Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dime and Again

My father did not believe in coincidence.

Whenever he had run-ins with petty bureaucrats, dimwitted telephone operators, or terminally dense waitresses, he’d slowly shake his head and sarcastically say, “I get all the winners.”

Dad, who was not the most patient of men, said those words a lot when I was growing up and I confess that I inherited his hostile attitude. Or at least that’s the excuse I give people.

However, I know that this is no way to go through life and I’m making an effort to change.

And change was the theme when I walked into my local supermarket last week--only this type of change was in the form of serious coin.

I was standing on the checkout line listening to Billy Joel on the store’s sound system singing “Tell Her About It,” a tune from way back in 1983 that I always liked and hadn’t heard in ages.

The video for the song was equally enjoyable as it was built around the old Ed Sullivan Show and featured an appearance by Rodney Dangerfield.

A scene had been shot at a bar in my neighborhood of Bay Ridge, giving me an additional reason to like it.

That video was a loving look back to a more innocent time, but now, 30 years later, it’s become a fond memory itself.

I got off the nostalgia train when I noticed that the line hadn’t moved an inch in several minutes, which was odd seeing as there was only one person ahead of me.

And then I saw why.

The woman whom I had chosen to stand behind was paying for her groceries in coins. No paper, no plastic, she was actually dropping nickels, dimes and quarters in front of the cashier who was doing her best to scoop them up.

I decided that was I not going to get annoyed like I usually do. I didn’t want to carry on the family tradition of losing my temper and grousing that I got all the winners.

Pennies From Hell

No, I was going to be a mature, patient adult for once and wait until this lady was done. With no place to go and nothing to do, I had no reason to get angry.

So I waited. Billy Joel finished his number and Otis Redding came on to sing his classic “Dock of the Bay,” another one of my favorite hits.

And the coins kept on coming. It looked liked nothing was going to change; everything still remained the same. If this woman doesn’t hurry up, I thought, I’ll be here when the evening comes.

Now I started to get annoyed. This woman must’ve had a piggy bank the size of an Oldsmobile to hold all these coins. Or maybe she had cracked open a parking meter with a sledgehammer.

Of all the lines to stand on, I picked the one with the human slot machine.

Then I took a closer look at her. She was quite heavy, using a walker, and struggling to keep her balance.

I thought of the trouble I’ve been having with my back and how I’ve been limping all over town. Would I want someone yelling at me because I wasn’t moving fast enough?

Otis Redding did a whistling wrap-up and Nick Lowe followed him to sing “Cruel to Be Kind,” yet another fine tune.

The song tells of an unhealthy situation where an alleged friend claims that abuse should really be interpreted as love.

It sounds a little too much like the relationship I had with my father, but I’ve also stood on the other side of the equation, and I know it’s a lie.

Hurtful words and actions are hurtful and nothing more. If you want to let someone know that you love them take Billy Joel’s advice and tell them about it.

I relaxed while the coin lady emptied her bucket. This could be all the money she had in the world and given her condition, I wanted to be kind, not cruel.

So, listen, boy, it's good information from a man who's made mistakes: losing your temper over minor incidents only makes things worse. Stay calm and enjoy life and you’ll be the real winner.


Ron said...


What a charming, humorous, and VERY inspiring post!

I love how you weaved the songs through this story, as if they were all MESSAGES. And I think it's pretty darn perceptive of you to have notice that!

"Listen, boy, it's good information from a man who's made mistakes: losing your temper over minor incidents only makes things worst. Stay calm and enjoy life and you’ll be the real winner."

Amen! And I'm going to remember that the next time I'm standing in line at the grocery store, as the customer in front of me takes FOREVER to get their groceries out of the cart and onto the belt.

OMG...I have so much to learn about being patient.

Thanks for the reminder, buddy!

And have a super week!

P.S. love that song by Billy Joel!

v said...

hey rob, enjoyed this post. i was thinking that the woman too didn't have much money and she was probably using her last bit to pay for her groceries. when people are older, i cut them some slack. what i do hate is when people get up to the counter and realize they have to pay and crack open a checkbook. really, write that mess out at home - i do get a little impatient at times, but i try to smile through it. inside i'm screaming. ;)

Rob K said...

Thank you, Val. I should've picked up on her situation sooner than I did, but I was too busy getting annoyed.

I know full-well the experience of the outer smile and the inner scream.

The check-writing thing bugs me, too, but fortunately that hasn't happened in a while.

Rob K said...

@Ron, what's up?

The song lyrics came to me as I wrote the post and I thought it would be fun to experiment a little.

We both have a lot to learn about being patient, but it is so worth when you finally master your emotions. It's happened to me a few times and it's a great feeling.

Thanks for stopping by, buddy, and take care!

Bijoux said...

My patience is also tested on a regular basis when standing in line. I'm embarrassed to admit that my first thought is to get angry when the person in front of me doesn't have enough money at the grocer and must choose things to put back. I know better people out there who would offer to pay the difference. How does one get to be so charitable?

I'm still trying to figure that out.

Rob K said...

Me, too, Bijoux. I guess we have to watch those better people out there and try to emulate them...which isn't always easy.

Take care!

Ron said...

Rob, I just had to stop back and tell you something.

Today when I went grocery shopping, the woman standing in front of me was taking FOREVER with her groceries. The two people who were standing behind me left because she was taking so long. But do you know what I did? I stood their PATIENTLY, smiling and waiting.

See! Your post helped me to be a more patient person today.

Thanks, buddy!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, that's great! Patience really is a virtue!

Thanks for sharing, buddy! Take care!

Calamity Jen said...

Your posts are always thought-provoking and inspiring. I admire your decision to become more patient; I know a lot of impatient people who have no desire to change whatsoever. Like most folks, I, too, sometimes choose to be annoyed when I should take a more zen path. Having a two-year-old is teaching me a LOT about patience -- not just how to practice it, but the great value of it.

Rob K said...

Why, thank you, Jen.

This patience thing is one of the hardest things I've ever done.

It's so easy to blow your stack and it's so destructive--to you and everyone around you.

But since you're a mother, you've forgotten more about patience than I'll ever know.

Take care!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Oh, it's so easy to get frustrated at the supermarket checkout, isn't it? I was there today, and seemed to be waiting forever for the person in front to pay but I amused myself by speculating on the reason for the most peculiar assortment of items on the conveyor belt behind me. I do that sometimes, to pass the time waiting.

Your lady sounds as if she had her troubles for sure, poor soul. All those coins! One can't help wondering where she got them. Had she been saving up and had to use them to make the week's money stretch, do you think?

Good for you for being patient. I think that's one thing that pain does teach us - compassion for others.

Rob K said...

Thanks, Jay.

I'm learning that I can easily find an excuse to get angry--finding a reason to be patient is a lot tougher.

And I'm trying to use my own experiences with pain to develop compassion for others. Luckily I have people like you around to point me in the right direction.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness I read this story thinking I could very well BE that coin lady. I have more change than I know what to do with. You should see my coin stash! Its out of control. Very inspiring post glad to see you took the high road.he

Rob K said...


I've got so many pennies in my house I could build a fort.

A couple banks offer to count them, but they want a percentage of the total as a fee.

I keep meaning to open an account at TD Bank for $100 and get rid of my pennies that way.

CrystalChick said...

Rob, I enjoyed this post very much. As patient as I can be, there are times when I'm just not. And a reminder is always a welcome thing. Thank you.
Interestingly, just this morning at my favorite coffee cafe I paid for my drink with coins. There might have been someone behind me but I didn't hear any heavy sighs or foot tapping so I guess I counted it out quick enough. ;)

Rob K said...

Take your time! People tapping their feet need to slow down a little!