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The penny died off up here some years back, the Canadian mint declared it cost more to make a penny than one was worth. I'm not sure what the exact logic was when they went from $1 bills to coins as that was before my awareness of money, and when the $2's became coins, well that was just a giant joke all around, but that's what we tend to be with our funny, muticolored, maple syrup smelling, plastic Canadian money; a joke.

Fortunately for me, when I was at my poorest pennies were still accepted currency. I was every bad cliche single mom story for awhile there. I spent a year in my early 20's after my divorce on social assistance, to supplement my pittifully small maternity leave payments. I had an ex who, for that first year, didn't pay any child support. I fell into mass amounts of debt that I simply couldn't crawl out of.

As it turned out, starting over with nothing and two kids in tow was more expensive than any lifetime movie had ever lead me to believe. There was no mansion with a crazy aunt or mother or grandmother to live with, for me. There was no stable decent paying job either, I guess that's what happens when you split up in 2008. I worked a series of secretarial and call center positions, for a dollar above minimum wage, and with bill collectors and creditors and debts from the ongoing divorce... Well, lets just say the ladies at the food bank were always very nice.

The thing about constantly being behind is you cut corners, you buy bus tickets instead of bus passes because you don't have $80 up front to fork out at the beginning of the month, $15 is easier to come up with, even though you know they wont last you till payday and you'll be scraping the change out of the bottom of your purse again trying to make it be enough to get you home from work. You learn things like the fact that they can't, by law, shut your heat off between October and April so you pay that bill last and only when you have a little "extra" whatever that looks like. And when they cut your phone off? Well it's almost a blessing because the creditors stop their relentless calling. Eventually I signed off on a debt management program, but even with that I couldn't get blood from a stone, and the payments there fell behind as well.

There was one day in Mach, I remember it because it was shortly before I started working in the bar and life got immensely better, I woke up to my last shift of the week. As always I was broke, and scrambling for change, I turned every inch of the house inside out that morning, sifting through the couch looking for quarters, nickles and dimes but came up about $0.80 short. In fact, all I'd been able to find were pennies and a couple of dimes. At the time I was living with an artist who had a collection of paints taking up most of the basement of the house we shared, she must have had paint in every color from cerulean blue, to burnt sienna, heck even golds, coppers, and silver... A penny and a dime are very similar in size, though obviously not in value... But with a little silver paint in the early morning light...

As I climbed onto the number 95 bus just as I had every morning that year, the digital display glaring it's sharp glow of 5:45 am, I shivered. I've never been good at being dishonest, but missing work... Missing work when the world is already falling down around you, when you already don't have enough... Missing work is even less of an option.

As I put my mitten full of painted pennies into the coin catcher watching them tumble in the dull incandescent glow of the early morning bus lights I looked down and mumbled to the always cheerful driver, "I'm sorry for all the change."

He smiled back at me, and handed me a transfer, not even inspecting the fare before pressing the button that dumped it into the out-of-sight bank, "change is good" he replied.




LJ Idol - Friends and Rivals topic 4 "The death of the 1¢ coin / penny and the $1 bill"

Date: 2016-01-09 12:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leni-ba.livejournal.com
And when they cut your phone off? Well it's almost a blessing because the creditors stop their relentless calling.

What do you mean 'almost'? I swore off home phones, and even now I only give out my personal cell-phone number sparingly. Call me traumatized, thank you.

And then there was the time I paid bus fare with a pen... Yes, a pen. Yes, a used pen. Thank God for merciful bus drivers.

Thank you for sharing!

Date: 2016-01-09 02:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-changeling.livejournal.com
I remember.

I was there with you.

I remember how it was.

Mostly, I remember how _you_ kept it together.

I remember how _you_ made it safe for the girls.

When he was a controlling dick.

When she was allowing hair to be cut off.
cutting it, even.

when you didn't have, literally, a dime.

I remember how _you_ kept the daughters....

safe.

warm.

fed.

Loved.

Aware of their own worth.

I was always waiting for _you_ ...

to be aware of your worth.

*hugs*

Date: 2016-02-08 12:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dreamsreflected.livejournal.com
This is possibly the biggest compliment I've ever received. Thank you for bearing witness to it all. Thank you for seeing strength in me when I couldn't. Thank you for still being here.

Date: 2016-02-08 01:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-changeling.livejournal.com
Memories, like the corners of my mind...

:-)

Date: 2016-01-09 06:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] murielle.livejournal.com
How does one say that an account of such pain is wonderful, even when it truly is. Your description of what poverty feels like is right on the mark.

So sorry you had to go through that, but I am glad, and relieved that things got better for you and your family.

Good use of the prompt. Well done.

Date: 2016-01-09 07:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lrig-rorrim.livejournal.com
Change is, indeed, good. I'm glad things changed for you.

Date: 2016-01-09 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eternal-ot.livejournal.com

*Hugs*  Good to know its in the past. A well told anecdote.

Date: 2016-01-09 10:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] halfshellvenus.livejournal.com
I so wish everyone who rails against public assistance could read this. When you are stuck and there is no one to helpy you-- and the person who should simply won't, you are caught in a seemingly endless juggling act of what to pay when, not being able to make better long-term choices (because they require short-term funds you don't have), and yes... being grateful that there is a food bank and other assistance.

You kept your daughters safe and fed, and you made it through. Not everyone does.

Date: 2016-01-10 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] m-malcontent.livejournal.com
Perfectly stated.

Date: 2016-01-09 11:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rayaso.livejournal.com
I agree with [livejournal.com profile] halfshellvenus. People who oppose public assistance should first live the life. I'm sure there are abusers of the system, but the good so far outweighs the bad!
Edited Date: 2016-01-09 11:05 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-01-10 08:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dmousey.livejournal.com
Single mothers learn so many tricks to survive "Robbing Peter to pay Paul." becomes a necessary skill, along with using coupons, and finding day old bread stores. What gets me is when people tell you how resilient it makes you, I always want to (punch)ask them if they'd like to try it! I was lucky, I had a stable job and a craft, but we are always one paycheck away from losing everything.

Social assistance and raising the minimum wage woud help so many.

Thanks for writing! Peace~~~D
Edited Date: 2016-01-10 08:50 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-01-09 11:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] poppetawoppet.livejournal.com
I've never been quite this poor but oh I felt like I was on that bus with you

Date: 2016-01-10 05:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dee-aar2.livejournal.com
I haven't been at the other end of the spectrum , but I could almost feel what you went through there ... Powerful narrative. I am so happy that you and your family made through that phase. And yes ... change is always good. :)

Date: 2016-01-10 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] muchtooarrogant.livejournal.com
Yes, this was something that occurred to me as well while listening to people complain about the "useless penny." I can still remember times as a student in college where I needed those extra pennies for bus fare or a taco over lunch, and had they not been there ...

This was a great piece, very raw and full of real life experience.

Dan

Date: 2016-01-11 10:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] prog-schlock.livejournal.com
I'm glad that working at the bar has brought some financial certainty to your life. Rather than a polemic about even though Canadian culture is better in this regard than, say, US culture and how this is an indictment of western culture in general (it is), let me simply applaud you for your creative solution to your problem that day. Sometimes you just have to get to work and your "crime," which is only a crime in the most nit-picky capitalist sense of that term, is no worse than say Jean Valjean taking bread for a hungry person. People need to eat and there should be fewer things that stand between a hungry person and food.

I have Bowie on the mind today, but the obvious song here is this:

Date: 2016-01-12 12:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alycewilson.livejournal.com
That ending really packs an impact. I hope things are much better for you now.

Date: 2016-02-07 09:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] adam-0oo.livejournal.com
You are a really, really good writer.

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