After packing up at the town park, I stopped at the local gas station/convenience store for some breakfast. I found some Cheerios and milk and was very happy. I picked up a blueberry muffin for later.
On the maps, the day didn’t look too challenging and it wasn’t too bad. The weather cooperated and I arrived in Glendive in mid-afternoon. The ride from Circle was one of the better rides of the trip. After an initial climb out of town, it was an, almost, thirty-mile downhill run into Glendive. That was a refreshing change.
I had made arrangements for a WarmShowers.org stay. The host couldn’t have me stay at her home because she had family staying for the weekend, but she was fixing up another home in another part of town and I could stay there.
A fellow I had met that morning, Marcus, from Switzerland, was also staying there and was ahead of me. The accommodations were Spartan. There was no furniture in the house at all, but the floor was carpeted and we had lots of room to set up camp and keep our bikes indoors.
The following story needs to be prefaced by an incident that happened a few days previously. At a gas station/convenience store, the school bus went by and dropped off a few students for pickup. They came into the store and all three students went and picked out an ice cream bar. The fellow at the counter said,”Okay guys, let’s see, that’s a dollar thirty, a dollar thirty and a dollar thirty. Sooooo, how much is that guys?”
The kids ranged from about 10 to 14 years old. There were stunned faces, all contorted, trying to do the math (arithmetic?). The youngest guessed, “Two dollars, ten cents.” The next oldest yelled, “No dummy, its Three-ten.” Finally, after an interminable amount of time the oldest guessed, “it might be Three ninety.” It might be, he wasn’t positive
I went down to a small, Glendive, restaurant. The place wasn’t too busy and I figured I’d get a quick lunch. The server seemed a bit distant, but I placed my order. The price came up to$9.18. This may seem trivial, but most hikers/bikers don’t like to carry pocket change. Coins are heavy, so we’re always taking every opportunity to get rid of change.
I gave my server a ten dollar bill and three pennies. I figured I could avoid picking up more pennies by getting a dime, a nickle and three quarters–instead of two pennies, a nickel and three quarters. Plus, dimes weigh less than pennies.
The look on the server’s face was priceless. I could see the shock all over her expression. Her mind was racing. It was obvious she had no clue how to deal with making this change. This moment took her back to all those years she spent in the third grade.
This problem took the server back to those days with Sister Mary Hang-em-high. The nun would throw problems out like this and challenge this poor girl constantly. She never got the answer correct. Questions, such as: “If a train leaves town at 10:23 in the morning, and arrives in Duluth at 14:52, now long did it take?” were just daunting. Our poor server would always answer, “Duh! We don’t have a train to Duluth.” The sister would just shake her head.
Now, here was this old bicyclist bringing back all these bad memories. All those years spent in the third grade, dreaming of one day working at WalMart until she got too big for those third-grade chairs. It never happened because Sister Mary Hang-em-High was always asking silly questions about how many pennies it would take to do something. Who cares? Who invented pennies anyway?
Now she was faced with a dilemma. What to do? She could take her best guess at this, but that might not be good enough. She was new to the job and didn’t want the manager to know she never had the correct answer to the penny question, so she had to think quickly.
As I stood there I could see the gears whirring, maybe “whirring” is too strong, how about “meshing?” Then, she hit upon the solution: “I’ll just give the guy enough money so he won’t complain he was short changed.” A complaining customer would be bad.
She reached into the cash drawer and whipped out a dollar bill, four pennies (might as well get rid of them!), two nickles and three dimes.
She handed all of this to me and I’m guessing the puzzled look on my face mortified her. I could tell she was wondering if it was enough. She looked ready to dump all the money in the drawer into my hands. She was thinking, “Will that be enough? Should I hit the ATM?”
Calmly, I started to explain to her how to deal with this. First, I had her put all the cash back. Then, I started, “Let’s pretend that I’m starting to pay for the order by just paying for part of it, just the three pennies. Take away the three pennies and now the bill is $9.15.” I got the same look that the nun, no doubt, received years before, a blank stare. I could see her thinking, “Yeah, Sister Mary Hang-em-High was always trying to trick me with those pennies too, and now I get this fruitcake.”
I finally gave up and just told her to give me eight-five cents and it will all be fine. I’m sure that one day she will finally land that dream job at WalMart and they will have the cash registers that tell the server how much change to give back, but it won’t tell her how long the train took to get to Duluth.