Long Before Coinstar

It was late 1986. I worked as a courier for a company that obtained travel visas for clients. I attended L.A. Valley College part time. I drove a Mazda GLC hatchback. “GLC stood for “Great Little Car.” I was 22. I was living in my first apartment. A second-floor single in Van Nuys. On Fulton — 6205 I believe, a couple blocks south of Victory. I don’t remember the apartment number.

I do remember how broke I was at the time. So strapped for cash I was forced to raid my savings, which was kept in a five-gallon glass water bottle and consisted of whatever spare change I’d spent seven years dropping into it.

On a Sunday afternoon, I could’ve put on a mask and gone down to the corner 7-11 to rob it, or I could’ve driven over to my mom’s and asked for her financial assistance. But instead I stayed home and poured the mass of coins out of the bottle clinkily tinkily onto the apartment’s carpeting to begin the time-consuming task of sorting them and then putting them into correspondening sleeves that I’d picked up from my branch of Gibralter Savings in Sherman Oaks a few days earlier.

“How many do you need?” The teller asked.

“A lot!”

It literally took all day to do and in the end my fingers the metallic smell of copper was stationed in my nostrils smelling vaguely blood-like.  I counted several paper and a paltry $53 in rolls of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters stacked up on my livingroom floor. Mostly pennies. But it was $53 I hadn’t had the day before, so I wasn’t complaining. There would be groceries. And cigarettes. And gas.

The next day I loaded all the rolls into a trashbag and shlepped them off to the bank, where of course I generated sideways glances from the security guard and customers when I walked into the place with a heavy Hefty bag slung over my shoulder. At the teller, rather than slip them a few at a time through the slot in the highly fortified window, I was directed to hand them over through the side door where a few random rolls were opened to make sure they were legitimatley filled with coins.

I watched this trying to imagine the cheap desperate bastard who would try to pass off two pennies sandwiching sand or slugs in order to make a profit of 48.

When eventually the teller was satisfied I wasn’t that petty I was told that I didn’t have to go through all the trouble of stuffing the coins. They had a coin counter that could have done the job in an hour.

And I said it would have been nice when I picked up all the empty coin sleeves if that nugget of enlightenment had been passed down to me.

“Well, for next time then,” the teller said, laying out two twenties, a ten and three ones before me.

I took the money and shook my head vigorously. “Oh there won’t be a next time.”

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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with laonstage.com, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."