Monday, March 20, 2017

COLUMN: Change

It's probably not a good omen to kickoff 2017 griping like an old man, but it might just be my new specialty.

By the time you read this, I will have made my 46th revolution around the sun, which officially puts me closer to age 50 than 40. This does NOT sit well with me. I'm not QUITE ready to call myself an old man, but I think my days of self-describing as a "club kid" are over. I'm more like a "club man," and that just doesn't seem to work.

I am, inarguably, an adult. So why am I so bad at adulting? I don't know the first thing about car maintenance. The only things I know how to fix are empty dancefloors and frozen pizzas. I'm still not exactly sure what an "escrow" is, other than I keep paying it along with my mortgage because that's what adults do.

But there's one secret of adulting that eludes me more than anything else: I am incapable of saving money.

A streaming movie here or there, a trip or two to the record store, and a journey to the Taco Bell drive-thru now and again never feels like I'm spending a fortune, but it must add up. There's no other way to explain why I've spent the better part of my life living paycheck to paycheck. If it's in the bank, I'm spending it -- with little to show after the fact.

I might not make a very responsible adult, but I'm nothing if not creative, and I've figured out a way to defeat my own spending habits and save at least a little bit of scratch every year: I bought a jar. Okay, let's start 2017 with some honesty. I didn't buy a jar. I bought an oversized container of cheese balls. But I now refer to that cheese ball container as the First National Bank of Shane.

When I come home from work every night, I empty my pockets and throw all my extra change into the jar. It might be the grade school method of saving money, but it works. Remember two summers ago when I took a vacation to New York City? Paid in full by the jar. My X-Box One? Thanks, jar. Christmas gifts every year? Here comes Santa Jar.

Na'er-do-wells: Please do not break in and ransack my house looking for the jar. I have a security system and you WILL be on candid camera. Plus, trust me on experience when I tell you that there's nothing more embarassing than rolling up to a bank to deposit a giant jar of "CHEESE POOFS." And, as it turns out, now they won't let you.

When I went to cash in my change last month, I swapped the cheese poof container for three different smaller, slightly less embarassing jars. The cashier watched as I brought in one, then two, then the third jar of change.

"Hi!" I said with the pride and satisfaction of an adult capable of adulting. "I need to deposit this change into my account."

"I'm sorry," she replied. "We no longer accept change."

Umm. Say what? (AND why not tell me this BEFORE I lugged all three jars inside?)

Webster's defines "bank" as "the land alongside or sloping down to a river or lake." Wait, whoops. I need the other definition. "A tier of oars." No, that's not it. "The cushion of a pool table." Dagnabbit, hang on. Okay, here it is: "A financial establishment that invests money deposited by customers, pays it out when required, and exchanges currency."

Last I checked, silver change is currency. But no, apparently MY bank has now decided that it can be picky-choosy when it comes to what currency it takes in. As she explained, they recently did away with their change-counting machine due to its tendency to break down, and instead just decided to establish a corporate rule to not accept unrolled change.

"So you won't take this money for which I've established a savings account in order to save?"

"Sir," she said curtly. "We simply have no way of counting this money."

"That's funny," I replied. "I know a way to count it. Twenty-five... fifty... seventy-five... ONE dollar. Twenty-five..." She was not amused.

She gave me two options: Either take the change to one of those Coinstar machines that splits the profits with you, or come back later with the money neatly secured in coin rolls. There was nothing I could do but express my displeasure and storm out of the bank, an act that loses a bit of drama when you have to storm out three times in a row in order to haul three jars of change BACK to the car.

Look, I get it. I wouldn't want to count change either. That's why I'm not a bank. I don't like it when I'm at a DJ gig and somebody requests "Baby Got Back," but I still play it, because I'm a DJ, and that's my job. How are rolled coins any better than loose change? If there's no one at the bank to count it, what's to stop Joe Q. Public from short-changing the rolls? Or, even more nefariously, someone could easily roll up wooden nickels or a row of quarter-sized washers. This policy seems like it would create more problems than solve.

I'm sure some families spent Christmas night basking in the glow of a warm fire, singing carols and reflecting in the joy of the holiday season. The Brown family, meanwhile, spent Christmas night like Ebeneezer Scrooge on a bender, huddled around a pile of coin rolls indignantly muttering, "ONE penny... TWO pennies... THREE pennies..." If there were chestnuts roasting on any open fires, I sure missed it. I had dimes to roll up.

I tried to be an adult, I really did. I saved money like a grown-up (or, perhaps, like a 5-year-old with an alarming affinity for cheese balls.) It's not MY fault that my bank would have none of it. Maybe this is a sign I should take my freshly-rolled coins to the record store instead. I'll be the one shopping for old man music.

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