Pennies to Heaven

8 August, 2006 at 12:30 am (dear diary)

In the year 2001, I was given an enormous jar of pickles by a friend who thought that it was be an amusing gift. It was, particularly because I hate pickles. I brought the jar to a department meeting and they were cleared out in moments by ravenous faculty members, and I took the jar home. I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to do this, except that it had been a gift and while I abhorred the contents I still wanted to enjoy the spirit of the gift in a tangible manner.

The jar became, by dint of random chance, the jar into which I dumped my excess pennies. There’s a new attempt to get rid of the penny, as previously documented on The West Wing, and I occasionally find myself agreeing with the prospect. And these times, by total lack of coincidence, tend to fall on occasions when I have seventeen cents in copper weighing down my change purse, and no other money on my person. We don’t even have a ¢ key on the standard western keyboard anymore, f’r cryin’ out loud! So, I would keep four cents for the purposes of exact change, and the rest would get habitually chucked in the pickle jar. Five years later, I still hadn’t filled more than about two inches of the jar, so perhaps the problem wasn’t as rampant as I thought, but when wandering around my apartment trying to find stuff to discard for my upcoming move, well… a giant glass jar of change seemed to meet the basic requirements.

Luckily, my local supermarchet has what’s known as a Coinstar machine. Truly, a brilliant invention. One takes one’s giant pickle jar of pennies to the supermarket, and dumps them in a scoop. The machine counts the pennies and either turns them into actual, useful money (while removing a percentage for the service), or — and this is the really cool bit — turns the pennies into gift certificates to useful megaconglomerates like the iTunes music store or

Back in the day I rowed crew, and every day on our way to practice we would stop at a Dunkin’ Donuts to buy a 20-pack of chocolate munchkins for $1.99 (which should give you an idea of how long ago this was). After a concentrated four seasons of this, we had enough pennies left over from the change from $1.99 to buy a 20-pack of munchkins: one hundred and ninety-nine pennies. It was an event, and we were proud. I figured I’d have a similar amount saved up today, enough to buy one of the two remaining episodes of The Office that I hadn’t seen. Imagine my surprise when the machine clinked and clanked up a count of 978 pennies.

Wow. That was a really good gift, even with a slight briny cent, sorry, “scent” (no pun intended, really) lingering over my pentennial accumulation of spare change. I’m now totally excited to go to one of the five Coinstar machines within easy distance of my new apartment and pour in a whole new bucket of petty cash. Too bad it’s going to take a few years to accumulate an equivalent experience.

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