But Did You Actually SEE him?


I read a short article tonight on The Stranger in their regular “We Saw You” column.

“We saw you at a checkout counter of the PCC in Columbia City buying a bottle of Schooner Exact beer, some berries, eggs, yogurt, and sausages with a mountain of pennies, nickels, and dimes. Most of your coins were brown and looked very old. PCC is not cheap. It takes a lot of coins to buy even three or four basic items. But you came prepared. You had a bag filled with the hardest currency. You held it in your hand with pride. You did not look at all poor. You looked perfectly mad. And as you counted, coin by coin, the amount you owed, the counter became all yours. No one could wait. You were going to take forever. You had saved your pennies, but you were wasting time—and not only yours but others’.”

I found myself as irritated by this myopic  and shockingly snotty piece as the writer was with this man’s bag of coins.  After reading this little blurb once or twice, I was no longer certain which part pissed me off more.

Was it the tone I read as a mocking tone when I read that this gentleman held his bag of coins with pride, as if maybe it’s shameful to pay with something other than paper money or a debit card?

Was it that there was the presumption that he was wasting his own time by paying in coins that he had saved up?  Were there no other cash registers available so that the “others” whose time he was wasting could be checked out while this man used his baggie of money to pay for grocery items of his choosing?

Was it the bizarre critique of the appearance of the coins?  Should he have polished them first?  Traded the older coins in for more valuable newly minted coins?

At this point, I’ll just say that they all rank about the same level of shitty in my opinion.

Oh, I forgot one:

“You did not look at all poor. You looked perfectly mad.”

You saw him…

But Did You Actually SEE him though?

Sometimes I forget what poor is supposed to look like.  I recall once, when I was 22 years old and 6 months pregnant, I was fired (for being pregnant, but that’s another story) from my job where I had made just over the whopping minimum wage.  I was 6 months pregnant, jobless, and knowing full well that it would be nearly impossible for me to find a job with a very visible baby belly, and I was panicking about how I would keep a roof over my family’s head.

I also looked fantastic that day because I was wearing a beautiful maternity pantsuit that I had borrowed from a girlfriend of mine.

When I got home post-firing and sat my purse on the counter, I heard the doorbell ring.  I wiped my tears and answered the door to someone who was going door to door selling a cleaning product.   After telling him repeatedly, “Thank you, but I just can’t afford it,” I was told I didn’t LOOK poor.  When I finally went to just shut the door on him, he jammed his foot in there, yelled at me for closing the door on his foot, and called me a rich cunt.

I was 22, broke, pregnant, and jobless. But I “did not look at all poor”.  Perhaps I should have dressed down for sympathy?  I know what that door-to-door salesman thought he saw.  He was wrong.  And a jackass.

Just like you sound when you say a man with a bag of “old change” to pay for his groceries did not look at all poor. No, he looked “mad”.  Like a hatter?

What’s poor look like?

Listen, no one wants to stand in line behind “the slow customer”.  I get that. When I think I might behind a slowpoke, I cruise over to the next check stand because I’m a grown-up and can make that decision.

And as you counted, coin by coin, the amount you owed, the counter became all yours. No one could wait. “

Yes, as a matter of fact, you could wait.  Or, as mentioned, you could go to the next check stand if you were in a hurry.  THAT’S HOW GROCERY STORES GENERALLY WORK.  While your transaction is being handled, that counter is, in fact, all yours.

When I was in high school in the 80s, I worked at a Dairy Queen and we had a regular customer who would come in with her MJB can of coins to purchase her once a month special meal of a cheeseburger full meal deal, including a hot fudge sundae and a Pepsi.

Every month, she’d pull up to that drive-thru window and count out her coins.  If you’re behind this person, that 30 second transaction has changed into a 90 second transaction.  Or, god forbid, a 3 minute transaction.

Guess what?  Each month she showed up and placed her order, everyone survived.

Coins are, last time I checked, valid U.S. currency.  As of yet, I have never seen a sign on any business that states “No U.S. coins accepted.”

Does the customer paying with coins or other small denominations of U.S. currency take extra time?  Yes. So does the person who uses the wrong credit card with no available funds first before finding the right one. So does the person who changes their mind and adds on to their order.. These things happen.  At the drive-thru and the grocery store.

Let’s assume this man – or the lady in the drive-thru – are not poor?  Who cares?  Why are you worried about it?

Maybe they are not at all poor because they save their pennies and splurge now and again on a special meal at Dairy Queen? Maybe they’re not poor because they don’t spend indiscriminately on groceries, but because they bring their back of coins to the grocery store and don’t spend more than what’s in that bag that they’re holding “with pride”.

Let’s assume this gentleman in the story IS poor. “PCC is not cheap. It takes a lot of coins to buy even three or four basic items. But you came prepared.”

PCC is a store that specializes in natural and organic food. This gentleman is using the money he has scraped together and bagged up to buy quality groceries on a budget.  Would you prefer that this person not shop at your fancy store that “takes a lot of coins to buy even three or four basic items” because it may inconvenience you? Maybe they should shop at a discount store and count their offensive old coins at a store that is more suited to someone who shops with coins they saved up?

Should that person instead take their coins to the bank first?  When the bank teller counted, coin by coin, that bag of money, that counter would became all theirs. Would no one be able to wait while he wasted the customers’ time at the bank as well?

Is that better or worse? Would it depend on whether you were at the bank or not?

I really would like to know the answer.  I would truly hate to show up at the store of my chosing in the wrong outfit with the wrong denomination of currency to purchase my groceries when you’re around.

PLEASE help me out here.






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