Sunday, June 06, 2010

Here’s a quarter, call someone who won’t eat it

“You can’t leave change on the floor anymore! The baby could choke on it,” my wife Kara said, holding up a potentially lethal quarter. Of course, the offending currency must have come from my pocket, since Kara has been carrying around the same three pennies in her coin purse since way back when oil spills didn’t take all summer. When I was a kid, a captain would get drunk, ram his tanker into the shore and we’d be done with it. Nobody realized at the time we’d come to prefer our environmental devastation nice and snappy.

“Sorry, it must have fallen out of my pocket,” I said, taking the quarter and dropping it in my change jar. If I hadn’t taken that quarter, I wondered what Kara might have done with it, since the change jar seems to be a historically masculine phenomenon, like Old Spice and war. Where do women keep their spare change? Every guy on the planet has a coffee can somewhere filled with change, and he wants you to guess how much was in there the last time he cashed it in. Filling change jars is how we pass the time when we can’t be scratching ourselves, playing Call of Duty or both.

The last time we visited my parents, I was walking out of the grocery store with Mom when she said, “I dumped your dad’s pennies into that Coinstar machine a couple of weeks ago. It was fun.”

I stared back at her, aghast. A Coinstar is kind of like the coin-sorting machines they have at many banks, except instead of being free, it provides the service of skimming 9% off your hard-squirreled money.

“But the bank does it for FREE!” I said.

“Well, it was fun,” Mom replied, and I could tell that my financial advice would be more appreciated by the kid at the Skill Crane machine. Still, except for the ones that dispense earthworms, I have a hard time thinking of a vending machine I’d be less likely to use than a Coinstar, the no-armed bandit.

The last time I liquidated my change jar at the bank, there was almost half a stitch in that thing. A stitch is the new monetary unit that Kara and I invented recently, after we brought our son Evan to the ER for a small cut on his head.

A few weeks later, Kara held the bill in her hand and said, “Guess how much Evan’s stitch cost.”

Trying to go ridiculously high, I guessed $600.

“Higher,” she replied, and my stomach sank lower. A nurse had spent fifteen minutes stitching Evan up and calming his traumatized parents, a sure and soothing hand for which we remain eternally grateful, but I was beginning to wonder how we had spent this much money without scoring at least a small powerboat.

“Oh, just put me out of my misery,” I said.

“Just over $700,” Kara replied, putting me out of, and into, my misery. “It would have been $1,800 without insurance.”

Clearly, we should have saved the stitch rather than letting Evan’s pediatrician throw it away, since it was woven from the downy undercoat of a virgin Sasquatch.

Still, we can’t really complain. The hospital had successfully transferred the trauma from Evan’s head to our bank account, while also giving us a handy new financial term.

“Oh, come on, it doesn’t even cost a tenth of a stitch,” you might hear one of us saying.

In any event, Kara’s right; with Evan crawling around the house eating everything in sight, it’s time to be more careful about flinging coins around. Besides, if I ever decide I’d like my spare change devoured, there’s always Coinstar.

You can give 9% of your spare change to Mike Todd at


  1. So the moral of the story is...a stitch in time skims 9 percent?

    Chuckle-tastic as always, Mr T.

  2. I was just at a coinstar and there are a lot of ways to get the coins counted for free. I got an amazon card, but they had itunes and starbucks, too.

  3. JL! You are the man.

    Anon -- I feel you, sort of. But the bank would give you back CASH for free, and not make you spend it on Coldplay albums and frappucinos. But yeah, the gift card thing is still better than magically converting 9% of your money into someone else's money.

  4. Downy undercoat of a virgin sasquatch. Brilliant.