Friday, September 27, 2013

Change Management

At home, we don't use a lot of cash--most transactions are plastic--but we do occasionally, and the change builds up on my dresser, where Worldwide periodically dumps her numismatic detritus. Every so often I go on a change management kick to clear it off, using cash for smaller purchases. People always look at you funny when you give them exact change, as if you are putting them out by making them slot all those coins into the four different bins in the register; as a result, I never use more than four pennies, or coins totaling more than a dollar--I'm not a sociopath for crying out loud. The automatic checkouts at the supermarket are great for this, as they are one of the few machines that accept pennies, and you don't have to interact with a human. I'll sometimes go to the Harris Teeter in the middle of the night and patiently use a jar of change to pay for an order of groceries.

OK, that was a joke; I don't obsess over it. But it is a little game I can play, where I win when I have a neat stack of quarters on my dresser for the air pump at the neighborhood gas station. Thanks to modern technology I no longer need them for parking, or on I-95.

But people in the WC do obsess over change. There are 80 denars to the dollar, and bills run from 10,20,50,100,200,500,1000,2000; coins 1,2,5. Cash machines dispense 1,000s  and 2,000s (although a select few also have 500s) and if you give a cashier at the supermarket a 1,000 note for an order that totals 821 denars, she will ask you if you have 21 denars and check your wallet as you look, suspicious that you are keeping the precious change to yourself. When you don't, she will often have to check with her colleagues or the manager to find the proper bills and coins; nobody ever seems to have any small bills or coins.

The woman at my local bodega always clucks approvingly when I give her exact change. It's a little thing, but it gives me a tiny spark of good feeling. They say one of the easiest ways to increase your happiness is to make other people happy. It's not a big deal, sure, but it makes my and her life run just a little bit more smoothly; and that should be, if not celebrated, at least noted.

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