When I was a kid, a penny actually bought a piece of candy at the corner store. A bottle was worth 3 cents. Finding either on the sidewalk, or under a bush, was rare.
As pennies have bought less, and become worth less with their zinc sandwich filling, I’ve found more and more. Not only pennies, but nickels, dimes, quarters, and the occasional Sacagewea golden dollar.
Where I live, some practitioners of the Santeria religion believe that if they are depressed or angry, that they can clear themselves of these unpleasant emotions by throwing any change in their pockets through the air.
I’ve never asked, but I hope that the bad vibes fall off the coins as they fly through the air.
My Christian neighbors were horrified to see me picking up loose change from the sidewalks. When I asked why, they told me that you can only take the coins that land heads up. You are supposed to turn the other coins over so the next person can have them.
None of this makes sense to me. A coin on the sidewalk quickly becomes a coin in my pocket, and eventually a coin on the countertop at the local veggie shop.
Since the accident, I ride my bike more and walk less. I’ve noticed plenty of coins in the street. But I don’t usually park my bike, pick up the coins, and ride off. I just leave them there for some future pedestrian.
There are exceptions. There was a nickel downtown that sat for weeks in the street right beside parked cars where drivers could have easily retrieved it. One day, I decided that if that coin was still there, it was mine. It was.
Another time, I was stopped at a red light, and I saw several dollars worth of quarters in the gutter. I parked my bike and picked them up.
Bragging about my haul to a woman I take a class with, she laughed. She had just found a $50 bill beside a parking payment station. She said two men were staring at it, discussing if it was real, and what kind of person would just drop it if it was. She walked right up and took it. The men were dumbfounded. Picking it up had not occurred to them.
The oddest coin find I’ve had recently was picking up a Sacagewea under a pay phone. A woman near me asked, “What’s that?” When I told her, “It’s a dollar,” and held it out for her to inspect, she didn’t recognize it.
I found myself wondering if someday, we’ll have a coin free society. If we do, I’ll miss the fun of discovery.