So I’m zipping through the grocery store to grab a couple of things for dinner. Tired, hungry, and cranky. Groceries in hand, I waver between checkout lanes. Which will be faster: The lineup containing two people with carts piled high, or the lineup containing five people with only a few items each?
I don’t know why I bother wondering, because I already know the answer: Whichever line I choose will be the slowest.
But wait! A new lane just opened up, and there’s only one nice elderly lady with a quart of milk and a rutabaga ahead of me! I slide in behind her, dreaming of home and dinner.
The cashier rings up the order and the little old lady smiles and hands over a twenty-dollar bill. No coupons, no hassle.
“Oh, just a minute,” she says cheerfully. “I’ll give you the thirty-five cents.”
She rummages through her purse. Once.
My dreams crash down in disarray.
“I’ve got it right here,” she assures the cashier, extracting her change purse at last. “Here’s a quarter. I know I have a dime in here…” *rummages some more* “Oh, I guess I don’t. Well, here are two nickels… Oh, did I give you another quarter? Wait, I know I’ve got two nickels…”
Meanwhile, the people in the other lineups have all paid and departed. I clench my teeth and wonder whether they’d rule it justifiable homicide if I throttled that nice little old lady, who is still excavating her change purse in search of the elusive nickel.
But guess what? The fates must have a twisted sense of humour, because I just became that little old lady.
I know, I know; I’m sorry! *flees from enraged pitchfork-wielding mob*
It was an ugly shock when I caught myself digging through my change purse in the checkout line. I’d like to say I froze in humiliation and immediately whipped out my tap-and-go credit card instead, but I didn’t. I knew I had two nickels, dammit.
Clearly old age is sneaking up on me. Six years ago I mentioned that even when I’m looking great I still only look great ‘for my age’. That seemed important at the time, but now the surest sign that I’m getting older is that I really don’t care anymore. I’m fine with the way I look, and if anybody else doesn’t like it? Tough noogies.
But I’m not completely free of vanity. In fact, I’ve developed a foolproof way to look more youthful: Forget nips and tucks and lotions and potions – it’s all about geography. Where we used to live in Calgary, the median age is 36. In our new area on Vancouver Island, the median age is 66. So when we moved out here, I was instantly transformed from a worn-out old bag 17 years over the hill to a dewy young thing. Ta-da! And it only cost my life’s savings plus most of my sanity! How often do you get a deal like that?
And hey, maybe now that I’m so much younger I won’t have to hold up a checkout line searching for change again; at least not for another decade or so.
So that’s my two cents worth for this week. Wait, let me get my change purse…
33 thoughts on “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes”
It seems a bit extreme moving to look younger, Diane, but nowhere near as extreme as the odd nip and tuck. I haven’t aged since I was 24 so I don’t have that problem! 😉
Lucky you, Tom! Maybe you can bottle and sell your secret. Just be careful when you’re mixing up potions in the bathtub! 😉
I’d be average for Vancouver. I have always strived for mediocrity so I have to wonder how well I would fit in. You went from above average to below average in one not-so-swift move. In this case it is better to be below average. All this and you understand how to effectively deal in cash exchanges? I’m impressed!
LOL! Golf and age: the only two times it’s good to be below average. It’s really nice to not be considered over the hill anymore. And hey, you’re right on the pinnacle of the hill – perfect positioning!
Even worse than digging for change is the cashier who can’t calculate change. The purchase price is $18.50; you hand the cashier $20.50. Because the till doesn’t show the balance due, said cashier has no clue how much cash to reimburse.
Oh, yeah. Been there, done that. It’s never a good thing when they get that blank look that’s half incomprehension and half “Oh, Lord, I can’t do basic math”. Sometimes I help them along with a gentle, “So that means you’ll owe me a loonie”.
Anybody else remember the days when cashiers rang up sales on manual cash registers and could instantly calculate the change due in their heads without breaking a sweat?
I like to give exact change where I can… only to lighten my heavy purse though. However it’s considerably easier here in Aus to achieve this… we abolished one and two cent pieces. Our smallest is a five cent. Everything is rounded to the nearest five here. Convenient and time savery!
Ah, we must have copied you, then. Five cents is our smallest denomination, too. But we use two-dollar coins instead of bills, so that makes for a heavy change purse regardless!
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Hee hee hee! So funny!
Ever since we had toonies forced on us, I HAVE to keep my change at a manageable level or the extra weight will kill me. I do have another use for nickels – I use them in the parking meters. You can get rid of a lot of nickels when you need a couple of hours’ time here!
I was sorry to see the $2 bills go, too – really didn’t need more weight in my change purse. But you’re right, that’s another thing I love about our new home! In Calgary you need a credit card for parking meters – I once paid $30 for an hour. But here, you can still buy a few minutes of parking time for a nickel. Truly this is heaven! 🙂
$30 for an hour? Holy cow … I thought it was robbery here when they raised the rates to $1 an hour …!!!
Downtown Calgary used to be the most expensive place in Canada to park – even higher than Toronto or Vancouver. Now that the low oil prices have tanked Calgary’s economy, maybe the rates have gone down… but I doubt it. I can’t imagine them giving up that cash cow.
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When the US economy tanked years ago, Seattle had big problems. Force reductions in the military and defense budget cuts hit them the hardest, I think. If one wanted to buy a pleasure boat of some sort, for instance, that was the place to go. THOUSANDS were for sale cheap. Housing market was in the toilet. Mass exodus from the area, the works. Saw a newspaper photo where some wag had placed a hand-lettered placard on the Seattle side of the city limits sign:
Will the last one out please turn off the lights?
I thought it was hilarious at the time. Since then, the humor has sort of faded. Been through the same kind of thing too many times myself, as it were. I hope Calgary fares better.
The shale boom has kept our current habitat in near-boom conditions for nearly a decade. Even when the price drops for an extended period, apartment rent only drops from astronomical down to something just over outrageous. Hence the decade-long building boom. Unbelievable. And rent is still berserk.
For example, when we moved here nine years ago, one of the extended-stay motel chains in the town we left had their weekly rate posted on their huge billboard-sized sign at $169 a week. The same place here was proudly displaying their rate at $499 a week. The chain was working on a branch in what I think of as our sister city. (Some locals think sister; others think bastard stepchild. Fairly intense rivalry here.) When it opened a few weeks later, the rent there was $599 a week.
That’s my economic indicator now. I don’t have to obsess over the price of oil or dither about the housing price index to see how our local economy is faring. I just look at the extended-stay motel sign. That tells me everything I need to know. When we were in what I call ‘low oil price panic mode’ level, the motel rate dropped to a paltry $349 a week. At the high end (which I’ve named ‘high oil price panic mode’ which you’d understand if you’ve ever been here), it’s a princely $599 a week.
At the low end, at least for those of us who are only indirectly (or indirectly-indirectly) affected by the price of oil, life is actually fairly pleasant. Traffic is light, drivers are courteous, checkout lines are short, and service is great because every store, restaurant, or business has plenty of help. I’d hate to be quoted on this, but life is pretty good during the bust.
On the other hand, when price of oil is high, traffic is a screaming nightmare, drivers are rude to the point of angry aggression, checkout lines are out the door, and service is non-existent because EVERY SAP SUCKER WITH AT LEAST TWO FUNCTIONING BRAIN CELLS is out in the oil patch making huge money.
Which means the person who is waiting on you in any store or restaurant (or not waiting on you, more to the point) is WITHOUT two functioning brain cells. And no, I’m not exaggerating.
But there is an upside to all this. I LOVE MY JOB!! And my wife loves hers, too. Honest, this is the best gig I’ve ever had. Well, except building hotrods for a living. Gad, that was great. I could do the work. I just couldn’t do it fast enough to make a living at it, or rather an honest living. But doing what I do now is a very close second.
By the way, the measure of a custom car shop (or anything else in that vein, bikes, trucks, off-road, whatever) is the number of repeat customers it maintains…in the second generation of its customers. Works for lots of other businesses as well. Including colleges. I’m teaching kids whose parents went to school here. For a community college, that speaks volumes.
Wow, that is a great recommendation for your college! That’s awesome! And I suspect it’s no coincidence that you love your job there – it’s that whole interconnected circle of having a great place to work so everyone does a better job, which creates a great workplace. Having happy professors gives the students a great experience, which makes teaching enjoyable… and around it goes again. (It also explains why some colleges end up in a death spiral when all those things don’t come together.)
Calgary has always been an insane cycle of boom and bust. It’s a little better now than it was 30 years ago because its economy is slightly more diversified, but it’s still far too dependent on the petroleum market. It used to be a great place to live, but now everybody seems cranky and on edge all the time and the service sucks at either end of the boom/bust spectrum. Glad to be gone from there.
When we first arrived here, I was surprised over and over when employees came up to me in stores and asked if they could help. Unsolicited help?!? What a concept! In Calgary, any attempt at getting information in a store required a 20-minute search for the one sullen employee who was supposed to be covering the entire 40,000 square foot store… only to find that I knew more about the product than they did. Have I mentioned I’m really glad to be gone from there…? 😉
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After reading your post I thought to myself, “oh my goodness, this is me.” Rummaging through my purse for the exact change is, I think, what we all do.
Now moving from Calgary where the medium age is 36 out to Vancouver Island to become a young thing, well more power to ya! One thing on my bucket list is to visit Calgary and see a Flames game!!! What I can’t figure out is why Vancouver Island? All I envision is wet rain forest.
That’s what I envisioned, too. Boy, was I wrong! It hasn’t rained since June. Almost every day has been just another day in paradise: Blue sky and sunshine, with temperatures ranging from the mid 20s to 30s (75 – 90F). And there are no mosquitoes to speak of.
I’m told the rains start again in September or October and then it’s a long dark soggy slog through winter, but I’m braced for it. After a summer like this, I’m willing to put up with a lot!
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Yeah, a damp, rainy winter…instead of one that’s forty or fifty degrees F. colder? Certainly wouldn’t be a problem with me, not being all huddled up in a corner wearing all the clothes I own and wrapped in every blanket in the house, eyes glued to the Weather Channel, and both of us praying that this might be the month that we get to see PLUS ONE on the forecast for a day. That video still makes me laugh.
Yeah, I could stand to live where y’all do.
The correct change thing? If I have enough in my pocket that I need to use some, I’ve already got my little coin holder thing out by the time the cashier has my bills sorted and in their proper places in the register. If not, I make an effort for the transaction to be to be as quick and delay-free as I can manage by handing over a bill or bills and letting the cashier be the holdup. That way, I’m not the bad guy.
Hey, it’s a stretch, but I can occasionally avoid being *that* guy. 🙂
LOL! It’s always nice when you can avoid being *that* guy.
And it’s funny you should mention that Rick Mercer video – Hubby and I were just laughing about it yesterday. We figure here on Vancouver Island there should be two Rick Mercer videos: One for the summer where they promise rain at the end of the week (we haven’t had rain in 3 months and our well is threatening to run dry) and one for the winter where they promise a glimpse of sun at the end of the week.
Honestly, though, I’m so thrilled to be living here, I don’t really think any kind of weather is going to bother me… even all the cold and snow we had last winter wasn’t enough to do it. And everybody assures me they only get snow out here every 5 – 8 years. Uh-huh. We’ll see about that… 😉
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The more Rick Mercer videos, the better. Doesn’t matter where one lives. 😜
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I love it. I’m the same, I do occaionally root around for the right change and I’m younger than all of you. I mostly work with cash, I do shop online but occasionally I want it now so I need to actually go buy it.
I’ve been binging on audio books recently but to my annoyance I accidentally ended up with books 2-5 instead of book 1. I have listened to the ones I have and ordered the first from the website of the shop I bought them in. I had started with a Terry Pratchett my parents gave me and ended up buying all of the ones available in the store. But it’s two for £8 or £5 each. Better to buy 2. So I ended up getting a few David Baldacci and was annoyed when I checked the order and discovered that I didn’t have the first as I said. But I have the impatience of a inpatient thing. I was only going to listen to one but I’m one the 2nd last disc of the last book, yes they are on CD. Well the first one is on its way in the post, so I suppose I can listen to them again and enjoy the series from start to finish.
Hope everyone is well and enjoying being young. Hehe
Thanks, Karen – I hope you’re doing well, too! I still haven’t gotten into audiobooks because I can read so much faster than I can listen, but how annoying for you to be missing the first one of the series – grrr! Hope it arrives soon!
I always said I would never become that woman who rummages for exact change. I wish I could say I kept that vow.
Enjoy your newfound, geographical youth!
I am! I’m pretty sure I’ve died and gone to heaven. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous all summer long; and the main features of the Island are good food, live music (almost every pub has weekly jam sessions and live bands), art, and walks on the beach. Every day I have to remind myself that it’s not just a wonderful dream!
And the best part is, I fit right in with the rest of the change-purse-rummagers. 😉
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I am enjoying a visit from my sister who lives in Melbourne. We’d just met up after a hellish time on the roads finding my way through downtown Minneapolis after my closest freeway entrance as well as any other nearby freeway entrance were all closed- they were open the day before.
I had just given up on getting a plumber out to fix my tenant’s issues and then I finally got a call back from one moments after arriving to my meeting with my sister. The plumber could come immediately, but I needed to be there to pay because he didn’t accept credit cards- only cash or checks. My sister was agast! There was a business that didn’t accept plastic or electronic funds transfer, and actually took CHECKS! She couldn’t believe anyone would accept checks in payment for anything any more. I know that MInnesota is a bit old fashioned that way, that most places will accept checks, but talk about slowing down check-out lanes! What is slower than an old woman’s search for coins? Anyone paying by check. They take forever to write the check. What’s the date today? How much was my purchase again? Then the request for IDs, then the approval process. Far worse than a lost nickel.
I haven’t paid by check in stores for years, but a friend of mine doesn’t trust internet transactions and won’t use cash machines and does her banking inside at the teller window. She uses cash or checks for all transactions. She is totally freaked out about identity theft and credit card fraud. She was one of millions whose identity was stolen by Chinese people who obtained access to government workers private information. She doesn’t want to go through that mess again.
Where is it that they round the purchase to the nearest dollar to avoid coinage use?
Here in Canada they’ve abolished pennies, so everything is rounded to the nearest 5 cents. I’m sure the nickel will be next to go, and then we’ll round to 10 cents. I hope it’ll be a while before we have to round to the nearest dollar, though!
There are still a lot of small businesses around here that prefer cheques. The credit card companies charge so much that it’s really not worth it for the little guys. I don’t pay by cheque in stores, but I’ve always liked using cheques, too – they’re secure; and I like the feel of pens and paper. 😉
I hope your sister enjoys her visit!
I rarely use cash anymore. Around here they look at you funny if you have that change stuff – with a bit of pity in their eye, “Poor person can’t get a credit card” kind of look. But then a lot of my coworkers look confused about the statement, “I went to a store.” You mean a real store? You know you can get that on-line and delivered. Why did you got to a real physical store? Weird.
That’s world I live in down here.
I think that’s where it’s headed, though. Pretty soon our butts will grow roots into our armchairs and we’ll do everything online with imaginary money. I actually like shopping online… up to a point. If it’s a product I already know, fine; but I’ve been burned one too many times by something that looks good in the picture and is completely different when it arrives. I still prefer to go to a store where I can put my hands on something before I buy it.
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Um, no more pennies. You’re going to be looking for a looooong time!
Yeah; and since two would be rounded down to zero, I guess that makes my two cents worth nothing. Somehow that seems fitting… 😉
Step away from the purse! 😉
Friends don’t let friends rummage in change purses! 😉
I’ve actually provided “change-hunters” with my own change just to speed things along…
LOL! I have, too! Maybe in a couple more decades we won’t use change at all – everything will be rounded up to the nearest dollar… or else everybody will use credit/debit cards.