Monday, February 1, 2010

High finance in action

Today I gathered up my giant Martinelli's Apple Juice bottle full of coins (and one $1 bill) and took it over to Ralph's supermarket, where they have a Coinstar machine. Technically I have two of these jars (we like apple juice!) but the other one is only half full, and not ready for depositing.

You insert your money in the machine, Coinstar counts your change and then presents you with a voucher (less 8 cents per dollar) that you can redeem at the cash register. I felt a little foolish doing this so I dressed way down for the event, even for me: I wore my ratty old Old Navy capri length sweats, flip flops, a denim jacket, and my t-shirt with a picture of Ham the Space Chimp wearing a space helmet and smoking a cigarette. I don't know why I felt foolish: maybe because it seems like a desperate act. Here's all my coins! I need the money!

But really, I was just starting to get curious. How much money could an apple juice jar hold, anyway?

It took awhile to find out. At first I kind of overloaded the machine's tray: I didn't realize that the slot for accepting coins was pretty small. That jar was heavy, though, and I was trying to unload it quickly. After a few moments I realized I couldn't dump it all in at once, and I spent about 10 minutes feeding the first group of change into the machine. The on-screen tally at this point was fairly low: I had about $1.98 fed through.

In time, though, I got the hang of it. The Coinstar machine is near the front of the store, next to the Western Union machine and the lottery machine. A bearded man walked up while I was working and he gave me a strange look. I had my sunglasses on (this was a totally anonymous transaction all around for me today), and I guess I gave him a strange look back. Here I was, cashing out on more money than he'd probably make playing the lottery and here he's judging Me?

At the end, I had $62.20, with $6 going back to Coinstar. I was pleased. Ralph's only had two lanes open when I was there, and one was the Express lane, which I initially headed toward. But I realized that the woman working that line was more interested in kissing the baby of the woman at the front of the line, and I didn't want to wait for her to get to me, so I went to the other. This turned out to be a mistake.

The woman in line in front of me had a small amount of items, but one of those items was a box of individual frozen burritos. Turns out there were 24 of them, all of which apparently had to be rung up one at a time. The blond woman working the register saw me with my Ham the Space Chimp t-shirt and sunglasses and Coinstar voucher, and called another clerk to ring at the register next door, but instead of calling me over, the dude called the guy behind me over (rude!). So I stood there and waited while the burrito lady paid for her groceries with singles. Really, and I looked suspicious? When it was my turn, she didn't smile, or say hello, though I did. She appeared to be subtly checking my arms for needle marks. She took my voucher, counted out my money, dropped a dollar, found it, gave it to me somewhat reluctantly (probably saying a little prayer for me) and sent me on my way, probably off to buy drugs (she thought). I thanked her and walked out of there with my money in my left hand and my receipt and now-empty apple juice jar in my right hand. Sure, the tips of my fingers were dirty (change is gross and filthy), but I hadn't rolled a bum or little old lady for the money: most of it came out of Patrick's pockets, when doing his laundry.

I earned that money.

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