Cash for change

by Ben Robinson

Being unemployed is never any fun. Since I’ve “misplaced” (i.e. “lost”) the charge card that the State puts my unemployment benefits on, I’ve had to scramble for funds as I try to straighten out the situation.

My nephew was driving my car last year and wrecked it. So now my insurance is roughly half the cost of the car every six months. I’ve promised that my nephew won’t be driving my car anymore, but the insurance company wants proof, perhaps his head on a platter.

That seems a bit extreme. Besides, I couldn’t pin them down on exactly how much that would lower my insurance payment.

So the first payment on my policy was due last week, and — being without a job and missing my unemployment checks for a while — I had to be a little creative. In my car, I keep a little drawer full of change that I receive back from drive-thrus. The theory is that the next time I go through a drive-thru, I will have enough change to avoid breaking a dollar. Of course, I generally forget about the change, it builds up, and eventually I cash it in for “real money.”

For the past several years, I would take the change into the bank. A very good-looking girl worked there, and I used the change to earn another opportunity to talk to her.

Not that I was ever that smooth of a talker.

She would always smile and say, “Hey, Ben, how are you?” The first two or three times I was flattered that she knew my name, then I remembered that my name was on the checks I was depositing. Still, it was a nice gesture.

So I would look her straight in the eyes, smile, and let loose a nervous giggle. To me, the giggle sounded like me asking her to marry me, but it probably sounded different to her. I would deposit my checks, listen to whatever comments she would make, and giggle some more.

At the end she would say something like, “Thank you, Ben, you have a nice day.”
I wasn’t sure what to do with such a beautiful woman making such obvious advances on me. So I just smiled and giggled again.

Unfortunately, this girl left the bank several months ago. I’m not sure why — knowing my luck to get married or something like that. I’ll always treasure our time together. I still refer to her as “my first wife.”

So taking the money into the bank seemed to be a bad idea. I decided to take it to the grocery store, where they have those coin-counting machines. You get charged a few pennies per dollar for this service, but it would save time. And who knows? I might somehow find the second Mrs. Ben Robinson through this machine.

So I went into the store and poured my cup of coins into the machine. When I finished, the machine gave me options. The first was to donate the money to “charity.” Since no non-profit organization was mentioned, for all I knew “Charity” was the girl bagging groceries. I chose “no” on that option.

The next was to cash the change in for nine cents per dollar. That sounded good to me, so I chose that option. The machine printed out a receipt that said $42.48. I found two pennies in the overflow cup of the machine, then went to the “10 items or less” line.

The girl there said she would be glad to cash me out, but when she saw the amount, she said, “I don’t have that much cash here.”

So I went to one of the regular check-out lines, where a lady was purchasing food for her family’s Thanksgiving meal. And they were planning to eat well, apparently.

When the girl finished ringing up the lady’s order, I handed my receipt to her.
She smiled and called the cashier from the next register to come assist her.
“I don’t know how to do this,” she said with a smile.

The other cashier ran the receipt through the machine, got some cash from the drawer, handed it to me, and said “Thank you.”

The problem was that she only gave me $12.50.

I tried to correct her. I asked, “Didn’t that receipt say $42.48.”

She looked at a new receipt she had printed and it said $12.48.

“You gave me two pennies to make it $12.50,” she said with a smile.

Apparently she thought I was questioning the 48 cents part. And the receipt she gave me was what she had typed into the cash register, not necessarily the same as the receipt I had handed her.

But I had no proof. I guess that other $30 went to Charity, whoever she is.
I was later able to come up with enough money to pay my insurance despite losing the change that was stored in my car.

Somehow this could have been avoided if I had had the courage to talk to the girl at the bank all those years ago.