The Worth of Small Change


I own an older Honda. It’s a gift vehicle and everyday, it moves me from place to place with a few grumps and grinds and a long gallon of gas. I like its frugal nature. I’m cheap in this way. Putting dollars toward a shiny, new vehicle just doesn’t make sense. And paying for repairs is never on my To Do list.

Besides all that, I’m poor. Yes, that’s a relative term and my W2 form probably looks otherwise to many folks. But it’s a stretch to pay the mortgage, utilities, internet, phone and feed myself and my two critters. In fact, these often don’t get paid within 30 days. Two years ago, none of that was a problem. That’s another story though.

As I said, I’m frugal and a person of habit. One of these is the deliberate collecting of change. My quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies are wrapped in their paper rolls and stashed here and there. In my car, I keep a coin cup. It’s one of those spring-loaded things that takes a column of each coin, and I use it when buying my Dunkin Donut coffee. I keep it full because my coffee habit is a strong one.

Back in August, right in the midst of summer, the drivers side window of my Honda stopped working. I’d just saved for a new radiator, which my gracious neighbor installed for me, and frankly, I didn’t have the money to fix the window. I self-serviced the fuses to no avail. My gracious neighbor told me it was probably the power switch. We had a few conversations over the weeks about this but the window remained stuck. I rigged up an umbrella, augmented with trash bags, and kept a towel in the car.

Fortunately, we’ve not had much of a rainy season and my umbrella-window was workable. Several mornings, I found the neighbor’s cat curled up on the towel in the front passenger seat. That too was acceptable until the scent of urine flowed out one morning when I opened the door. So I removed the towel and the cat found better quarters.

Yesterday, as I approached my open-window, I sensed something was amiss.

I opened the car door and see the black coin cup on its side, emptied. The storage hatch, wedged between the two front seat, is opened.

I am angry for only a short while. After all, the coin value is less than $20. But what really provokes me is the idea of the poor preying on the poor. Anyone looking at my old Honda with the broken window would conclude that its owner was not rolling in the dough. Yet, someone imagined they were in worse straits.

This kind of thinking is sad. What can be bought with a handful of loose change? Maybe a hamburger, fries and a drink. Then it’s done. That’s immediate gratification. Bottom of the pyramid. It does not change one’s circumstance in a lasting way.

I’ve wrapped two ideas in that last paragraph: the poor preying on the poor and the idea of immediate gratification. They are connected. Roll back the years of schooling and recall Maslow’s hierarchy. Survival comes before community.

Survival and the quest for immediate gratification is what dominates the news nowadays. It’s all about satisfying my hunger, my emotion, my belief, my terror, my paranoia — and the hell with you. Do you see where this is leading? The idea of community has regressed.

Since beginning this post a week ago, my car has been illegally entered another three times.

The water-proof Fossil watch in need of a battery is gone. The coins in the dash compartment are stolen. And, something is missing from the side pocket. Twice, I’ve opened the car door to see the hatch, which stores old cassettes, has been popped. Once, the drivers side door was left open.

This predator is persistent to the point of stupidity. There is nothing remaining in the car. And yet they return.

The intruder is doing this at night while I watch TV in my livingroom or sleep in my bedroom. They are literally just feet away from me.

The first incident struck a philosophical chord. The second and third and fourth have raised my ire.  I want to entrap whoever is doing this. I’d like to set up a trip wire with an electrical shock. Or arrange for a shot of black ink to stream in their face when they open the car door. Or rig up an alarm – one that’s ear piercing and steady. Perhaps floodlights to reveal their identity. And odd as this is to my own mindset, I want a gun.

Advertisements