Thursday, May 15, 2003

Coin Game

J and I have an eccentric little game we play, which he originated, where you keep any coins you manage to find in a separate little jar or something, and at the end of the year, you count up everything you found. Of course, there are some specific rules to the game, like coins you find in your own house don't count. The presumption is that they were yours to start with anyway. And coins you find in your friend's house don't count either, because taking those is more like petty thievery than an actual find.

After he explained the rules he follows, I started to play too, and I'm sure this sounds incredibly dorky, but it's rather fun. I like playing the game just for myself ("Look! Three pennies under the edge of that store display shelf! Moohahaha!"), but it's really a lot of fun to compare notes with J, especially when we have an especially impressive find. For example, we were sitting in J's car in the mall parking lot on a particularly windy day. All of a sudden, J lept out of the car, quick like a bunny, and snatched up a dollar bill flying past the windshield. It took me longer to register the fact that there was money flying by than it took him to get out of the car and snatch it up. We were cracking up when he got back in the car, equally amused by the fact that it took a dollar for him to move that fast. Jokes about the baby on the Nirvana cover fill my mind.

So far, I am the winner in the "largest amount found in one sitting (or stooping, to be more accurate)" prize, because I saw a bill all balled up on the floor of the convenience store at lunchtime, with no one anywhere near it, and when I bent down to scoop it up, I saw that I had a $20 bill! Score! I was ridiculously thrilled with this find, and when I called J that night and told him, he was such a good sport about it, that it made it even better. Of course, he could be sporting about it, when I bought us pizza with it the next night. But then again, the $20 he won on a scratch off lottery ticket went to pay for our diner dinner, so we share our spoils (I mean prize winnings or finds, not the diner dinner).

Like any good game, there are grey areas in the official rules, and we engage in mental patient-sounding debates about whether certain finds count or not, and I've found that J is much more stringent about his game rules than I am. For example, he knows that there is a guy where he works that has a thing against pennies, and the guy just throws them around on the floor when he gets them in his change from purchases. Strangely enough, there is a guy I work with who does the exact same thing. (Some psychiatrist ought to write a thesis on the origins of penny revulsion, if they haven't already. There must be something to this "pennies are inferior" thing, because it seems to be spreading, in our circles, at least.) J thinks that pennies found at work shouldn't count, because they were purposely put there, but I think that they should count, because as long as I didn't see them thrown, I don't know who they belonged to specifically, and they are still found by me.

It's interesting to me to see how this little game shows our personalities, but especially regarding money. J is frugal and sometimes is a bit anal about things, defininitely a saver, whereas I am impulsive with money, and prone to blow it all in a pizza frenzy. The point of the game is not to compete against each other, but instead to see how much we can find, for fun. For that reason, we don't argue the rules, we just compare notes about the rules we are each following, and the debates about the merits of certain finds are just in good humor. And when we find pennies or any coins on the ground when we walk around together, for some reason, it makes me feel really happy, because it's sort of a little bonding ritual. We'll just pick up the penny, and the other person will act all annoyed that they missed it, and then congratulate the finder. Last night, we were giggling our heads off about how he found one in the Bronx that was totally embedded in the pavement, and river stone smooth from being run over a million times, but he tried to pry it up anyhow. And, realizing how ridiculous this was, trying to pry up this lone penny from the street, he was making comments about how it only had a =little= bit of dog pee on it. I guess you had to be there, but he had me crying, laying on the possible indignities he was suffering for this penny, which he never got. But we each found one later on, and how silly that this made us feel like we'd won some kind of big prize!

The way we talk and joke about the game and its rules is sort of like the way we talk about our lives in general. We might offer suggestions and help to one another, but the underlying premise is always that it's your life, it's your rules, so whatever you do to make yourself feel like you won in the end, good for you. I think that's why I like this little game so much, because it points out something in our relationship that really works, and that is that we are a team, but we are also individuals. With growing humble little piggy banks of other peoples' spare change. And I like that, a lot.

I think I've got a much bigger prize than the $20.

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