My dad, having grown up in an era in which frivolity, impulse spending and risky investing were rarely acceptable, has always amazed me with his resourcefulness, frugality and ability to turn a literal piece of junk into a profitable investment. And, as far as I can recall, he has always stopped to pick up change in parking lots and on sidewalks. Every now and then he hits the jackpot. Well, sorta.
As a boy, I well remember riding with Dad on an almost daily basis to a nearby convenience store to pick up a loaf of bread or milk or to treat ourselves to a soda. Dad was forever picking up coins. From folks reaching into their pockets and inadvertently scattering pocket change to wasteful teenagers who intentionally discarded pennies and nickles, there was always money to be found---sometimes a dollar's worth or more. It's not that he was broke and needed every cent he could get. It was the principal of the matter. "That's money in my pocket," Dad would say. I never seemed to get that lesson while I was younger.
One particularly memorable afternoon comes to mind when I think of Dad and his philosophy. After picking me up from school, Dad and I made our usual stop by the convenience store where he gassed up the truck and bought us Cokes and peanuts. As usual, he scanned the driveway for change as he made his way into the store. Apparently, others had observed his habits as well. Conspicuously located near the front door were a few quarters, prominently glimmering in the sunlight. Dad must have wondered how anyone could just walk past these shiny, new quarters! Stopping dead in his tracks to bend over and pick them up, he discovered that someone had glued the quarters to the concrete . . . using Super Glue, no doubt! Needless to say, someone was probably watching from a parked car or pickup, laughing hysterically, but Dad didn't care. Resourceful as ever, he retrieved a trusty Case pocketknife from his pants pocket, wedged it between the quarters to break them loose, pocketed the change and entered the store almost a dollar richer!
Still to this day, Dad will pick up change. We have been running late for business-related appointments, and I have questioned whether stopping to pick up a few cents is worth the effort when time is money, but some things will never change. As long as there is money---no matter how small the amount---available free for the taking, my Dad will gladly help himself to all that he can. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned and, with bills of my own to pay now, I finally get it!