[email composed 24 October 2002]
Like a great many people in the U.S. (I presume), I have been unofficially collecting the commemorative state quarters that started coming out a couple years ago. By "collecting" I mean when I see a quarter with the emblem of a state I don't think I have, I don't spend it. I don't display my collection: I merely have a stack of quarters on my dresser, one from each state that has come out so far--as far as I can tell; I'm not investigating whether I have them all or anything. I'm sure years from now, after the U.S. Mint has completed the series, I'll discover holes in my collection. And eventually when I'm desperate for laundry money, the collection will slowly disappear; clean clothes always win out over pseudo-collectibles.
This morning I bought a donut at a bakery next to the station while I waited for the next train. In the change from my purchase I received the quarter commemorating Louisiana. I didn't notice this until some time in the afternoon when I was absent-mindedly fishing around in my pocket and pulled out the coins in there. Not recognizing the image on the back--the silhouette of the country with the land area of the Louisiana Purchase highlighted--I thought to myself, Hey, I need to hold on to that one.
Finding the new quarter was just about the only good thing that happened to me while I was in the office today--the only other high points occurred outside the building: going to lunch, calling my mother to wish her a happy birthday while on a break. In a way, it wasn't merely 25 cents, it was a tiny silver ray of sunshine in a grey day (both figuratively and literally). But mostly, yes, it was 25 cents.
It also held the miniscule joy of a unexpected treasure. Perhaps it's sad that our hunter-gatherer instincts, once imperative for survival (hunting down giraffes, picking berries and nuts, etc.), have been sublimated into identifying unfamiliar images on little metal pieces and drawing the same satisfaction from that act as once befitted several days' effort that provided meat for the entire tribe, but such is our lot in modern post-post-post Industrial Revolution life. I'm sure Darwin would have no opinion about this, not merely because he's dead, but because that's not the kind of evolution he was talking about; the way his theory has been misappropriated aside, we all know that being fit has not proven the reason for our survival.
In the evening, after I exited the train, I stopped by a fast food restaurant to procure nourishment, or what passes for that. (It was late, I was tired, and didn't feel like tracking down a giraffe.) Even though the Louisiana quarter could have been used to make exact change for my purchase, I specifically refrained from using it. By using a dollar instead, I got back three other non-Louisiana quarters in change.
I left with my food in a bag and the quarters (along with a few pennies and a nickel) jingling around in my pocket, and headed home so I could see how badly the Angels were losing in the World Series game. On my way to my apartment, I passed a grubby man of non-permanent residence. While I often pass by such individuals without guilt, there was something about having food right there in my hand that made me respond to his plea for spare change. I fished around in my pocket, trying to pick out the nickel and the pennies (stingy bastard that I was, masquerading as a philanthropist). I didn't want to make it seem like that was what I was doing--and I don't know why I cared what the man thought--so I just pulled out a couple coins and placed them in his dirty hand. For a few coins he thanked me with an enthusiasm that dwarfed all the form letters I've received after donating much larger sums to the alumni fund from my university. I continued on my way. After about half a block, I reached back into my pocket, scooped up all the coins there and by the light of a street lamp nonchalantly examined what remained: three quarters and a few pennies.
Three non-Louisiana quarters, of course.
You saw that coming. I knew it would happen when I was fishing around in my pocket in front of the man. We all know that's simply how the universe works: What one doesn't want to give up it takes away. Coincidence? Yeah, right. I don't know who's in charge of the universe, but He/She/It has a wickedly predictable nature in these situations.
I had escaped the office and wasn't in a bad mood any longer. I didn't need my little treasure any more. The karmic benefits alone must have been easily worth a buck, maybe buck-fifty. If only I could get that "return on investment" from my 401k.
Maybe I'll pull all my money out and give it to the homeless until the stock market picks up. Couldn't lose any more money than how the damn portfolio has been performing. Of course, the bottom fell out of the stock market just around the time I actually got a job where I have a retirement account. Of course. Of course.
(Yes, I was fishing around in my pocket in public. We all have our bad habits. I apologize for the imagery. Please don't think about it when you try to sleep tonight.)
The commemorative quarters I do have (in no particular order): Rhode Island, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, Delaware, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. But not Louisiana.
(I also have a 1976 Bicentennial quarter, two golden dollar coins, and a penny from every year I've been alive. Not an impressive coin collection by any means, but it's what I have.)
[Note: I did eventually get a Lousiana quarter I didn't give away. Mostly because I stopped giving spare change to panhandlers.]
Yes, I should have written something in honor of my mother's birthday. But I didn't. If that makes me an awful son, I apologize. Maybe it just means I love my mom enough not to drag her into this drivel of mine.
However, I will take this opportunity to note the last 20 songs that have played on my computer's jukebox software while I have typed this (since that's as many as the software keeps track of). I have had it set to play songs at random, and this is what it selected (as Dave Barry says, I am not making this up):
Mourning Air - Portishead
Worried Blues - Buddy Guy
My Mother - Buddy Guy ***
I Wanna Be Free - The Monkees
Surrender - Elvis
Brothers Under the Bridge - Bruce Springsteen
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Old England - The Waterboys
Air - The Muppets
Death Comes Ripping - The Misfits
Happy Birthday To Me - Cracker ***
Tough, Tough, Tough - Andy Anderson
(You're the Only One) Can Make Me Cry - Concrete Blonde
Largo, from "Xerxes" - Handel
Skyway - The Replacements
Singin' the Blues - Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra
Rockville - R.E.M.
That's the Way I Like It - K.C. & the Sunshine Band
Hey - Goo Goo Dolls
Carrothead - The Young Fresh Fellows
Notice the two I denoted with asterisks. Coincidence these two played on my mother's birthday? Ha!
Stupid Doug factoid: He could identify all 50 states by their shape and relative geographic position by the third grade, and retains that ability to this day. Not that it seems to impress the chicks like it did back then.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end. I know some of you made it this far.