The Principle Of The Thing
“And then what happened?”
Sitting in the police station, Doug thought over everything he had told the officer leading up to this question.
He thought about his jar, how it was finally full after years of deposits, a few coins at a time. How it was so full that another coin literally would not fit, how he had to kind of force the lid on as it was.
He thought about how he had dumped the coins out on his coffee table, how the sound of them all spilling out was so satisfying. He thought about how he had counted all the coins—every penny, nickel, dime, and quarter—three times, so he knew EXACTLY what that jar was worth, to the penny.
He thought about walking to the grocery store, cradling the jar like a baby. He thought about how he made a beeline to the Coinstar machine, emptying the jar into the machine and once again enjoying the sound of them spilling out, as well as the sound of the coins raining into the machine, one by one, watching the total go up, up, up.
He thought about when the raining stopped and the total was one penny short. He thought about how he took his receipt and the empty jar, walked quickly home, and scoured the coffee table and the carpet around it for the missing penny.
He thought about walking back to the store, receipt and jar in hand again, to explain to Customer Service that the Coinstar machine had shorted him by a penny, how surely they would understand and give him the penny, not because he needed it but because of the principle of the thing.
He thought about how the Customer Service clerk rolled her eyes at him, condescendingly explained that the store isn’t responsible for servicing the Coinstar machine and that he needed to call the service number clearly printed on the side of the machine, and how she took a penny out of her pocket and practically threw it at him when he protested having to call some phone number. The machine was in their store, and it was the principle of the thing.
And then he answered “And then what happened?”
“I went home, got my axe, walked back to the store, and tried to attack the Coinstar machine.”
And for the first time Doug realized how crazy that sounded, and that it was no longer the principle of the thing. It was him acting like a lunatic over a penny.
He decided then and there, for starters, that he was done saving coins.