September 9, 2008
By Jessica Auz, Plantation, FL

Richard was late again. He watched as the guy in line ahead of him counted nickels and dimes out of his pocket.

“Need a buck or two?” Richard asked, pulling his own wallet from his back pocket.

“No thanks, man. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it.”

“Sir,” said the pretty teenage cashier, “You’re still a dollar and eighteen cents short.”
The guy dug his left hand deeper into the pocket of his faded blue jeans. “I’m sure I have it. Just give me a sec.”
Richard couldn’t grasp why people insisted on counting out exact change. Here he was a perfectly nice stranger offering to help pay for this guy’s groceries, and the guy would rather hold up everyone else while he dug around for coins.

Richard stepped forward and taped the man’s shoulder. “I have an extra two bucks right here. Really I don’t mind. I’m in a little bit of a rush.”
The guy didn’t even seem to notice that Richard had spoken as he pulled a handful of coins from his pocket. Richard relaxed a little when he saw at least four quarters in the pile.

“A dollar, eighteen, you said?” he asked the cashier.

“Yes, sir.” Although she did her best to cover it up, Richard could sense the impatience in her voice now. He didn’t blame her either. The line behind him had at least doubled in the last few minutes it had taken this guy to fish out his coins.

Slowly, he removed four quarters, a dime, a nickel, and three pennies from his hand. “Here you are.” The cashier took his payment and quickly printed his receipt. “Thanks a lot,” he said with a smile, “You have a great day now.”

The cashier rolled her eyes. “He does this every so often.”

“Really?” Richard asked.

“Yeah, he comes in like once a month. He always buys flowers. He always counts out change and never accepts a buck from anybody.”

Richard handed her his gallon of milk. “I guess he’s got his reasons.”

“Yeah, whatever,” she said, sighing, “I just hate the way the line gets backed up.”

“That must be a pain.” Richard handed her his money for the milk.

She shrugged. “What can you do?”

“I guess that’s life,” Richard said, taking his receipt and turning for the exit. When he made it to the bus stop outside, he noticed the same guy from inside sitting on the bench. Richard put his milk on the ground and sat down beside him.

“Thanks for the offer inside, man, but I just couldn’t accept,” the guy said.

“No problem. I really did have the extra cash.”

“Yeah, but it’s just not the way this works.” He shifted in his seat to face Richard. “You see, I have this habit of picking up coins off the ground whenever I see ‘em lying around. My girlfriend, she hates it. She’s a major neat-freak, thinks I’m gonna get some disease from a penny or something.” Richard couldn’t help but chuckle.
“I know what you mean. My wife is always bugging me to do things differently. Like this milk for example,” he said, nudging the plastic container with his toe, “she gave me the hardest time when I told her I didn’t want to stop for it after work.”
The coin guy pushed his flowers up under nose his and took a deep breath with his eyes closed. “It used to bug me too,” he said, opening his eyes, “Then I decided to turn the whole thing around. I told her I could take my habit that she hated so much and make it something good.”
“This otta be interesting,” Richard said under his breath.
“So, I started collecting these coins that I found and keeping ‘em in this jar on the dresser. It never takes long before I’ve got a pretty good stash going. Then, when I notice that my girl is having a bad day, I just empty my jar and catch the bus up here to the store and pick her up some flowers. Always makes her smile, and she never says a word about me picking up coins anymore.”
Richard smiled in spite of himself. “That’s why you can’t take a buck or two from someone else, right?”
“Exactly correct. That just wouldn’t be right. The whole point is to take my dirty, disease-carrying coins and turn them into something beautiful for her.”

“I bet she never saw that one coming.”

“No sir. Hey, I hope I didn’t make you too late. I think I see the bus coming now anyway.”
“No you didn’t make me any later than I made myself,” Richard said as he stood up and collected his bag. The bus pulled to a screeching stop right in front of them, but Richard didn’t get on.
“Aren’t you coming, man?” the guy with the flowers asked.
“No. Not just yet. I have something else to pick up from in there,” Richard said, fingering the loose coins in his pocket.

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This article has 1 comment.

b1719665 said...
on Sep. 15 2008 at 7:30 pm
Great story! Makes me want to buy flowers for someone special!


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