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Beverly Godfrey column: Flipping out over Canadian money

Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune copy editor and columnist. You can reach her at bgodfrey@duluthnews.com.

A recent visit to a fast-food drive-through may have been a life-altering experience.

I ordered my food, drove forward, paid and was handed my change.

Before continuing with the story, some background becomes relevant: I was raised close enough to the border that it’s a lifetime habit to scan for Canadian money — especially quarters.

Because you don’t want those.

When I was a kid, only a chump failed to notice he’d been handed Canadian money. It was like a game of tag, and you’d be “it” with a coin that can’t be used in a parking meter, vending machine or pay phone — a coin that gets spit out of the counting machine if you take your jar of change to the bank.

I’m long past worrying about pay phones, I suppose, but I’ve continued this coin-scan behavior to this day. Or until last week, anyway.

Back to the drive-through: I got my change, and there it was. It stood out like Queen Elizabeth herself, who was staring me in the face from that slightly different, slightly tinny coin.

I acted immediately and handed it back.

“Could I get a U.S. quarter please?”

The cashier took the money but didn’t understand me, so I asked again.

“Are you serious?” she blurted out in frustration.

I sank back in my seat. “She’s looking at me like I’m crazy,” I thought. “She thinks I’m crazy.”

I was mortified. I won’t be able to go back there for at least a month, no kidding. That girl thought I was the most insane person she’d seen all week, and I’m afraid she’d remember me.

I’ve avoided being “it” in Canadian coin tag my whole life, and now I’m questioning why. That quarter was worth 23 U.S. cents at the current exchange rate. When I was about 8, it would have been worth 22 cents. This shocked me when I looked it up because back then, all I understood was that a Canadian quarter wasn’t really worth a quarter, and some stores wouldn’t take them if I wanted to buy that 25-cent candy bar. It was a pretty big deal.

I’ve never before had a cashier object to taking back a Canadian coin, so I don’t think I’m the only person on the lookout. Is it a community thing? Did I get it from my family? Why am I still doing it now? How much does it matter? How much of a bonehead was I to ask for my change in U.S. money?

I’m plagued by these questions and the prospect of being perceived as unpleasant, so I’ll need to reprogram my brain. Take the money and go. Just keep driving. Don’t worry about it. She’s going to think you’re crazy. Keep the line moving.

And if I’m successful, and my wallet starts filling with Canadian change, what then? As I see it, I’m left with several options: 1. Abandon the coins somewhere, 2. Keep them in a drawer forever, 3. Give them to a friend who is visiting Canada, 4. Try to pass them off next time I buy something.

That last option might seem the obvious choice, but I’d feel like such a criminal, as if I were paying with counterfeit money. I might be able to do the mind-flip necessary to accept Canadian quarters in my change, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to spend them.

Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune copy editor and columnist. You can reach her at bgodfrey@duluthnews.com.

Beverly Godfrey
Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune copy editor and columnist. You can reach her at bgodfrey@duluthnews.com.  
(218) 720-4104
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