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A Penny Saved
My dear Readers:
My cousin Poor Richard once said: "A penny saved is a penny earned." I have not always followed his advice in my life, but lately one British monarch and several American Presidents wince when they see me coming, knowing that I will squeeze them tight should I get my hands on them. My frugality with the coin of the realm has been a recent virtue for me. I have no direct infusion of Scot's blood flowing in my veins, so I place the blame on an extreme fondness for morning oatmeal and oatmeal cookies, which overtook me during the oats-are-healthy-food fad a few years ago.
When I was growing up in the 1950s, saving things was a way of life and often a big human interest focus in the news. Every so often we were asked to be fascinated by the sheer size of a ball of string or chewing-gum foil that someone had been saving. With memories of the Depression and Second World War still fresh, many people saved all manner of detritus during that time. I do hope that most of those savers were not expecting that mass of fibre or aluminum foil to bring them a fortune someday.
I often wonder whatever became of those huge balls of string we saw on the evening news or in the morning edition. How many of us today run around the house looking for string? Except the gardeners. Not many I would guess. Do you remember those days when we bundled the week's newspapers with twine and stored them until the next charity paper drive? Now we have the blue box and curbside pick-up. The string industry is likely not one of the growing areas of the economy. Even good ol' kite string today is more like fishing line than string. So, were those balls retired to spend their last decades in some garage or shed or barn? Or were they sent to the dump to be buried with the other follies of consumerism?
Today, people save a different manner of object, pseudo-art: beanie babies and diminutive figures of movie characters; plates commemorating a celebrity's latest award or plaques from Uncle Willie's Python Ranch. At least string had some use (and still does, just ask the tomato grower) beyond the sales pitch of "tremendous future value." The only future value I see coming from most of these collections will be found in the investment portfolio of the company executives who marketed and sold the stuff. (I don't suppose beanie babies are filled with edible beans.)
Humans appear to be one of the few species who horde things, a trait shared with some birds and rodents, many of which store edibles for the winter season or use collected objects as part of their mating ritual. And even these animals use and then discard their collections often. Imagine the hazards of the autumn sky if migrating birds attempted to take their nesting materials south with them.
I have descended from a long-line of pack rats and the gene remains strong even if as yet undetected. Why, I bet I could produce a bent ten-penny nail for you if you asked for one. You just never know when you will need one to repair that lawn furniture. (What do you mean lawn chairs are no longer wooden? I still have several in the garage somewhere, perhaps behind that weed whacker that just needs a new whizzle nut to work again.)
Our family has been waiting for one of us to become famous enough to open that "what-not and curio" museum commemorating our family flagship. And, with cousin George W. running for a state office (or was that running from a state officer?), we may be opening soon. I can just hear the patrons (at $5 a head) sigh in amazement as they see the jars of assorted nuts and bolts and electric gizmos. I knew those Philco radio tubes would be worth the extra shed space someday.
Pack-rat accumulating and saving is a growth industry and has spin-off potential for the economy. Why, only last summer my library of appliance manuals increased by 12% and required I hire a handyman to build a new storage cabinet in the storage room we added to the house addition the previous year. So if you ever forget how to turn on that electric knife, call, write or email me. I may have that manual.
But getting back to the main point of this essay, I have a beef with cousin Richard. These days that penny saved is hard to get rid of. I kept tossing them into an ice cream pail for many years. Then one day the shelf where I kept the pail began to sag ominously, and I decided it was time to take the monetary mass to the bank. I now know why they call them Savings and Groan offices.
When I arrived at the financial institution and pushed the pail onto the counter, I was told by the teller I had approached that he did not handle cash transactions. Then I was told by another that I could only turn in a limited quantity of pennies per visit, and to do so, I must roll them up. Well, how do you think I got the pail into the bank!?!
When I did comply with their rules, they had the nerve to "unroll" the pennies (fortunately not back toward the door) and feed them to a machine which counted them and then rolled them back up into their coin holders! Why they couldn't have done that in the first place is beyond me!
In the end, it cost me $3 for the plastic penny rolls and $145 for chiropractic bills to realign my spine after lugging the pennies around and lifting them onto the bank teller's counter. Parking downtown cost me another $5 and gasoline $20. I did get $203.50 credited to my account. Thus, two years of pennies saved earned me $203.50 and cost me $173. No wonder Richard was poor!
I am not saying we shouldn't save our money, but I will focus more in the future on the dollars and drop the pennies in the charity box. I hope the banks treat the charitable organizations better.
The editor has asked that I save some space this month in recognition to the issue theme, and since I will always do less when asked, I will end here and save my other observations for a future piece.
You penny-wise and pound-fullest servant,
p. Keith, PbH
Poor Keith's Almanac: A Penny Saved by Keith C. Heidorn, PhD . ©1997, All Rights Reserved.
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