July 07, 2008

Define "spare".

"What are the odds?"

Jim shook his head in exasperation.

We were standing in the parking lot of a grocery store staring into the open back of my hatchback. Pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters -- hundreds, maybe thousands of them -- were scattered in the car, wedged in cracks and crevices, and spilling out of the back into the parking lot, where they clattered and rolled around, making us quite a spectacle.

My car was like a treasure chest with wheels. Only our treasure was escaping.

"Well," I began sarcastically, "Do you mean what are the odds the giant ziplock bag of change would rip and spill while we were en route to have it turned into bills, or what are the odds that an adult male would have such an impressive coin collection?"

I got on my hands and knees in the parking lot and started recovering our change. Jim took care of the thousand and one coins in the car. After a good twenty minutes, we were satisfied that we had gotten every last one -- but it took some effort, to be sure.

**It is important to note that we were in Bellevue, an area outside Seattle that is often accused of being home to a host of Stepford wives and Ferarris -- where the most eggregious crime of the day usually has something to do with the sandwich Nazi at the gourmet sandwich shop screwing up your order. That actually made us, scrambling around on all fours after pennies, that much funnier, but it's also important to the story in a moment.**

As we walked towards the grocery store to the CoinStar machine inside, Jim holding a giant clear bag absolutely full of loose change, we chuckled about how funny we must have looked crawling around the parking lot like high school kids after a few pennies. But truth be told, Jim even looked silly holding it -- the bag was GIANT and clear, and he was holding it up like a kid holds a goldfish they won at the fair -- in a proud fist in front of them.

And then, out of nowhere, appeared the only transient I have ever seen in Bellevue. And he was walking straight towards us. Or, rather, straight towards the tall man with the giant bag of change next to me.

"Uh oh, he's coming our way," I said under my breath, like the bum was a pirate and was coming to commandeer our bag of gold.

Jim sort of nervously coughed and we continued to walk, not making eye contact, hoping the bum would just sort of pass us by. But of course, no dice.

"Hey mister, you got any spare change?" The bum was eyeing the bag. The jig was up. It was all over.

I looked over at Jim, who continued walking and lamely gestured at first the bag, and then the bum, in this semi-sympathetic, totally awkward sort of way, before stammering, with a surprised, uncomfortable look on his face:

"Uh...no... man. This is, uh......... my money."

And he just continued to walk with his giant bag of change, into the store. I, in shock that the whole scene had actually taken place, quietly followed him.

"Wow," I said when I finally recovered, bursting into hysterical laughter. "What are the odds of THAT?"