A Sign of the Times by James R. Coggins

A few days ago, I went to the store to buy some envelopes. Nothing special. Just four and an eighth-inch by nine and a quarter-inch, white envelopes. The kind we used to use to send bill payments and official and semi-official letters and documents. And junk mail we wanted to look like official and semi-official letters and documents. Not the smaller envelopes we used to use to send letters to friends.

Actually, I went to three stores. The first two didn’t have any envelopes. Just an empty shelf where the envelopes should have been. There was a sign indicating the price of envelopes. But no envelopes. Another Covid-related supply chain issue? Or perhaps another casualty of the worldwide scarcity of computer chips.

The third store I went to had envelopes, so I picked up a box and headed to the check-out.

The envelopes, including tax, came to $2.55. I don’t use cash much anymore, and the result is that I rarely receive coins in change. A few days earlier, I had needed some and didn’t have any, so I though this would be a good opportunity to obtain some coins. I gave the check-out attendant a five-dollar bill.

I never suspected that my desire for change could create a problem for someone else.

As part of the grade one math curriculum at a Christian elementary school, my grandson is learning how to make change. But the check-out attendant was not in grade one. She was apparently a recent high school graduate. She was not used to customers giving her cash either. She also apparently relied on the cash register to do the calculations. The cash register told her that I was due $2.45 in change. But not exactly how to do that.

She stood staring at the cash drawer for a few seconds.

After a while, she decided it was best to start with the two dollars. She reached into the twoonie bin. (The twoonie is the Canadian two-dollar coin.) Because I needed two dollars, she pulled out two coins.

Now for the forty-five cents. She took out a quarter. Twenty-five cents. Then she took out a nickel. Thirty cents. Then she took out a dime. Forty cents. Then another nickel. Forty-five cents. Then she took out another coin. She stared at the coins in her hand for a moment, made a decision, and put the last coin back into the drawer.

Then she handed me my receipt and the change. $4.45. I smiled, thanked her, handed back one of the twoonies, and left.

Is it just me, or is the world not operating as smoothly as it once did?      

About jrcoggins

James R. Coggins is a professional writer and editor based in British Columbia, Canada. He wrote his first novel in high school, but, fortunately for his later reputation as a writer, it was never published. He briefly served as a Christian magazine editor (for just over 20 years). He has written everything from scholarly and encyclopedia articles to jokes in Reader’s Digest (the jokes paid better). His six and a half published books include four John Smyth murder mysteries and one other, stand-alone novel. In his spare time, he operates Mill Lake Books, a small publishing imprint. His website is www.coggins.ca
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