Sorry, Charlie

Lincoln penny - obverse ("heads") hesign used since inception.

After putting if off forever, the other day I finally starting counting up my coins and slipping them into the paper coin wrappers I grabbed at my friendly neighborhood bank. Counting the coins took some time, but no problem: in my mind it was like free money. When I arrived at the friendly neighborhood bank I walked up to a teller and showed her my vast array of coin rolls, and she looked at them and said:

“You know we have a machine for that now.”

“No kidding?”

“And it doesn’t charge you or anything.”

“Sounds like a bargain.”

“Do you mind putting them in there instead?”

“I’d be happy to.”

Another bank customer might have been miffed to learn that he/she spent so much time preparing coin currency to be transmogrified into paper currency, but I’m too upbeat to let something like that drag me down. Gleefully I walked over to a machine that was about the size of R2D2 in Star Wars and, come to think of it, looked kind of like R2D2 in Star Wars. After pressing a couple buttons I opened the lid, cracked open a roll of dimes, closed the lid, pressed another button and then watched as the machine counted my money.

“The wonders of technology,” I said out loud to myself.

I decided to crack open my coin rolls and dump them in descending monetary order: dimes, nickels and then pennies. As it turns out, I had way more pennies than anything. I can’t tell you exactly how many though, because, well, things didn’t go so well with the pennies. Somewhere in the middle of my penny count R2D2 broke down, which was frustrating because I could barely stand the suspense of finding out just how many pennies I had. After walking over an employee opened the machine with a key, only to find that coins that were supposed to end up in plastic bags were strewn everywhere.

“Damn it,” the employee said.

“The wonders of technology,” I said.

After ten minutes of bag surgery the employee closed the machine and pressed some buttons. As it turns out the pennies that had entered the machine but had not yet been counted we will never be able to be account for because when the machine turned back on it forget about all my other pennies and basically was waiting for fresh new coins to be deposited.

“Sorry about that,” the employee said.

I returned to the teller with the receipts that I signed for the currency that the machine was able to count.

“We’ll call you up if we find an imbalance,” she said.

“The wonders of technology,” I said.

Somewhere, on a private island, the person who invented that machine is drinking piña   coladas with the bank exec who invented the money-counting machine. Their lives will not be changed because the machine doesn’t work, and no one else in the bank will suffer, because ultimately its faults increase their profit margin. As for the rest of us, all I can say is that with time I think we too will begin to appreciate the wonders of technology.

I thought that was the end of my story, but it turns out it is not, for the other day I received a check which in turn sent me back to my friendly neighborhood bank. Although I was simply there to deposit the check, curiosity got the better of me: I found myself glancing over at R2D2, which now had a sign on it that, after the transaction was completed, I walked over and read. And here is what it said: Out of Order.

Staring at that sign, I felt impressed that it was my pennies that caused the machine to malfunction. In a way it gave me a feeling of power; in fact, I felt like a magician. What happened the day R2D2 malfunctioned proved that I had the ability to make money disappear (I suppose that’s been proven many times before, but still). By the same token, I have to give some credit to the bank, for not everyone can miscount your hard-earned money, shrug their shoulders, say “Sorry, Charlie,” and get away with it.


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