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MARTHA SEZ: ‘Gone are the days when I expected the money to come pouring in at any minute’

Years ago, my brother gave me a book titled “Do What You Love, the Money will Follow.” I figured I had it made. It was only a matter of time before I was rich.

As the weeks passed, however, I wondered: What was keeping the money? If it was following me, it was certainly keeping a discreet distance. Maybe the money had taken the wrong turn.

I quit jogging, gradually slowing my pace to a crawl in order to give the money a chance to overtake me, and developed a nervous habit of looking back over my shoulder every few seconds.

It was during this stage of my life that I began to notice the pennies. If, as the saying goes, the streets of heaven are paved with gold, then surely the streets and parking lots of the university town where I lived were paved with pennies. I never would have noticed the wealth of small change all around me had I been walking at a normal clip.

I still glance at my rearview mirror from time to time in hopes the money is gaining on me, but it never is. Sometimes I see a log truck barreling down Route 73 about to run me off the road, or a police car with a flashing light driven by a trooper who wants to tell me that I have a tail light out or my inspection sticker is out of date.

“Do you know why I stopped you, ma’am?”

“It wouldn’t be about the money, would it?”

“No.”

Gone are the days when I expected the money to come pouring in at any minute, like Danae’s fabled shower of gold. On the other hand, there are more pennies underfoot than ever.

How many pennies cease to circulate, hoarded up inside people’s houses or languishing on the street where they fall? Few people old enough to have lost their front teeth will stoop to pick up a penny. One cent isn’t enough anymore to warrant the expenditure of energy.

Stores keep penny dishes so that customers who pay for purchases with cash won’t have to break a bill. No one wants pennies back, and no one minds giving them away.

No matter how poor you are, you can’t say you don’t have a penny to your name. When you sweep the floor, do you throw away the pennies in the dust pan? When you see a penny on the carpet, do you vacuum it up? A penny makes a unique noise as it is hoovered into the machine, a loud, satisfying clatter.

When you see a penny on the sidewalk or in the parking lot, do you leave it there? Pick it up? Pick it up only if it is heads up, thereby qualifying as a lucky penny? Is a found penny lucky only when you give it away?

Do you consider it an insult to leave pennies as part of a tip when you go out to eat?

I have heard of vindictive souls using pennies to pay child support. Mean. Still, some single parents might be glad to get pennies in lieu of nothing. Can you see the custodial parent and the little one counting and rolling by the light of a 60-watt bulb? Pitiful.

Everything in the dollar store seems to come from China. Do you remember the five-and-ten-cent store? The dime store, where most of the merchandise was stamped MADE IN JAPAN? Do you ever see those 1943 zinc-coated steel pennies anymore?

How many pennies do you reckon you have right now in your penny jar, in the bottom of your purse, on your dresser, in your coat pockets, on top of the washing machine, on the floor and the cup holder of your car? If you want more change, invite some men in suits to come sit on your sofa.

I have 484 pennies, two of them Canadian, as well as three Indian head pennies in my sewing box. Canada phased out the penny in 2013 because it cost the Canadian Mint 1.6 cents to produce a 1-cent coin. In its annual report for 2020, the U.S. Mint reported the cost of manufacturing a penny to be 1.76 cents. Should we discontinue the penny?

Now that the snow has definitely melted, it’s easy to find coins.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep doing what I love. The money is taking its own sweet time catching up, but at least I’m having fun while I wait.

(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the News for more than 20 years.)