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2006-03-28 - 2:47 p.m.

After buying a bag of potting soil, thinking of buying seed packages of basil, cilantro, and spearmint, I bought a book of first-class stamps at a vending machine in the lobby of a big retail store the other day. A book costs $7.80. The vending machine didn't take credit or debit cards. It took cash only. I had a five and a twenty in my wallet. I paid with the twenty, and so, in change, got two dimes and twelve gold dollar coins.

For the past few days, I've been paying for things with my gold dollar coins, but selectively. The lady at the cafeteria at the office is not impressed. She takes the coins without comment and doles out change, already looking toward the next person's salad and Diet Coke.

Today I went to a coffeeshop after lunch. My cup of coffee was $2.21. So I paid the girl taking orders with two gold coins and a quarter. When I gave her the coins, she did a double-take, which is what I'd hoped. She was a young black girl, college-aged, bubbly and juiced on caffeine.

"Oh," she said. "Gold dollars!"
"They're still around," I said.
"Every time I cash the register out, it always asks for gold dollars, and I always have to enter 'zero'." She was not annoyed by this, that she never had any coins to satisfy the cash register's request. Rather, she seemed confused about what the register was asking for in the first place, as if it were just another step in her cashing-out process, the sixteenth step, for example, the one where you always enter "zero" and never think twice about it.

She let the coins slide from her palm into an empty pocket of the plastic-lined cash drawer. She shut the drawer and the machine beeped and clanged. She looked up at me. "Thanks," she said, smiling.

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