One day last week, had tragedy befallen me – kicked in the head by a mule, struck down by a flaming meteorite, flattened by a runaway steamroller – the person going through my pockets to determine my identity would have said, “Here lies a well-traveled handy man with a store-bought smile who enjoyed the happy laughter of children.”
For the most part, that would have been a wrong but understandable conclusion due to what was in my pocket: Various exotic coins and a screw. These are not things I usually carry around, but they were with me that day as a result of a trip to the credit union to cash in an old thrift store train case filled with non-exotic coins that accumulated at home.
It’s something I aimed to do for years but never got around to, so the pile of change grew so large that I could only lug in about a third of the bounty. All of it would have taken a set of hand trucks and though I saw no sign on the credit union door forbidding that, I believe it would be frowned upon, especially by other customers waiting their turn.
Handful by handful, I fed coins into the sorting machine, its gears grinding. Twice it jammed and required the assistance of authorized credit union personnel who graciously accepted my apologies. The machine digested what it could and spit out the rejects, which I put in my pocket. And that is what would have led someone to believe I was a well-traveled handy man with a store-bought smile who enjoyed the laughter of happy children.
We’ll break it down.
Well-traveled: In reality, no. The machine regurgitated a Canadian nickel, an Australian 20 cent platypus coin, a New Zealand five cent coin, 10 colones from Costa Rica and a Good Luck Souvenir coin from South of the Border where a 97-foot tall statue of Pedro greets motorists on I-95 in South Carolina.
All of those coins but one came from the travels of various family members, not me.
Them: “We absolutely loved Costa Rica, almost as much as Australia.”
Me: “Pedro says hi.”
Handy man. In reality, not so much. The rejected screw likely came from a mishandled home-improvement project or a some-assembly-required effort with leftover parts.
“Yeah, that doesn’t look right. Where’s the duct tape?”
Store-bought smile: Yes, actually. The machine coughed up a token from an orthodontist’s office, which, combined with other tokens collected at each visit, entitled the patient to a prize worth approximately one-one millionth of the cost of the entire procedure.
But the coin was not from my orthodontic work, which occurred more than 40 years ago in the dark ages of the practice when it was done mostly with barbed wire and fish hooks, but my daughter’s, who unfortunately inherited a bite that came in at all angles. At least she avoided the barbed wire.
Enjoyed the happy laughter of children. In reality, sort of but not when it’s continuously as loud as a DC9 engine at takeoff and costs more than a ticket to ride that plane. The machine hacked up a forgotten token from an arcade/children’s party place that for legal reasons I will rename Tickety Tickety Tock because I’m about to say bad things about it.
Parents trade hard-earned cash for tokens so children can take those tokens and pump them into machines that make children scream as loud as they possibly can for 45 minutes to an hour but seems like eight hours to parents who must endure it. It’s excruciating.
In the end, after my trip to the credit union, I avoided any mishaps with mules, meteorites and steamrollers and no one had to make any assumptions about what was discovered on my person.
I came home with an exotic jingle in my pocket and, best of all, a column idea bouncing around in my head.