“Loose Change and many Memories,” by Andrew Malekoff, Blanks Slate Media, September 23, 2019

“Loose Change and many Memories,” by Andrew Malekoff, Blanks Slate Media, September 23, 2019

When I get change from a purchase at a store that has a tip jar on the counter I sometimes leave all or part of it.

When I check out electronically at the grocery, there is a prompt that asks me if I want to contribute some or all of my change to a worthy cause. Sometimes I do that too. I’ve heard more than a few people questioning the tip jar and electronic charity button at various stores. Also the practice of tipping in general.

At restaurants, I’m a fairly generous tipper. People question tipping as well, which reminds of a classic scene from the movie Reservoir Dogs. A group of men, all of whom have been given aliases by the kingpin, are plotting a crime. They have just finished their meal at what appears to be a diner. Here is a part of that dialogue:

Nice Guy Eddie: C’mon, throw in a buck!
Mr. Pink: Uh-uh, I don’t tip.
Nice Guy Eddie: You don’t tip?
Mr. Pink: I don’t believe in it.
Nice Guy Eddie: You don’t believe in tipping?
Mr. Blue: You know what these chicks make? They make [squat].
Mr. Pink: Don’t give me that. She don’t make enough money, she can quit. I don’t tip because society says I have to. Alright, I mean I’ll tip if somebody really deserves a tip. If they really put forth the effort, I’ll give them something extra. But I mean, this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, they’re just doing their job.

When I see homeless people or street performers with cups or open instrument cases on the sidewalk or in the train station, I typically drop something in — pocket change or a bill. This is not the extent of my philanthropy, but it makes me wonder if I am a soft touch. I don’t think so because when it comes to phone solicitations I’m not so nice. I almost always think they’re charlatans.

I never had a job where I solicited or received tips. Although, maybe when I was a kid and signed up for “youth employment services,” and I’d help someone move out of their apartment or wash their windows or do whatever they needed. One of those probably threw me a few extra bucks. When I shoveled snow I don’t remember ever getting a tip, just a straight transaction with the homeowner.

Maybe that’s why I’m always delighted to find loose change on the street or sidewalk. I like to go for walks very early in the morning when it is dark out and most everyone else is inside. The street lights make the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters shine. They’re easy to find. It’s like my tips are being mystically refunded.

Sunrise makes it easier to see the bills. I’ve found ones, fives, tens and twenties. Jackpot! Sometimes I buy lottery tickets with the bigger bills I find. And then I lose what I found. I like the coins best.

Whenever I pick up coins from the ground it reminds me of my childhood in the 1950s when you could actually buy something of value with loose change, even for a penny: a piece of bubblegum, a candy bar, a comic book — and you could even buy a hot dog, hamburger or bag of French fries with a handful of coins. It was always exciting to buy something with pocket change.

For today’s kids, it takes a $5 bill and change to buy a hamburger.

I don’t look to my cell phone when I walk in the early morning hours. I look to the ground and find memories.

Andrew Malekoff is the executive director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, which provides comprehensive mental health services for children from birth through 24 and their families. To find out more, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org.