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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 1ยข coin / penny and the $1 bill"

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