Keep the Change

Recently, I spent a few days on a business trip to a decidedly “blue” city that will remain nameless. Unforeseen circumstances forced me to stay considerably longer than planned, which created a rather annoying dilemma.

You see, I hadn’t packed enough clothes for an extended stay. That left me with two choices; either purchase new things, which I found to be an unnecessary expense, or find a place to wash a few unmentionables. The second option was far more palatable to me, and the dwindling state of my available wardrobe made this something of a top priority. The hotel staff was very helpful and directed me to a local coin Laundromat some distance away. The clerk apologized profusely for not having a laundry facility and said, “It was supposed to be ready this week, but the local hotel workers strike forced the renovation to be delayed.” I reassured the clerk and said I was quite happy with the hotel. As I rarely, if ever, use a hotel laundry, not having one doesn’t usually concern me. The reassurance seemed to satisfy the clerk, but she apologized again and thanked me for my understanding. I nodded and made my way to the street in search of the Laundromat.

It was a pleasant evening, and I was in good spirits, so I decided to walk. On the way, I stopped at a local grocery store to purchase some detergent and a few other items of necessity. The clerk was sporting a big, blue button with a single word; “Change.” This immediately reinforced the notion I had entered a decidedly blue area. After gathering what I needed, I handed said clerk a $20 bill to pay for the items. He punched the items into a rather high-tech looking cash register and returned $11.03 to me. Knowing that I’d need quarters to wash the previously mentioned unmentionables, I held out the $10 bill and asked the clerk for a roll of quarters.

“We ain’t got no change here man,” he muttered in a strangely unfamiliar dialect. In what turned out to be a less than stellar attempt at humor, I pointed to the aforementioned button and asked “Why does your button say “change” if you don’t make change?” He failed to see the humor. In fact, he took the question as some sort of challenge and proceeded to call me a “right wing nut,” as well as a few other things I didn’t understand. I attempted to explain the comment, but at that point, he began lambasting me on the failed policies of the Bush administration in general and “rich,” republican “right wing nuts” in particular. Now I may be wrong about exactly what he said, since, as I mentioned, the dialect was difficult to pin down, but the “right wing nut” comment was as clear as a freshly washed window pane. His final remark, “Barack finally gonna be puttin’ things right fo the workin’ man,” was a clear indication that my attempt at humor had completely missed the mark. Rather than explain it to him, I thought it prudent to beat a hasty exit and make tracks to the Laundromat.

After locating the establishment and inserting all my soiled bits into the first available empty machine, the quarters required, once again, became problematic. I noticed a rather attractive young woman sporting one of those big, blue “change” buttons folding her clothes. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to impress the woman with my smooth, quick wit. I approached her and in my most suave, debonair manner and casually said, “I see you’re in charge of change, would you mind giving me a roll of quarters in exchange for my $10 bill?" I was certain she’d appreciate my attempt at humor. Again, I was sadly mistaken. She gave me an odd look and said “I ain’t got no *#@& roll of quarters and I ain’t no *#@& change lady! You can use the *#@& change machine like everyone else do!”

I attempted to defuse the situation by explaining that I was only joking, but the rage from this very attractive young woman was now building to a crescendo.

Clearly, neither my suave, debonair manner, nor my attempt at humor impressed her. I can say this with a fair degree of certainty as she began to bombard me with her best impression of a drunken sailor moments before the inevitable fight. “You must be a right wing nut,” she screamed. “Is peoples like you and George Bush ruined this Country!” Again, I attempted to explain the humor, but I was up against a firestorm of anger the likes of which I’ve rarely experienced. “You a right wing nut,” she repeated. This was followed by a rambling tirade of abuse directed toward anything or anyone remotely associated with the Republican Party. She concluded the tirade with a final flurry of four-letter barbs against “rich” republicans and the assertion that “Barack Obama be the change we be needin.” That’s a direct quote.

Now I may be slow-witted, not quite as funny as Jerry Seinfeld or perhaps Joe Biden, and I’m probably not as suave as George Clooney or the Anointed One, but I’m certainly not stupid. I thanked her for her time and hastily made a beeline for the change machine. Any further attempt at suaveness, humor, or conversation in general was simply out of the question. I deposited the $10 bill in the slot and the machine returned $8.75 in quarters. Despite my best right hook and left-uppercut, the machine refused to dispense the additional five quarters. The attractive young woman found my struggle with the mechanical beast quite humorous indeed. I thought it ironic that it, too, had failed to provide the right “change.” In fact, the idea that I’d been short-changed seemed almost prophetic.

While waiting for the clothes to wash and dry, it occurred to me that Democrats don’t seem to have a sense of humor. It’s a more sarcastic, and, in some cases, raging anger about things with which they disagree. I was reminded of all the leftist personal attacks on Sarah Palin that many in the media found to be so funny. I wondered if my attempts at humor would have been more acceptable had I been sarcastic with the grocery clerk or fellow launderer, or perhaps told a Sarah Palin or John McCain joke. No matter.

After what seemed like a month but was a mere three hours, my clothes were clean, and I decided to grab a cab back to the hotel. Fortunately, I waited only a few minutes. When we arrived at the hotel, the driver announced the fare as $5.50. It occurred to me that I could give him a handful of left over quarters, but when he turned to take the money, I noticed one of those big, blue buttons on his vest. I put the quarters back in my pocket and handed him a five and two singles. As he turned back around, I told him to “keep the change.” Not surprisingly, he didn’t laugh.

The above story is completely fictitious — or is it?