The Man Who Picks Up Pennies – Redux

An update on a post of August 2, 2012.  As a kid, I lived in the one room attic of a Chicago brownstone on Byron Street.  I remember with clarity that my family didn’t have much money.   I decided to do something about it.  At the age of 4, I sold water in front of my house for a penny.   The water came from a garden hose and was dispensed in one of four small colorful hard plastic cups.  My father seriously advised that I should pick up any stray pennies (or nickels or dimes) that I might happen across.  My big score was finding a crisply-folded dollar bill lodged under a counter at Sears Roebuck at 6 Corners in Chicago.   I gave it to my mother and she called me her “hero.” 

To this day, I still pick up pennies and dimes and wallets and watches and cell phones and rings and other jewelry and even (once) a one hundred dollar bill that I find laying in public places.  I always repatriate the personal (identifiable) items.  But the few which have no claimants (like the wedding rings), I keep.  Some items are verrry nice. . . . . 

My habit is to put “found” money in my left pocket (my change is in my right) and toss it in a bowl when I get home.   And each year, I donate the proceeds (plus some extra) to a charity.  My granddaughters are both now keenly watching for pennies on the street.  Eve found a pair of eyeglasses and a nickel under a table in a restaurant.  Elin has picked up nails found on the street (another penchant of mine).  I’ve told Donna that when I retire, I will simply walk the streets.  And come home with bags full of coins, bills and diamond rings . . . . .  

Picking up Nails. . . .

When I walk from my house to the train station in the morning, I walk in the street.  Every day.  I like the street.  There’s little traffic and while conscientious folks hoof on the sidewalk with a 48 inch path, I have my own white carpet boulevard – 20 feet wide.  I walk against traffic.  Near the curb.  And as I walk, I keep my eyes peeled.  I’ve found coins, bills, wallets, watches, cell phones, jewelry, a diamond ring (yep).  And nails.

Life for me started in the cramped attic of a Chicago brownstone on Byron Street.  Watching for pennies (and nails in the street) was inspired by my parents (see post of August 2, 2012).  So I still pick up the pennies.  And I still pick up nails.  Whenever.  Wherever.  On my walk to the train station – or downtown.  Or on vacation.  I stoop over and pick ’em up.  The file cabinet in my office at home sports a few of the more exceptional specimens (including a 9 inch monster).  

Why do I still pick up nails?  Maybe it’s my upbringing (we can’t escape some things).  Maybe it’s the Boy Scout in me.   I don’t want you, your child or my daughter.  To drive over one of those sharpies and have a (potentially big) problem.  Over the years, I’ve picked up hundreds of nails.  And pitched them in the garbage.  And displayed a few on my file cabinet.    

We are told that small things we do can make a big difference.  I know that everyone who reads these words – does small things.  Big things.  And more.  Picking up nails doesn’t sound like a big thing.  But who knows? 

Run Over

My parents taught me early to keep my eyes open.  And to watch for coins on the street or sidewalk.  In my post of August 2, 2012, I spoke of picking up pennies, nickels, dimes, dollar bills — whatever (cell phones, wallets, fine jewelry – some mighty fine).   I still do. My eyes are glued to the ground.  And yes – I still pick up pennies.  All monetary finds go into a bowl for a year-end charitable donation.  It’s become a game.  Kind’ve a personal challenge.  To see what I can find.         

Every day I catch the train and go downtown to my office. Every day I walk across the train tracks. And as I do, I slow. Looking. I have never put a coin on the railroad tracks (to do so would probably invite a SWAT team invasion). But I do look for those errant “run over” coins that have been placed on the tracks — and lost — by others. Over the years, I have acquired a nice collection.  Nineteen flattened coins to be precise.  A few quarters.  Dimes.  Nickels.  Pennies.  Each one I’m sure has a story.  Just as each lost coin has a story.  The good thing is that if I ever run low on cash, I can always take these run over coins to the bank and trade them in for unscathed versions.  One dollar and thirty-six cents by my count.     

The Man Who Picks up Pennies

When I was very young, I remember with clarity that my family didn’t have much money.   I decided to do something about it.  At the age of 4, I sold water in front of my house for a penny.   The water came from a garden hose and was dispensed in small colorful hard plastic cups.  And my father seriously advised that I should pick up any stray pennies (or nickels or dimes) that I might happen across.  My big score was finding a crisply-folded dollar bill lodged under a counter at Sears Roebuck at 6 Corners in Chicago.   I gave it to my mother and she called me her “hero.” 

To this day, I keep my eyes glued to the ground.   I still pick up pennies and dimes and wallets and watches and cell phones and rings and other jewelry and even (once) a one hundred dollar bill that I find laying in public places.  I always repatriate the personal (identifiable) items.  But the few which have no claimants, I keep.  Some items are quite nice. . . . . 

My habit is to put “found” money in my left pocket (my change is in my right) and toss it in a bowl when I get home.   And each year, I donate the proceeds to a charity.  Most recently I gave a whopping $54.00 in change to Feed the Dream – www.feedthedream.org – an organization that works with the desperately poor in Guatemala.  I can’t wait to take my granddaughter out – looking for coins by parking meters.  I will make sure she finds them in abundance . . . .