We are a nation divided: those who will stoop over to pick up loose change and those who won't.
Fewer and fewer of us seem to be interested in bending over for pennies, nickels and dimes. Quarters, maybe, but your smaller coins, not so much.
I was coming out of a store and saw a kid in front of me look at a dime on the pavement and deliberately step over it. He watched me pick it up and gave me a slight shrug as if to say, "Who cares?" Yes, well, you'll care when you're filling your own gas tank one day, kid.
A fast-food restaurant had one of those machines attached to the cash register that shoots your change down a slide. There was a quarter, two pennies and a dime already in the change machine before the cashier rang up my order. The customer before me didn't think 37 cents was worth the bother.
Mark my words, the man will be checking vending machines once his kids are in college.
Half the time I walk into the grocery store, there is change lying on the mat by the automatic door. If it is only a penny I think twice. When you figure how many dirty shoes from the parking lot have stepped on it, it's not worth the risk.
Plus, there's always the danger of bending over in the entryway and having your backside slammed by a grocery cart. That would clearly be a case of penny wise and pound foolish.
You have to wonder who is bothering to pick up coins these days. There's Gracie the Boston Terrier on You Tube who picks them up and deposits them in a drinking glass. Other than Gracie, it is a dwindling crowd.
I wonder if people with less income are more likely to pick up coins than those with a more generous income, or if wealthier people have a greater appreciation for compounded interest and are more likely to pick up a coin than someone who's never had a bank account. Or maybe it all goes back to how you were raised.
I can't see Bill Gates picking up coins off the sidewalk. Or Warren Buffet. Oprah? That one is a possibility.
George Soros is rich, but I can't see him picking coins off the ground. Well, not unless he thought a Republican had dropped them. I can see the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame picking up coins, though. I can even see them counting them at board meetings.
The bottom line is, we all have our price: the amount that makes us stop, stoop and swoop.
Personally, I stop for anything silver. It's like I really found something, even though it's barely enough to pay sales tax on a dollar. I'll also stop for a penny as long as it's shiny and not in a heavily trafficked area.
I don't pick up coins because I live by a motto of thrift, but because of an Everett Dirksen quote that lodged in my head as a youth. Dirksen was a colorful, rumpled senator with unmanageable hair, who once said, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."
Last week I netted 48 cents in found change. I'm that much closer to real money.