kind of slightly uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation – I got out of my car and told him to take me to his wife who was “waiting on the train tracks.” I said this in a slightly sarcastic way… because talking down to crazies is obviously the best method of self-defense. I’m pretty sure my sister pooped herself when I responded to this man. And then a second time when she realized I was actually following him to the train tracks.

I went as far as the start of the platform before pulling out a couple of bucks, handing them to the guy, and abandoning ship.

“What is the matter with you?” my sister inquired when I got back into the car. “Are you INSANE?”

“What?” I asked.

“What kind of sane person follows a clearly drunk man to the TRAIN TRACKS behind the Concord Depot, which is obviously the sketchiest place EVER?!!”

Hmm. Probably the same kind of person who would listen to a clearly drunk man ramble on and on about the “risks of heat lighting for pregnant women.” And probably the same kind of person who would respond with an “oh wow, that’s really interesting! I’ll be sure to only hang around cool lighting from now on.”

I guess I was just feeling an overwhelming sense of kindness brought on by fearful anxiety.

The next day, my sister and I went to Starbucks – not for coffee, but for those delicious-looking packets of cheese chunks and apple slices that look like the result of a successful dumpster diving expedition.

As is the usual when we do ANYTHING, I had to pay – I guess as the oldest sister I have to fork over the big bucks for the venti, extra skim, half-decaf, triple espresso, extra java, leave-the-foam, double whipped cream, Frappuccino mocha lattes. (Yes, I was joking about the apples.) That stuff gets expensive. So, despite the fact that we get discounts for being such predictable customers, I begrudgingly pulled out my wallet.

“Are you really not going to tip?” my sister asked when I had finished paying.

“No… am I supposed to?”

“Yes. Obviously. You always tip for service.”


*Moment of uncomfortable silence, pretending to rub a stain off of my shirt.*

I’ve always considered myself to be an awesome tipper in restaurants and what not. (Yes, please read that sentence again because I just read it as “awesome stripper,” which is clearly inappropriate and not at all what I meant. Well, not for this entry, anyway.) Perhaps this is due to the fact that mental math is not my strong suit – I completed my second grade addition and subtraction flash cards by counting on my fingers, which were aptly hidden in the pockets of my jean overalls. (The real tragedy of this story is that my teacher never caught on to my trick. I mean, who but a numerically challenged second grader would wear overalls every single flashcard day? Actually, maybe the real tragedy is the fact that I owned overalls…) Because of these *difficulties,* I round up all of my totals out of pure confusion and frustration.

So that takes care of restaurant tipping – round up all of your totals by a really extreme amount and you’re probably covered. But tip jars? They’re a whole different ballgame. I think I’ve put change into a tip jar maybe three times in my life. One of those times was because the cashier and I awkwardly touched hands as I was paying, so I just kind of dropped the money and it happened to land in the tip jar; the second time was when my sister forced me to tip her at Bedford Farms after I asked to test FOUR different flavors (before ordering one that was NOT any of the four); and the third time… nope, there wasn’t a third time. I’m just rounding up.

I’m not sure why it never occurs to me to tip. The obvious answer (brought to you by my sister) is that I’m “too distracted and in my own world to notice tip jars, even when they’re right in front of me.” While that may be true, I think it’s more a product of my fear of running out of quarters. There is NOTHING worse than running out of quarters, deciding to park at a meter anyway because you’ll “only be a minute,” and then coming back to find a $25 ticket and a cloud of shame hovering around your vehicle. The ticket man who works in Concord is definitely a ninja, and I am definitely on his hit list. That is why my wallet is as heavy as a brick – save your quarters, save your dignity.

I tried explaining all of these things to my sister as we waited in Starbucks, but she wasn’t having it.

“I just don’t understand why you would give money to a rambling stranger, but you can’t throw some change into a tip jar.”

Fine. Fine, fine, fine. The next time my sister and I went for coffee, we were on the Cape. As the cashier gave me my change, I sheepishly turned to my sister with an expression that read “Should I do it??” You would have thought I was about to bungee jump off a cliff, or something.

“YES,” she said. “Tip!”

So, in a moment of sheer adrenaline mixed with a little bit of panic, I threw the money into a jar on the counter.

Turns out, I had put the tip into the “spare pennies” jar, reserved for customers who don’t have accurate change. I had managed to COMPLTELY ignore the GIANT jar that said “Employee College Fund” on it, and had instead decided to throw my PRECIOUS quarters into the little “spare change” jar.

The next day, at the same coffee shop, I watched a six-year-old make the exact same mistake I had made. He should probably invest in a durable pair of overalls; if we have more in common than our trouble with change, he’s in for a bumpy ride.

2 Responses to “Spare Change”

  1. alyssamichellefrench July 11, 2013 at 1:41 am #

    Oh my God…The same guy approached me and my brother at the Depot and I also asked him to show me his pregnant wife…And then we gave him 10 bucks and I gave him the rest of my lunch because apparently she hadn’t eaten all day. Also, nice overall trick. I sure could have used that in second grade…


  1. A Quarter for Your Troubles | A Series of Tom Fooleries - June 20, 2014

    […]  (For more change-related fooleries, check out my previous post: […]

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