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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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The Fickle Nickel Pickle

I try to be efficient.

Not everywhere, of course. Not with word count, obviously. Or money. Or calories. Driving. Data usage. Saving energy. Lists of things I’m not efficient about.

Okay. Different tack. I try to be efficient, when dealing with other humans is involved.

Because unlike those other things, interactions with people are often fiddly and exhausting. You want to limit unnecessary complications. In other words, all of them.

Lately, that requires nickels. Sometimes I enjoy a soda at lunch. On those days, I’m a Pepsi guy. Not a Coke guy; a Pepsi guy. This poses a situation that isn’t “efficient” in the slightest. To wit:

My office provides sodas in the break room. We had a CEO for a while who liked Pepsi, so they bought both brands. Since he left a couple of years ago, Pepsis are off the menu. I could ask for a six-pack or two, sure — but that involves dealing with humans. Clearly, that’s no good.

I could get a soda in the food court of the mall where I park, near the office. But that’s always crowded. There are long lines, and cashiers who tell you about specials you’re not going to eat, and the sodas cost weird amounts of money, like $1.83 or $2.41. That involves dealing with people and carrying screwball amounts of change in my pockets. Come on. That’s crazy talk.

The solution is a stop into the drug store. It’s usually empty — because I go at weird times, and anyway, who buys drugs these days? And better yet, the cost of a bottle is one penny less than two dollars. And perhaps it’s not being efficient with my money — see above, not my forte — but it’s worth a penny every day to reduce the usual long-winded counter interaction to:

Cashier: Hi, can I help you find anything?
Me: Nope.
Cashier: (scans bottle) Okay, that’ll be-
Me: (forks over two singles) Thanks!

I see other people engaged in long conversations with these cashiers. Usually about gum or coupons or possibly coupons for gum. That’s great, if they’re into that. But it’s not efficient.

“We’re swapping cash for beverages here, not life stories or bodily fluids. Keep the line moving, sporto.”

Me, I get in and get out, with a soda, in ten seconds, tops. We’re swapping cash for beverages here, not life stories or bodily fluids. Keep the line moving, sporto.

At least, it was my routine, for many months. Until the price of Pepsi went up five cents. Because shortages in the cola mines, maybe? I don’t know. But to get an efficient soda now, I need more than two spare dollars. I need a nickel, too. And that’s where this already-madness sinks into sheer lunacy in the name of “efficiency”, because for the love of Jefferson’s jangly jowls, I can’t fricking find one.

I thought it was pennies going the way of the dodo and skinny ties and polite political discourse. I’ve heard for years that pennies are useless and nobody uses them any more, and we should just do away with them. But when I scrounge through the pile of change in my car console, I’ve got pennies aplenty. If nobody’s using them, then they’ve all apparently decided to retire together between the seats of my Nissan.

Dimes, too, are in no short supply. I’ve got no particular use for dimes, but evidently I own a bunch. It’s hard to tell how many — they feel mostly like pennies, and I’m usually fumbling in the half-dark for a goddamned Pepsi nickel, so I can’t tell them apart so well. But they’re in there. Mocking me with their extra five cents of value that isn’t quite worth wasting on this ridiculous exercise.

The saddest part is the quarters, though. I keep quarters in the car — I have to. If you need to park on the street anywhere in the Boston/Cambridge/Brookline area, it’ll cost you approximately 93 quarters per hour, so you have to keep a few rolls tucked in every automotive orifice you can find. You can never have too many quarters around here, so I have a bunch in the console. By design.

But quarters are the only coin bigger than, but also fairly similar in size to, nickels. So now, when I actually need nickels for the first time since my 5th grade numismatic kick, I can’t see them for all the asshole quarters in the way. Which I put there. Bah.

Besides that, though, there are precious few nickels to be found. I was surprised at the ratio. There must be ten dimes and as many pennies — and naturally, 93 quarters — for every nickel in the pile. I think I’ve found four in the past two weeks, and that was with ten minutes of jangling, a pocket flashlight and copious, copious amounts of cursing.

My system, “efficient” as it was, is crumbling around me. Because our CEO moved to California, Pepsi prices surged and nickels are apparently an endangered species of some kind. Maybe we cut down too many of their nickelforests, or encroached on their nickel spawning grounds. I don’t know.

I suppose a sane person would get their sodas in the food court, for a slightly less predictable price and hugely more predictable patter about signature sandwich options. Or take three dollars to the drug store and wait around for change. Or ask, quite reasonably, if the office manager could include a few Pepsis in the weekly soda order. Yes, a sane person would seem to have several options here. Options which all involve more interactions with people, which may or may not be particularly “efficient”.

So it’s settled, then. I’m switching to tea. At least until soda prices drop again. Or there’s an infusion of new nickels into the market.

Alas, poor two-buck efficient Pepsi. I hardly knew ye.

Permalink  |  10 Comments

10 Responses to “The Fickle Nickel Pickle”

  1. Al Petit says:

    I hear you. I go far out of my way to avoid dealing with people that will likely end up making me angry. I don’t hate people per say, but like you, prefer to avoid interaction.
    Ballsy and well said!

  2. I love your blog! I just wanted to let you know that we featured you in a list of 100 best Humor blogs. You can find our article at the following link:

    We would appreciate it if you shared this with your readers, followers and fans.

  3. I really appreciate the work you guys are doing.

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