Lame Adventure 356: For the Love of a Nickel

It was shortly after seven on a recent chilly weeknight on the Upper West Side.

Freezing cold night.

More like a freezing cold night.

I was doing some after work multitasking – laundry and food shopping at my market on Upper Broadway, Fairway.  I had just tossed my clothes in a drier and then made a beeline to purchase foodstuffs.  As I was exiting Fairway in my usual irrational hurry, as if walking faster would somehow make my chores finish sooner,  I noticed an elderly man with a cane walking stiffly.  The expression on his face looked disoriented.  I wondered:

Me:  Is he okay?  Am I supposed to do something here?

He had a thick thatch of snow-white hair and was wearing crisply pressed casual clothes and immaculate white sneakers.  His cane looked like it was made from some fancy wood, not a piece of crap you can buy at The Piece of Crap store.  I figured that he was a long time Upper West Side resident, probably a lifelong liberal that made good money, has had at least one wife and a few kids and grandkids.  It’s possible that his family loves him very much.  He probably is respected amongst his peers, however many of them are still kicking.  He didn’t look like a bastard and might have even had dogs and cats in his life.  Possibly he might even have or had a crazy bird bursting with personality like my longtime bud,  BatPat, and her feathered friend, Buttafuoco.

"I am always ready for my close-up!"

“I’m always ready for my close-up!”

For all I know he might even have a lovely aquarium in his home right now.  This old guy was very likely a good guy, someone who will be sorely missed by many when he buys his rainbow.

As I walked on, I was haunted by the likelihood that this fellow was in the throes of some sort of health emergency.  Since I did notice him, I was his human Life Alert.  How could I walk on?  What if this man was my own Dear Old Dad, there was a woman like me that noticed that he might be in trouble, but she ignored the signs and walked away?  I thought:

Me: You cold-hearted bitch.  I hate you!

Instantly, I suffered Grade A level guilt.  I turned back to look at the man on the bustling avenue, narrowly avoiding getting run over by two completely oblivious teenage girls that had just blown past him.  They momentarily obscured my view of what was going on with this fine fellow.  This prompted me to think:

Me (thinking): Just the type of brats that would suck the marrow out of their grandfathers’ bones!  Ingrates!

Quickly, my senior citizen was back in view.  He was now looking quite contorted — bent at the waist, knees starting to buckle, awkwardly holding his cane with his left hand while reaching down towards the sidewalk with his right.  I reasoned that he was desperately trying to break the hard fall that was surely coming.  I gasped.  I shifted the gears in my feet to turbo-charge.  Arthritic knee be damned!  With puffs of exhaust jetting out of my butt-ugly hybrid winter boot-sneakers courtesy of the Land’s End Women of a Certain Age Exchange Style for Price collection, I motored to his rescue.  I could hear him groaning.  I screamed inside my head:

Me:  Hang on, Mister!  A lot of people love you!

As I was almost upon him, I realized that he wasn’t suffering a stroke or a heart attack.  He was reaching down to pick up a nickel off the sidewalk.

Crisis averted.

For this.

Coveted coinage.

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119 responses to “Lame Adventure 356: For the Love of a Nickel

  1. Snoring Dog Studio

    OMG! SHE’S BACK! I laughed throughout the entire post. Hilarious! When I get really old – much older than I am now – I’ll probably have lots of these experiences. I’ll be the town’s old lady, leaning over in the middle of traffic trying to pry out the dime that has melted into the asphalt. I have my eye on that dime. I walk past it regularly. It’s driving me nuts. I just need to get about 10 years older and then I won’t care what people think when I bend down, tweezer in hand and try to dig the damn thing out of the pavement.

    You are a fine humanitarian. I wonder how many people you knocked down trying to get to the old dude.

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    • Good to have you back over here, Jean! I know that dime well, too, since it’s nationally embedded treasure. At this stage of personal decrepitude, I only stoop for quarters and cash. As for how many people I mowed over trying to get to the old dude, that’s a good question. Let’s just say I was influenced by the car chase scene in The French Connection.

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  2. Philadelphia is somewhat slower paced than New York. Down here you could have picked up the nickle for him and handed it to him. In NY he mighta hit you on the head with the cane as you bent over and screamed “That’s MY nickle, Bitch!” :>

    Heh, I say that because I had ALMOST that experience after being in Philly for three years working in a Quaker peace commune. I went to NY to visit my family and stopped in one of the new video game parlors in Penn Station. A guy was standing playing a game while about two feet away another guy was sitting on a tall stool playing a game. I stood there watching the two of them for a moment as the sitter finished and walked away. The stander started to reach over for the stool, just barely touched it and then something exploded on his screen and he had to snatch his hand back to jiggle the button. I figured I’d be nice, and went to move the stool over for him.

    Of course as I reached forward, the next thing I heard
    THAT”S MY F”N SEAT ASSHOLE!!!!!!!!
    and I was lucky to escape with my teeth!

    :>
    MJM

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    • Yes, it is true, Michael, that I could have picked up the nickel for him, but I did have flashbacks of getting beaten by a cane — something that actually happened to me about 23 years ago when I held the door for an elderly woman with a cane as she was exiting the Korean market near where I live. Did that gesture detonate her! I got it good across the shoulders. Looking back, I now realize that her astrological sign is the 13th one, Sour. Anyway, I’ve been cane-shy ever since. That angry bat was probably the mother or grandmother of those guys you recently encountered in Penn Station. It’s a relief to know that you escaped that bit of New York hospitality with your teeth.

      Good to hear from you!

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  3. Meant to add a P.S. : And that’s part of why I’ve remained in Philly for the last 30 years! LOL!

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  4. There really is a whole ‘nuther level of shit going on in your brain.

    One question (for now): What color are your boots?

    God bless you LA woman.

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  5. This is funny as hell! ~Laughing~

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  6. Piece of Crap Store–FTW!
    I thought you were going to steal the old dude’s cane.
    Brilliant post, hon!

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  7. Thanks Jules.

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  8. hahaha…..he wasn’t ill, just cheap. That was funny V. 🙂

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  9. hahahahaha
    Excellent post, I didn’t see the ending coming. I thought it was going to turn nasty, as in the man hitting you with the cane, luckily it wasn’t.
    Really funny, loved it.

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  10. ha haa he didn’t look like a bastard. This was so damn funny woman. I laughed the whole way– just like everyone else. Love the boots too. Sigh we all have em. And damn it has been freaking miserably cold eh?

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  11. Haaaaa!!!! Leave it to you to try to do a good deed for Ebenezer Scrooge! A very hearty post holiday “Bah Humbug!” to you!

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  12. V, you make me laugh out loud. What a humanitarian you are. Sainthood is most likely in your future. At least it’s getting warmer. Do you pick up nickels off of NYC streets? Not sure I’d bend down for less than a dollar coin myself. And glad you got past the “OMG like whatever” girls to make sure the elderly guy was okay.

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  13. oh, thank you. Your story really hit the spot as I sit here toiling in the throes of writing advertising copy for nonagenarians. I loved the delicious description of your boots! You are a true humanitarian.

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    • Gee, thanks for the compliment Jane. I thought I was a bit of a conclusion jumping bonehead. With enough ridiculously deep Land’s End savings, I’m waiting for the day when they’ll just let me have boots like those for free.

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  14. Hey a nickel is like worth about 2 cents these days!
    I gotta believe a “lame” conversation ensued. Is there a part II?

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  15. Good one as usual!

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  16. You were sweet to think of the old fella. However, the word on the street is that he’s a cheap bastard.

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  17. And I wonder if the “Piece of Crap” store is anything like a useless crap store, where they sell scented stationary and mugs with those creepy naked “love is” kids.

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    • Clearly, you know the EXACT store I was referring to, you sage, you. Also, those stores smell funny, too, like boiled pine, not that I’ve ever tried to boil a forest. If I did, I’d make sure to write about it here.

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  18. Eagle-Eye LA Woman ever vigilant!

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  19. you’re a good kid, sugar, but tell me this: WTF happened to your groceries with all that running? ;~) xoxox

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    • Funny you should ask Savannah, but I pretty much do my marketing daily, so it wasn’t a heavy bag. You know, little more than a few rolls, bananas and a small slab of yogurt cheese. Boring foodstuffs.

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  20. Judith Stockman

    Loved this!

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  21. V,
    You made me laugh out loud, seriously. Actually, this was a great piece of writing – cudos. And thank God, it was at least a nickel and not a penny.
    Cathy

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  22. Really good story, V. Funny, touching and it even had a kind of a crisis/chase scene it. I love your character study. I do that with people. I get a whole scenario about them, their spouses, how mean their mother was, offspring, whether they really do like refried beans with their sushi …, and my daughter does the same thing, so when she is with me we get a whole movie going. When you’re done, you feel like you’ve had this long conversation with them while actually you were only gazing at them from a distance.

    Ya gotta think, the guy lived through the Great Depression and since we’ve been on the brink of another, he is wisely going for the nickel.

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    • Samantha, speaking of nickels and saving on the brink of a new Depression, I’m on an email list run by an older fella from my alma mater and he’s gone on at some length about how we should all be hoarding bags of nickels. :> Evidently pre-1982(?) nickels have some metal content that is speculated to be on the brink of greatly increasing in value. They may already be worth 6 cents or so in melt value.

      :>
      Michael
      P.S. That 1982 date might be wrong… I might be getting it mixed up with the transition from copper pennies (worth almost 2 cents in melt value I think) and zinc pennies (worth bupkis.)
      P.P.S. In the midst of all this budget cutting, why don’t they ever consider a cessation of minting pennies?

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    • Or, my take on him could be completely off the mark, and my pal, Martini Max’s could have been completely on the money (pun intended) when he referred to the guy as Ebenezer Scrooge. No doubt that he was a youngster during the depression, but my gut feeling, Samantha, was that he was someone that did not really need that last nickel today.

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  23. It’s good to know there are people like you on the streets every day, LA. You may be in another country, but it’s the thought that matters! By the way, did you pick the coin up for him or let him get it himself?

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    • Tom, I wouldn’t go anywhere near his coveted coin for fear of finding myself caned under the law of “finders keepers”. What if he thought I was trying to take it and he gives me a hard whack over the head? I wouldn’t dare risk it!

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  24. *Heaves sigh of relief*….I love the idea of being someone’s life alert. I think you did your job admirably. Got to give people their space, keep them at the edge of your vision just in case….

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  25. I was actually riveted by this. Ha. It would have been amazing if he’d thought you were racing to beat him to the nickel and held up his cane threateningly. “I saw it first, missy! Get back!”

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  26. Amen to that. And can I get a hallelujah for the stilettoes?

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  27. I think the penny would have more supporters if banks were required to accept them in unrolled form. At the moment I have one of those 48oz(?) tomato juice tins or pipe tobacco tins filled with $30 worth of pennies give or take about 25 cents by weight. I am not a “speed roller.” Plus I’d feel sort of obligated to count each batch twice to make sure I had the amount right.

    There’s no reason why banks can’t spend the $25 to $50 or so that it would take to have a scale that would give a penny count accurate to within a nickle or less. They could make up the cost of the scale by a surcharge rounding down to the nearest nickle — or they could make a fortune by rounding down to the nearest dime or dollar!

    A slightly sad but also rather funny story: When my mother died almost twenty years ago, my brother and I spent several months cleaning out the old family home. Over many years the family had filled one of those big (about two feet high, 15″ or so in diameter) plastic whiskey-bottle coin bottles with perhaps a hundred pounds or so of pennies. One late night we decided to carry the bottle out to my brother’s car and bring it to his home for his young daughters to count and roll (Kid slave labor fer pennies, ain’t it great?). We hefted it out to the curb and went to put it down on the sidewalk while the car door was unlocked and the local gang of ne’er-do-wells eyed us from their corner hangout. We were trying to be low-profile, quiet, and quick.

    Of course as soon as the thin, brittle plastic hit the irregulaties of a Brooklyn slate sidewalk the entire bottle split open as if it had been hit by a sledgehammer and it sounded like the million-dollar-Las-Vegas-Slot-Machine had hit a big one! The gang stopped talking and just stood there staring at us.

    For the next fifteen minutes or so my brother and I, trying to contain our laughter and embarrassment and concerns were scooping handfuls of pennies into the air and just throwing them into his open car. Meanwhile, one of my mother’s neighbors, someone she never got along with and who disapproved of both her and us, walked by and just stood there for a while glaring at us as though we were gleefully robbing her grave and just throwing her riches around.

    Sooooo…. that’s MY big penny story!

    🙂
    Michael

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  28. So all you New Yorkers aren’t so jaded after all 🙂

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  29. Gee Lame, you sure analysed the hell out of that old fart. Was it the white shoes that triggered the caring emotions? As I get older (and more senile), I hope there will be someone like you in my neck of the woods who will rush to my rescue when two apparently drunken hillbillies attempt to make me bob for false teeth in a bucket of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

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  30. I love it. This really is one of those Only in New York stories. You’re a good person to have noticed him and to have readied yourself to come to his aid. Good to know he’s still spry enough to see and pick up nickels. I also love that BatPat has a bird named Buttafuoco.

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  31. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Holy Crap! This was hilarious. I can just see you in your “sneakers courtesy of the Land’s End Women of a Certain Age Exchange Style for Price collection,” rushing off to the scene. Full of guilt ready to save the day, only to have him pick up some change. Ah … what twist. Didn’t see it coming. Thanks for the laugh. I am going to bed in good mood because of your little story. 🙂

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  32. French Connection: best. car. chase. ever. Found you through Susie, too. Hope inflation never leads us to only consider Susan B. Anthony pieces. 🙂 Nice job.

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    • I agree with you Bob; that chase scene in FC is a classic. What’s a bit melancholy about that film to me now is that there’s a shot where you can see the World Trade Center under construction. I also like the chase scene in Bullitt very much, and for comic effect, I loved the looney chase in What’s Up Doc?

      They still make SAB dollars? It’s Sacagawea now … and yes, I had to look that up since I was tempted to suggest it’s Pocahontas.

      Like

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