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The Coin Meter Lesson
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke.

by Hal Evan Caplan
January 9, 2010

The Coin Meter Lesson_Hal Evan Caplan-Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke.My tyke is my teacher and he reminds me of things and teaches me some valuable lessons on a regular basis. As I've expressed in the past, these lessons have no boundaries. There are no limits to time of day, no limits on weather conditions and it certainly doesn't even matter, if I am running late. The lessons happen when my teacher begins his lesson, period.

Part of my job responsibility is for me to go onsite to a client's office for face to face visits. The majority of my clients are within a 4 hour radius of driving, and a handful of my clients are just downtown in Birmingham. In my opinion, downtown Birmingham around UAB is extremely "parking space challenged". One has to pay for parking everywhere downtown and it appears that I can never easily find a parking spot close by the office that I am visiting. When visiting my downtown clients, I would rather find a metered spot as opposed to parking in the parking structures. Because of this choice, I have to stock pile change... actually, not just change, but more specific... quarters. Most of the meters around UAB do not register anything else but quarters. There has been a time or two when I put a dime or nickel in the slot by accident and no additional time registered on the meter, but the meter was just delighted to keep my "donation" of the five or ten cents.

I am really good about keeping quarters in my truck to feed those hungry meters; however, I have also been known to use that change for other situations that come up from time to time. Of course my intent is to replenish the change in a timely manner, but as you can imagine, this isn't always the case. There have been a few times where I went to grab a quarter for the meter and there were none, so I had to park on the outskirts of the city where dimes and nickels are accepted in the meters, and walk. The drawback to this option is that it can take longer than expected, possibly cauing me to be a little late to my meeting.

Recently, I had an early client meeting so my plan was to leave straight from the house to go visit my client, then head to the office afterward.

I jumped into my truck and began to back out of the driveway... when all of a sudden, a thought popped into my head. Almost like in the movies when a little light bulb appeared atop my head. "Quarters"... I said out loud. "I better have some quarters". I rustled through my console where my change is kept, except for the occasional coin that has made its way on the floor or under the seat, and low and behold I found NO quarters anywhere in my truck.

"That's just great!" I yelled to myself and ran into the house in search of quarters. The first place I thought of looking was my teacher's bottle of change. This was my first thought because 90% of the time, I give him my spare change, plus he enjoys "counting" the change he receives, since he is in the early stage of learning how to count money.

I ran past my teacher, who was lying on the couch watching some cartoons and flew up the stairs since I was in a hurry. I barged into my teacher's room and grabbed his three foot Coors Light change bottle and began to dump the change onto the floor. There were not many quarters, since I generally keep those for parking. All of a sudden my teacher burst through his room door.

"Excuse me, what do you think you are doing?" He roared.
"I'm late." I expressed.
"But, why do you have MY cash everywhere?" He demanded.
(He calls anything associated with money, "CASH"... it doesn't amtter if it is change or bills.)
"I was looking for some quarters for the parking meter." I explained.

He had this look about him, like I just took away his birthday or something. If I didn't know better, I would swear that I saw steam coming out of his ears. It was then, maybe one of the only times, that I knew that I was about to be in the middle of a lesson, like it or not.

He walked over, actually he marched over to the area where the coins laid on the ground, grabbed the three foot Coors Light change bottle from my hands and sat right on top of the pile of coins, and just glared at me.

"That is totally rude!" He exclaimed.
"... but I..." I started. (Knowing I was in the wrong.)
"NO! I don't care." He ruled.

I knew this was more serious to my teacher than I realized and I needed to fix this fast because I still had yet to find and quarters AND I was running late.

"Dude, I am very sorry." I began.
Still just glaring at me, he said nothing.
"I was very... very... very wrong." I continued.
"You are a doofus!" He insisted.

I just hung my head low; realizing that my little boy is growing up and that I really have to be aware of this and certainly respect it going forward.

I took a deep breath and began to explain my situation to him.

"Dude, you know when I go downtown on business?" I asked.
"Yes." He replied.
"Well, I have to park by my client's business and in order to do that, the city requires people to pay to park. If you park on the street, you have to put money in the parking meter." I explained. "I have no change in my truck or in the house that I can think of and I really... really... need to borrow some of your change, please."

As usual, in one sentence, he drove the lesson home... loud and clear.

"You should ALWAYS ask me if you can use my stuff first!" He instructed. "You and mom are the one's who taught me that in the first place." He continued.
"I know, you are right." I acknowledged.

"Now, I will help you find some quarters for the ‘METEOR’ so you won't be late." He announced.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day is: Don't assume, always ask before you borrow something.

About the Author:
Originally from Colorado; now residing in Alabama. Hal is married and has a son. Hal loves the outdoors, especially snowboarding and plays ice hockey on a weekly basis...and of course, always learns from his son.

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