I’ve had a pocket-full of pennies, and a friend and I were investigating them. We marveled especially at the cheap appearance of the 2009 penny. It has a thin lip. The artwork on its backside is too busy and lacks the simple elegance of the Lincoln Memorial portrayed on previous pennies. E Pluribus Unum, which last stood banner-like at top center above the Lincoln Memorial, has been moved downward and reduced to the appearance of lawn, emblematic perhaps of our late national tendency to tred on the interests of many to enable the greed of a few.
My pocket-full of pennies was jingling heavily when I crossed the street a few days ago for a muffin. There’s a coffee stand in the building across the street from my office where I go regularly to pick-up The New York Times and a blueberry muffin. The muffins are university products, a day old and sticky under cling-wrap, but they provide a sweet top-off for my earlier breakfast. There was no one in line at the stand one day this week so I decided to cash-in some pennies for my $1.89 muffin.
I pulled a pile of change from my pocket and began to sort-out and push pennies toward the barista. She counted the pennies and slid them into denominational (so-to-speak) clusters. As we approached the end of the transaction, she pushed one penny back toward me.
“It’s Canadian,” she said.
“Sorry,” I said. Up here in the northern tier of states, we frequently get Canadian coins sliding surreptitiously in our change. I put the Canadian penny back in my pocket.
I slid a few more pennies toward the barista.
“What’s this!?” She asked sharply.
I looked up at the bright penny.
“It’s one of the new pennies,” I said.
The barista picked-up the penny for a closer look. “Queen Elizabeth!” She said. She tilted her head low to glance beneath her bangs at me. She was dubious—as if I’d attempted to undermine the economy by pushing a British pence.
The barista dropped the Queen’s penny in my palm, and I slid it into my pocket. I pushed another penny across the counter to her.
The barista said nothing. She swept the pennies into her hand then clanked them into the cash register.
Chastened, I took my muffin.