We've all felt it.
I reached into one pants pocket:
I reached deep into the other pocket:
Ten... Twenty... Twenty-five... Twenty-six... cents
Here at the far reaches of E, it would cost over forty dollars to fill up my tank. I can remember when just one dollar a gallon was high. And sure, I could settle for a lower grade gas, but I'm a hard-working man. Why should I settle for less?
I stared longingly at the fuel pump. Then, at my thirsty tank. Then, back at the fuel pump again.
After all, desperate times do call for desperate measures. And payday seemed soooooooo far away. Besides, no one else was around...
But when I considered the news headline,
and my black-and-white mugshot attached to it - my parents, my friends, the bumper stickers, the Five Point vendors pushing T-shirts urging to free me from jail, the marches... the shame, the shame. I considered all of this and swiftly decided against it.
But the shiny change jingling in my pocket did give me a bright idea. In the far reaches of my laundry room, in my apartment, was a plastic bag. But not just any plastic bag - but one containing dozens, even hundreds, perhaps millions of shiny nickels and dimes and quarters just waiting to be poured into my tank!
For days, for weeks, for months, for years it has sat waiting and fattening for such a moment. My...
dum, dum, dum, dum......
Time for a visit to my friendly neighborhood Coinstar machine!
A person with more pride might have felt embarrassed: climbing out of a fume-powered Infiniti, walking through the Kroger Supermarket parking lot on a cell phone, carrying a 10-pound plastic bag stretching far beyond its natural limit from loose change. But I wasn't a person with more pride: I was a brotha riding on E.
Cell phone still pressed to my ear, I asked, "Where is your change machine?" to a clerk who obviously wanted to be anywhere but here this Saturday morning.
How rude of me, I thought, a tad too late.
Without a word, she banished me to a far corner of the store.
"_e___a, I'm gonna hafta call you back. It's about to get serious up in here!"
And I dumped my bag of spare change - two years worth - into the Coinstar machine and, for five minutes, watched the metal coins feed down, down, down into its wide, guzzling mouth.
Ten dollars, twenty dollars, thirty dollars...
And the total kept rising and rising. It was like playing a slot machine, except there were only winnings!
When all was said and done, I had Fifty-four dollars and seventy-six cents. Sure, Coinstar takes 8.75%, which is a little steep, but considering that I only had air and lint when I walked into the store, I felt pretty good about myself, ready to fill up my tank of gas.
Before leaving, I checked the reject slot to see if any coins were left. When gas costs over $2.30 a gallon, every nickel counts.
Ironically, there were no U.S. coins, but there were five MARTA tokens. Maybe converting coins into dollars isn't the change I need.
Who's down for public transit?