Common Cents: A Goodbye Love Letter to the Canadian Penny

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by Kolby Solinsky

Editor, White Cover Magazine

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Dear Penny;

You were always by my side, even when I didn’t want you to be. Weighing down my pockets. Making my palms smell like pissed-on copper. When I held you, my mitts got all clammy and ugly. It was like I could taste you just by looking at you, and it always made me cringe. It always gave me that cold tooth feeling that causes me to swerve into oncoming traffic and drives musical composers to madness.

I always tried to get away from you, but there was no getting rid of you, was there?

You’d always find your way back. Every time I’d accidentally drop you, I’d look at you on the street and on the sidewalk and I’d think to myself, “Somebody else would really need that. You shouldn’t waste money.” And so, I’d pick you up. I felt guilty, so I kept you. I’d hate it, because I didn’t want you, you filthy penny.

But, of course, some sense of I’ve done good would come over me. Maybe it was this completely idiotic thought that I was doing you a favour. This is ridiculous, of course. You’re a freaking coin. But — much like that Ikea lamp left out in the cold or that pencil I always lose — I treated you like a human. All of you pennies.

I’d make sure you found good homes. When I had no use for you — and, really, who had any use for you? — I’d give you over to the next best thing. Maybe it was one of those charity bins with the coin slot at Tim Horton’s or McDonald’s. Yeah, if I could help build a Ronald McDonald House in Regina, I knew my pennies were going to the rest place… to the right home.

I will admit it, Penny. I hated you. Oh, did I hate you.

You weren’t even round, were you? No, you were this damn ugly little orangey-brown mess with a smooth but edgy and almost pointy border. You were ribbed for her pleasure. You were the disappointment we always saw when we fumbled to awkwardly pull coins out of our pockets — whether we were in the Drive Thru, trying to buy bus tickets, or paying for another one of those delicious Double Doubles at said Horton’s coffeeshop. We always wanted dimes or nickels, and we especially wanted quarters. But, no. We always pulled out pennies. Those damn little pennies.

You, Penny. We always pulled out you, even though we had tried so hard to get rid of you.

I will admit, there were times when I thought, “Please. Just go away. Leave me alone. Take the hint and disappear so I don’t have to tell you to your face.”

And then, the Canadian government decided to wipe you off the face of the earth… like you were as indispensable as the Dodo Bird or the Daily Newspaper.

At first, I thought it would be great. Sure, my cost of things would go up, because I’d assume vendors and store owners would take this as a nice excuse to round up all their costs to the nearest $0.05. It would be worth it, I thought. I’ll be rid of that bi*ch forever. I need to move on, anyway. More nickels. More dimes. And, especially more quartersMaybe even more bills.

And then, I started thinking…

Without you, Penny, I would lose a friend I always took for granted. Maybe you were comforting me while my mind was somewhere else, like the dog at my feet or the alphabet in my soup.

There were all those times when I’d buy something from a corner store, and the total cost would come to $4.96. I’d tell the guy behind the counter, “Don’t worry about it” and I’d leave him with his four cents. But then, when they’d owe me $0.74, they’d toss me two quarters, two dimes, and four goddamn pennies.

Do you remember that?

Boy, I hated you. I really wanted to get rid of you. But, you were there with me, weren’t you? You and I were alone against those evil, cheap little business owners along the highway who were so gracious to receive and too petty to give back. You needed a friend, and you needed a home, and I certainly couldn’t leave you there.

I realize that now.

And so, on Monday, the government will take you back and melt you and fuse you and put you to use in some other way.

Goodbye, Race Horse. Hello, Elmer’s.

It’ll be like you never existed. We’ll all have long money and we’ll keep our change in our wallets again, because you won’t be there to weigh us down and bulk up our pockets.

Everyone else will talk about you like a cold they once had and then got rid of, but I’ll remember, Penny.

Thank you for your years of service. I will miss you. But, at least my hands won’t smell or stick quite as much as they did when you were around.

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I’d like to give a big kudos to Free the Children and We Day, the global fundraising organization and its extremely popular youth concert which were founded by Canadians Craig and Marc Kielburger. Just recently, We Day launched its Penny Drive, an initiative intended to make the most out of what little left the Penny had left.

In the video at the top — which shows the last Canadian pennies being made at the Winnipeg Mint — finance minister Jim Flaherty said, “We hope that all Canadians will consider putting their last pennies to good use by donating them to charity.”

As per usual, Free the Children got the memo.

*The video below is from We Day 2012 in Vancouver, B.C., which took place at Rogers Arena all the way back in October.