Monday, June 28, 2010

Living life by quarters

Some people, such as my boss, live life by quarterly targets. He knows that he needs to meet his sales targets in order to keep his job. I have no such qualms. Yet, I live my life by quarters too! Twenty five cents at a time. Five of these can give me one load of washed clothes in the laundromat. Another five can help me dry those clothes.

Ever since my room mate and I got rid of our washing machine, life has not been the same. About three months ago, both of us decided that we needed to move into a different place. The first thing we did in the pack-up process was to get rid of the washing machine and dryer. We were consigned to using the local laundromat for washing our clothes. It was temporary we thought. After all, we would move to a new apartment that would have a washing machine and a dryer. Then our plans did not work out and we stayed on, sans the washer/dryer. At first, I found collecting quarters such a tiresome activity that I resorted to washing clothes by hand (like the good old days when there were no washing machines) but I could not keep up with it for very long. Soon I had a pile of clothes and no time to wash.

Now, having exactly ten quarters every week is not easy. It means getting rid of plastic money and using cash for all your transactions. I have not done this for more than a year. It boiled down to going to the bank on Sunday morning just to withdraw money and have it changed into quarters. It meant buying coca-cola from the gas station on late nights only to ask the cashier to return all the change in quarters. It meant putting dollars in the vending machine and asking for coin return (this almost never worked).

Woe betide! One day, I had managed to collect exactly ten quarters by 11pm at night. I loaded my clothes into the machine. I was supposed to leave on a flight the following morning, so the clothes had to be washed. As I put the coins and started the machine, something jammed inside and the machine would not start. I was left with only five quarters and a choice between not washing any clothes or washing the clothes in a different machine and hunting for quarters the next morning so that I could dry them. I chose the latter. Even badly begun is half-done.

These days, I had started maintaining a quarter bucket - a plastic ice-cream bucket. Whenever I get a quarter, I drop it into the bucket. I wake up in the morning and check my bucket. If the coins are any more than 10 at least, I am happy for the rest of the day. I can spot the glitter of a quarter from a distance. I don't like the look of any other coins, I hate it when people give me 2 ten cents and a dime - I grin sheepishly and ask for quarters. In the interest of humanity, all the cashiers of my grocery who know my obnoxious habit of asking for quarters ( I do it so that I may wear clothes that do not stink!) have now started refusing me all the quarters that I ask for. I usually get 2 less than what I need. We call it the law of demand and supply.

I have realized that I am living life by quarters