There’s really no point in me having a pre-loaded laundry rewards card because every time I go to the laundromat, I leave it sitting on the table and am left converting what little cash I carry on my person into the poundage of quarters it requires to make the machines function. How is it possible that we’re able to send money via smartphone, deposit checks by high-resolution picture–but it requires 31 quarters to make the washing machine spin?
I was cussing to myself as the machine converted my last remaining $10 bill into coins, how these quarters would contribute nothing to the eight free minutes of drying time I was promised to receive if I spent $50 on my pre-loaded laundry rewards card, when the numbers 1-9-5-7, in that order, arrested my attention. Yes, my disquietude with the laundry establishment was forgotten as I picked up the piece, the date beneath the disinterested profile of a faded George Washington confirming that I had struck silver.
Now, I’m one of the few millennials who knows that coins minted before 1964 are made of 90% silver, and of those who do, I’m part of the even smaller minority that actually cares to check. But come on! The fact that this particular quarter was put into circulation in 1957 makes it worth roughly 20 times its face value! With a find like this, I could continue forgetting my pre-loaded laundry rewards card and scattering errant socks in my wake for, like, two or three more trips and still be several cents ahead.
I had packed some reading material for the hour-long stay, but finding the quarter forced an audible. I watched the machines go round-and-round as I stood guard over my precious silver, taking every precaution to make sure that it didn’t accidentally get fed to one of the machines and doomed to a future of oblivion and anonymity among its much less precious peers.
The quarter rode shotgun all the way home and as I pulled into my driveway, I left the clean laundry wadded in the trunk of my car, the security of my jackpot priority number one. However, much to my dismay, there was no room left in my piggy bank for safekeeping.
Yes, you read that correctly: My piggy bank.
I still have a piggy bank, it’s in the shape of a pig, and it had last been emptied in 2007, before I went to college. Eleven years of accumulation from Colorado to Nebraska to South Carolina, back to Colorado had filled it to the point that not even a ball ping hammer could force another coin into its coffers.
Well, to ensure that 1957 was going to last past 2018, I was going to have to make a little room in the pig. It probably wasn’t the worst idea that I emptied it, anyway, seeing that I was completely cash broke due to the laundromat taking my last $10 bill. I set the quarter carefully on the table, right next to the pre-loaded laundry rewards card, grabbed the piggy bank, and headed to my neighborhood Wells Fargo.
Is there anything more stressful than going to your neighborhood Wells Fargo near closing time? Apparently, not everyone deposits their checks by high-resolution picture because the line at my neighborhood Wells Fargo was extensive. I was afraid of getting kicked out and the doors locked before I had the chance to speak to the next available teller. Finally, after an interminable wait, my moment finally arrived.
I hustled to the counter before they could close the place down.
“Pleeeeze swipe your Wells Fargo Debit Card, eeeenter your PEEEEN, and select one of zee options on zee screen so I can better asseeeest you today,” she directed in choppy English. I swiped my card, entered my PIN, and selected “other.”
“How can I asseeeest you today?” the teller asked, looking at me through the glass.
I plopped the pig down on the counter. “This piggy bank is full of coins, and I need you to convert them into bills for me,” I instructed.
“What is zees one?” the teller asked in confusion, clearly never having seen a piggy bank before.
“It’s a piggy bank,” I said once again, but when I shook it to give her an aid as to its contents, the pig was of no asseeeestance, too full to make any kind of rattle.
“Which of zees accounts can I asseeeest you with today?” she asked again, ignoring the pig and turning her computer monitor toward me.
Ugh. I was getting a real-life look as to why the world is becoming completely automated. “I’m not concerned with any of my accounts,” I explained in frustration. “This piggy bank is full of coins–you know, quarters, dimes, pennies–and I need them turned into bills–you know, fives, tens, twenties.”
The teller’s face became animated, finally having understood the reason for my visit. “Wells Fargo does not take zees one,” she countered.
“You’re a bank but don’t accept money?” I asked with a sarcasm that would not make it through the language barrier.
“Not zees one,” she countered.
Well, that’s just great, I pouted. How the fuck was I going to put my silver quarter away for safekeeping if I couldn’t clear my piggy bank of the contents that currently occupied it? I guess I’d have to tell the lovely ladies of Wade’s Cafe to come complaining to their neighborhood Wells Fargo when I paid for my next tab with nothing but coins.
“We can have zees…..peeeennies,” the teller interrupted my pity party, “eef zay are eeeen zare package.” She opened her drawer and pulled out a roll of quarters to show me what they would accept.
Okay. So they wanted me to roll my coins for them. I used to roll coins with my grandpa when I was a little kid, but I had no idea that was still a thing.
“Can I get some of those?” I asked, pointing to the wrapper in which her quarters were encased.
But that language barrier again. She thought I was pointing to the actual quarters. “Zees one eeeez for $10,” she explained, her face deadpan, pushing the quarters toward the aperture in the protective window.
I really wanted to ask her why the fuck would I want her quarters when the whole point of me coming to my neighborhood Wells Fargo in the first place was to get rid of my own, but I exhaled, snatched my piggy bank off the counter, and left well enough alone.
“Sank you for veeesiting Wells Fargo!” she exclaimed as I stormed out of the building, the security guard waiting to lock the door behind me.
I could have gone back to my apartment. However, the stress of my unsuccessful visit to my neighborhood Wells Fargo was superseded by the vision of my silver quarter sitting unprotected on the kitchen table, so I went to get the packaging I needed to make my coins acceptable for exchange. And in doing so, I answered my previous question about there being anything more stressful than visiting your neighborhood Wells Fargo at closing time. The answer is a resounding “yes.” It’s called Wal-Mart in a low socioeconomic part of town.
Let me describe a scene from a Wal-Mart parking lot that never ceases to amaze me. There’s the woman with the primo parking spot who pops the trunk on her vehicle. Seeing this, the dozens of cars waiting to fill their own cars with superfluous discount merchandise turn on their hazards and form a queue that backs all the way to the main highway. However, the woman who just popped her trunk is nowhere near being ready to leave, as the trunk won’t be able accommodate the mountain of plastic bags and cased soda pop she’s just purchased, so she’s going to have to fold down some of the seats in the back of her car. But she has kids in the back seat, so she has to get the kids out and make sure the stuff she puts on top of the folded down seats is okay for the kids to sit on. By the time she does all of this, checks her receipt, goes back into the store and locates the bag she left sitting at the register, it’s 45 minutes later, and I’ve got to navigate through the horns and wreckage of 27 cars trying to fit into the same parking spot. I don’t have any common sense, but did they really think all 27 of them would fit into the same spot?
But whatever. By the time I finally get parked in a spot in the far corner of the lot, a good 200 yards away from the front door, and weave my way through the line of cars playing the next round of parking spot sweepstakes, I realize that it just might not be possible to find what I’m looking for; my coins could very well be useless to me forever.
CAUTION: WET FLOOR! signs are everywhere. Mothers lavishing their rambunctious children with graphic, visceral threats cause me to steer clear of certain aisles. And the fine folks in the blue vests? Even though they’ve been proud partners since April 2018, they still don’t know where anything is.
My stress-filled walk occupies the better part of an hour, and I rationalize that, if nothing else, I will count this as my visit to the gym for the day, when I finally stumble upon a corner of the vast super-center that looks promising. Stacked in a pile beneath a menagerie of calculators, staplers, and Post-It notes are bags of coin wrappers. And in classic Wal-Mart fashion, the wrappers are exactly what I need but don’t need at all. Sold in packages of 200 for $5.99, these wrappers will allow me to exchange my piggy bank full of coins for currency that is actually spendable. However, I need, like, 10 wrappers–not 200. At my current rate of exchanging coins once every 11 years, I’d need to live to be approximately 250 to use this bag of wrappers. But my coins are useless in their free form, so I decide to make the purchase, willing to spend $5.99 (plus tax) for about $.25 worth of usable coin casing.
I thought the line at my neighborhood Wells Fargo was daunting. Ha! I don’t even want to exaggerate how long I had to wait. I’ll just jump ahead to the moment when there were two customers in line ahead of me. The first must have been in that particular super-center all day because I have no idea how a person could get two entire shopping carts so utterly full. She placed everything from Tupperware storage bins to frozen pizzas to bikini bathing suits on the conveyor belt. When it came time to pay, she used a combination of three different cards to get the balance down, but it still wasn’t enough. So I had to wait as she picked through her bags and decided what to leave behind. She should have chosen the bathing suits, but she didn’t.
Several minutes later, there was only one person separating me from spending my money to wrap my money. This gentleman only had a few items, but, of course, he wanted cigarettes. And the cashier didn’t have a key for the cigarette cabinet. So she had to call her manager. By the time the manager finally came and correctly discerned at which carton the customer was pointing, I didn’t need to be told that a worst-case scenario was about to unfold. The manager handed the carton over and took off, leaving her cashier to complete the transaction. When the cashier scanned the cigarettes, the customer did some math in his head. He wasn’t happy with the price.
So I had to stand there and wait as the customer berated the cashier, telling her that had he wanted to be screwed like that, he could have just walked down the street to 7/11. By the time the manager finally returned and informed the unhappy patron that it was corporate policy not to price match on tobacco products, the man decided that if he couldn’t get a reasonable price on cigarettes, then he didn’t want anything, leaving his unscanned merchandise on the conveyor belt for the employees to deal with.
It probably seemed a little weird for the cashier, by the time she got around to my coin wrappers, to ask “Will that be everything?,” for me to say, “Yes,” for me to pay, collect my receipt, and walk out the door.
I got home and jostled the tightly packed coins out of my piggy bank. It took me nearly two hours to get through the mountain of money that I was out of practice in wrapping. As midnight approached, I discovered that 11 years of scrupulous saving had yielded a grand total of $76.58. I laughed out loud at the memory of my grandma telling me, when I was a little kid, that if I saved five pennies, I could trade them in for a nickel. And if I saved five nickels, I could trade them in for a quarter. And if I saved four quarters, I could trade them in for a dollar bill. And before I knew it, I’d be a millionaire.
I also laughed out loud as I saw the silver quarter and the pre-loaded laundry rewards card sitting side by side in front of me. Had I remembered the damn card, I wouldn’t have been caught up in the past 6 hours of fiasco. But then again, I would have never discovered the quarter dated 1957.
As I tucked my precious coin into the empty piggy bank, its home for the next 11 years, I realized that the time, money, and emotion expended as a result of my unexpected find had already far exceeded the monetary value of its price in silver. I would need to do a better job in the future of remembering the pre-loaded laundry rewards card and making sure not to lose any garments at the laundromat.
But, for what it’s worth, I think the day’s events would make for a pretty amazing episode of Family Guy.