Saturday, May 16, 2009

Count Your Blessings!

I went to the bank yesterday to deposit my reimbursement check for my recent sojourn to the NCTM conference in Washington DC. A very successful trip in many ways, BTW. For my 3 night stay at the hotel, I was upgraded to the Presidential Suite at a top hotel because they were overbooked. I paid the previously agreed on rate for a $3000 a night five room suite with Bose surround sound, a fully stocked kitchen, dining room, living room, guest bathroom, personal bathroom with jacuzzi, shower and a sauna that could fit 5 people (I did not partake because the titanium plates in my head do seem to conduct heat better than regular skull bone), dressing room, 3 tvs, and amenities galore.
Standing behind me on line at the bank were a mom and daughter of maybe 8 or 9 years old. The daughter was fascinated by the coin counting machine (the one behind the line had broken down and was being dismantled by an employee so it was open, revealing sorting channels and large bags of coins). Relentless in her pursuit of understanding, she asked her mom many questions in rapid succession about what it was and how it worked. Mom was distracted by her banking needs and had semi-tuned out her daughter's words. A teachable moment like this could not be resisted by the impulsive, altruistic, know-it-all in me and as I had already filled out my forms and had five people in front of me on line. I addressed Jamie directly saying many people have jars of coins that sit around at home getting full. I immediately got mom's attention because although she was not engaged in discussion with her daughter, she was keenly aware of her movements and safety. "Just like us" she said.
"Well, people bring those jars of change in and pour them in the top and the machine counts and sorts the coins. Then you bring the receipt to the teller and they give you the value in paper money. The machine also gives you a chance to guess how much your change is worth and if you are correct within a certain amount, you win a prize."
"What is the prize?" Jamie wanted to know.
"I don't know because I've never won."
Jamie's reply, "I would put in a penny and then guess 1 cent."
"Wow! That's very smart. Your daughter is very smart," I tell mom.
"Yes, when it comes to money, she is very good."
"The problem is you would still have to go to the counter with the piece of paper to get your penny back. You could bring your jar of change and count part of it, then put it in, make your guess, win your prize, and then do it again."
We discussed the many ways of outsmarting the machine and then Jamie asked, "What would happen if you cut a penny in half and put that in?" (The CutCo guy must have been at their house recently."
I explained how the machine sorts out the foreign coins, paper clips, keys, and other stuff that finds its way into people's coin jars and rejects them.
"That's what sometimes makes the machine break down like that one."
Jamie bemoaned the fact that she could not try her experiment to win the prize immediately. I pointed out that there was another machine on the far side of the bank that no one was using. Mom insisted Jamie wait, stay next to her, they would get to it. (I was identifying with the mom, trying to protect her curious daughter, take care of her banking, satisfy her daughter's need to learn.)
Then it was my turn to see the teller. As luck would have it when I finished, Jamie had just arrived at the coin machine and mom was at the teller just feet away. I helped Jamie interpret the directions, watched as she put in a quarter, a penny and then another. She was prompted to guess within $1.99 to win a prize so she carefully typed in $0.27. Mom came over just as Jamie pressed DONE. The machine congratulated her on saving so much, and issued a receipt for 26 cents and her prize.
Mom said, "I guess it lost one of your pennies."
I was already squatting down, as teachers learn to do when talking to smaller people, so I pointed out where the coins that did not make it through came out. The mom and I simultaneously noticed that there was a lot of change already in the slot. A lot!
Mom said, "Wow, I guess we'll split it," to which I replied no way, that her daughter should use it and try again.
Before I started to give her the coins , I couldn't help myself. I had to add a caveat.
"Just remember this day when something bad happens. Some days you are lucky and some days you are unlucky. You have to remember the good days when the bad ones happen."
"It's true," mom agreed. She had earlier accepted my presence, comments, interference, and dialogue as benign, for which I am deeply grateful.
I handed Jamie handful after handful of change and she fed it into the machine. Mom was as excited as we were and had taken over pressing the buttons. When it came time to guess the amount, Jamie said seven dollars. Mom said no way it was more like two dollars but compromised and typed in $3.
Out came the message: "Wow! You sure saved a lot of money. $5.70. Take this receipt to the teller to pick up your money."
No prize for the second round but mom was right, Jamie is very smart when it comes to money. Her daughter's estimate would have won. Jamie looked a little disappointed but I said you still have your receipt for the prize and now even more money. For a 27 cent investment, Jamie got a prize and $6.01 back. I wanted to stay to see what the prize was but I resisted and just said goodbye. The mom thanked me and I left.
The Instructor Strikes Again! ridding the world of misinformation and bringing knowledge to the minds of the curious.

1 comment:

Entrepreneur Chick said...

That was an awesome, precious story! But, man, next time please stay to see what the prize was! And you know what? That little girl will never forget you.