Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Pillow Money


I wish I could call it a ‘’windfall’’. Alas, no. The amount is too small. But the effort is not.

Many, many years ago, after my mum’s death, I was given a little container of coins. It was part of her savings. Or hoarding. Squirreling rather. Or ‘’collection’’, maybe, since the coins were all one dollar and 50 cent coins.

I’d simply put the orange container aside. It was actually in the shape of an orange, a recycled orange candy box. I’d never been good with money, not with making money ‘’grow’’, let alone managing money. I was content with just keeping the box, for memory. At times I would take a few of the coins if I needed some loose change to buy something small.

Over the years, I’d forgotten all about the box or even where I’d put it. But last weekend, the image of the orange ball kept nagging at me. I decided to find it and lo and behold, it was sitting right inside my seldom-opened drawer.

I almost panicked when I opened it. Are they legal tender? They were the old huge $1 and 50 cent coins – first issued in 1967! A quick frantic check with the MAS website and – phew, yes, they are still legal tender! They belong to the ‘’first series’’ of coins and what we are more familiar with now are the ‘’second series’’, also called the "flower series".

Next question raced through my mind – who would accept them even if they are legal tender? Despite all the talk about an aged and aging population, we still have lots of young and indifferent, ignorant people in the service industry. To test waters, I used the coins to pay for a $2 item at a supermarket near my house. The cashier examined them, hesitated, and finally said, ‘’different money eh?’’ and accepted them.

Then I thought, I am not going to be paying for all my groceries using big heavy coins for the next month, am I? Another quick, frantic check with the website of a local bank. Yeah – they accept coin deposits, at a small charge! The catch? The auto deposit machines accept only the ‘’flower series’’ but the ‘’over the counter service’’ did not impose the restrictions (except that they operate coin deposit services only on Tuesdays and Thursdays). So implicitly it seems to accept all coins.

And so I ‘’happily’’ queued for 45 minutes at the bank branch at Holland Village during lunch time. You would think in this day and age of instant machines, the queue would not have been so long, especially in an expat enclave like Holland Village. But no. Some people held up the queues hogging the counters to ask stupid questions and to plan the entire family tree's estates, insurance, and God knows WTF else!

Finally, my turn came. I handed over my coins and the counter staff was almost thrilled to see something ‘’new’’. ‘’Oh so big! Oh no, I can’t use the machines to count them,’’ she said. Her colleague came over to find out what new discovery they had stumbled on, and said, ‘’yes, they are the old coins, still legal tender. Issued in 1967!’’ I told them, ‘’yes, I did research (unlike your 20 other customers who held up the queue earlier) – they are legal tender, issued long ago and yes, one can’t use the machines to count, that’s why I am here!’’ ‘’You are aware of the charges?’’ she asked. ‘’Yes, I spent considerable time searching and studying your (badly designed) website,’’ I told her. ‘’And don’t worry about counting, I know you can’t use machines and I’d taken the trouble to bind them up in tens with tapes,’’ I continued.

Maybe for all the time I’d spent in the queues, finding out facts, and making her life easier, she waived the bank charges, for a small deposit.

The amount is small – barely enough for my monthly MRT fares. But I’ve decided, money is still money and sentimentality has no place when it comes to money. I don’t need an orange case of coins to think of my mother or to be reminded that she loved me. Rather than inertia, or worse, letting the coins become obsolete (non legal tender), I’d better put them to good use. Use them, save them… but not hoard them.

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