Thursday, February 17, 2011

Suddenly....a quarter is worth so much more than 25 cents.......

Not since the last label-less period in my life have I felt so ingenuous.  After University - not yet identifiable by one's profession but long past adolescence - there is no name for what one is.  You are not yet a parent or a professional but no longer a student or a child.  And now again, with the notable exception of very definitely being parents there is nothing else to identify us as part of a group with our peers. 

In fact, we really have no peers and as such, no peer support.  Gavin, especially, has no peers.  He is a middle aged student in a vocational, career shifting area of study.  I am a stay-at-home mom and we are all living in a retirement community disguised as a resort development.  It's true: when you live near the beach, your neighbours are all white (I refer here, to the colour of both skin and hair), Bermuda short sporting, socks-with-sandals wearing, golf club bearing, shuffleboard stick brandishing seniors.  Real, normal people our age - almost peers - don't live here.  They live in houses with garages far from the beach, from tiki huts serving margaritas and golf courses and close to grocery stores, pharmacies and schools.  The fact that everyone here has children - and sometimes grandchildren - older than me entrenches further our position of "young family starting out".

And so, we are transported back to a time when were much younger, much less established and much more poor.  Just like those days back in University - before the proliferation of cell phones, we are again without the mobile apparatus that keeps us connected and we hunt for working payphones (much harder to come by than even 5 years ago) with our pockets laden with quarters (local calls actually cost 50 cents).  So, quarters are our communication link to each other and the world outside.

They are also the link to hygiene.  Every week, I haul the duffel bag full of laundry down to the launderette. Last week, as a result of a combination of poor planning and too many phone calls made from payphones (!)  we were dangerously low on quarters.  In my rush to get back upstairs before Gavin had to leave for school,  I pop both loads in the washer and run upstairs feeling triumphant:  I have managed to do laundry, feed our child, and generally prepare for the day in enough ways to make me feel self-satisfied and super-momish.
Except that when I return to transfer the load to the dryer, I find I am short a quarter.  Horror of horrors: I am 25 cents away from sleeping on dry sheets.  I dig in my pockets in a last ditch attempt but...nothing but pesky dimes and nickels.  Outside of this moment dimes hold more than 1/3 the value of the quarter.  In fact, nickels and dimes combined can have an even greater total value ....but right now they are worthless.  An idea comes to me, I hold out 30 cents and ask the only other person in the launderette, "Excuse me, will you take three dimes for a quarter?"  She considers "OK, that sounds fair - next time you best come prepared."  I nod sheepishly and put the last quarter in the slot, hear the confirming "clink" as the dryer starts and step away wiping the sweat from my brow. That was a close one.

There is another thing about those suddenly scarce 25 cent pieces that - you would think - are made of platinum rather than the copper/nickel alloy of which they are comprised. You need to stuff them - you guessed it - into a machine,  this time one that gives you access to the only entertainment that occurs in these parts after sunset that a "young family starting out" can afford: TV.  I have always regarded cable as a luxury, even in the most prosperous of times.  Now with financial reserves being metaphorically sliced by the rotor blades of a helicopter (get it?) ...not a chance. 

So, instead we wait for the Sunday paper that has - buried within the hundreds of pages of coupons - the TV listings for the week.  But of course the trail that leads to TV programming enlightenment is treacherous.  We have to race downstairs early on a Sunday morning to get to the newspaper machine before the hoards of the blue rinse set descend upon it.  Then with the precision of a plaid clad golden- age golfer making his morning drive on the fairway,  I feed in the four quarters required to get the extra fat Sunday paper last.....the low down on the week's evening diversion.

Wasn't it Winston Churchill who said, "..Never have so few given so many quarters for..." ..uh, the rest of the quote escapes me.

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