Grocery store, hand over money.
Gas station, hand over money.
Box store, hand over money.
Stop for lunch, or do drive through, hand over money.
Often, I’ll use plastic and sign that little screen so that it looks like a demon has taken possession of my hand, because there’s NO WAY that’s my signature on there. But they accept it anyway.
Sometimes, particularly at fast-food joints, I’ll use cash. And most times I overpay, so I require change. And always, the change comes back to me in the following way: receipt, currency, coins. When did this start? Piling coins on top of slippery currency and receipts so that if you don’t close your hands in exactly the right way, the coins are sliding all over the place. I’ve lost more change at drive-throughs, because I have a HUGE truck, and have to park close to the window. Then they pile the money on the bills, and all of it slides around, and the coins jump ship, landing under the truck. And I’m parked so close to the building that I can’t get out to find it.
When did this practice start?
When I was a kid (which evokes the toothless laugh of a ninety-year-old balding man… “girlie, when I was your age, we didn’t HAVE money. We exchanged beads and we walked uphill four miles in the snow to find the wood to make them!”) Anyway, when I was a kid, and learning about money, my mom and dad would teach me about money, and they’d pull money out of a pocket or purse, lay it on the table, and teach me the finer points of making change.
“Always count up from the total,” they’d say. “If the total is $2.35, and I give you a five, you’d give me $2.65 in change. And you’d start with the nickel, and count the change up for your customer, like so: ‘a nickel makes forty, the dime makes fifty. ‘ put the two quarters in the hand and say, ‘that makes three dollars,’ and then talk out the currency: ‘four, and one more dollar makes five.’”
It taught me that you count out the change both for your customer and for yourself – it’s an excellent way to see that the change is accurate. And it settled the coins first in your palm, where they were nestled and couldn’t escape, because they had the blanket of paper currency on top. Now, often, I’m handed receipt, currency and coin – with the coin on top – to one hand, and the bag with my purchase for the other hand. And before I leave the counter, the cashier is looking over my shoulder at the customer behind me.
Maybe this is just one of those little passages that one makes into adulthood or middle age, the transition to the ‘next generation’. Part of what makes me look at my young college friend and say those dreaded words, “When I was your age…”
Maybe it’s me… I’m always searching for Mayberry. It’s why I live where I do. I like small-town America and the fact that I rarely lock my car doors, and many of my friends even leave the keys in their cars. Walk into the grocery store and you know the folks there. Same with the hardware store. It’s a small place.
Or maybe it’s a valid complaint. Are we so rushed that we’re forgetting the basics of courtesy? Is the next customer so vital that you have to give your current customer the Bum’s Rush? Or is it that our time is so valuable that we have to eliminate the slowness of cash for the speed of credit cards?
Or… have we just become THAT lazy that counting out change is a lost art?