Sunday, January 6

Pennies From Heaven

"Leave the pennies for the gleaners," my mom taught me, lightly slapping my hand when it began reaching for the coppery disc on the sidewalk. "Someone needs them."

I work in retail these days. I have done so for nearly ten years as a full fledged adult. Sometimes I even enjoy it. I have, after all, had the enormous good fortune for most of those years and various retail assignments of putting books into the hands of readers. There is hardly a greater pleasure that does not involve sex or deep love.

But here in Wisconsin, there are several discernible differences in retail. One: they still use cash here, including what I thought was obsolete, the personal check, scratches in ink on paper, torn out carefully and duly recorded in the register, before leaving the register, bien sur. But it is the cash aspect that really unhinges me, for here in Wisconsin, they not only pay with cash; Two: they count out pennies. They have coin purses, and they use them. It's unnerving. Haven't they seen the commercial where the shopper who offers cash holds up the long line of plastic payers,incurring widespread discain? Here, not even the checks are paid by plastic. One gets the unshakeable feeling that these customers, once home, remove the top from an old shoe box and rifle through the business envelopes, plain white, number ten size, lined up therein, where the budget is sorted and recorded, all in cash. These are people, ancient people, who drive to drop their paper check or paper money and metal coinage, into the drop box at the utility company rather than pay by either mail or plastic. These are the people who really don't understand that what they save in postage cannot possibly repay what they lose in gas by driving needlessly across town. These are the hopelessly middle class, no matter how well off they are. Where do they come from?

I hate them, these penny pinchers. The pennies, you may recall, are to be left for the gleaners. I despise these petty people. They will drive back home, all the way across town, if they forget the coupon they intended to use. They'll drive back again, coupon clutched in sweaty palm, to save money. They don't think about gas. It's all about the merchandise. You can't giftwrap gas, after all.