The Bicentennial and the Epic Failure of the Two-Dollar Bill

Celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial on July 4, 1976 included: parades, fireworks, flags, hats, money and all manner of cheesy collectibles.

It was a time of extra pride that we (meaning a rag-tag bunch of farmers to whom many of us are not related, but with whom we stand proudly) had beaten the British. Those orderly-fight-by-the-rules types did not even live in America but nonetheless showed up in their fancy, schmancy uniforms to collect because they had the audacity to think we owed them tax money for the tea.

I suspect that today, any American household with an adult old enough to have celebrated the bicentennial, has some memorabilia lurking under the dust.

If I search hard enough in my house, I can probably find a bicentennial commemorative quarter.  This particular   commemoration for investment’s sake would have made sense except that they minted a billion of the copper-nickel ones and 45 million in “part-silver” for collectors.  Better yet, the government proceeded to sell them for ten more years.

Aside from its Colonial drummer design, the bicentennial quarter is the same as any other American quarter in both physical size and spending power.  The common understanding was that if we saved them, “They’ll be worth something someday.”

Photo Courtesy

My friends and I in our teens at the time, were perhaps the most unlikely group to be avid coin collectors; neither were we informed that “someday” would not likely be in our lifetime.

Today, bicentennial quarters are worth…wait for it…

about twenty-five cents (unless you have an uncirculated one in mint condition, then it might fetch $5 or so on eBay®.) So I asked around to see who might have a stash of them squirreled away.  Result: nada. Even if you had a stash, you’d need someone willing to buy.

Another relic from 1976 that made as little sense then as it does now, is the two dollar bill.  Forget that there was no justifiable need for it, but it appears that no one gave any consideration to the idea that if people began to actually use two dollar bills to pay for everyday commodities, they’d unwittingly bollix a cashier’s job.  And heaven help the dyslexics among us.  That two looks a lot like a five.

Stop the Madness

Cash registers are designed with a money organizer insert containing ten slots in two rows; five long sections to the rear for bills and five short to the front for coins.

At first glance it would seem that the $2 bills would have fit quite nicely.   Not so.

Normally, the $20 bills belong second to the left.  From there are gradually decreasing increments from left to right: $10, $5 and finally one dollar bills.  The reserved space to the far left, or the fifth slot as it were, held personal checks and any bills larger than $20.

Credit card slips and coupons easily slipped in the drawer under the insert until the day’s close of business when counting the day’s receipts.  Not much has changed, except that today, few people pay with cash and fewer with a check.

No big deal you say?  Try this…

The next time you shop and the amount you owe is $5, hand your cashier a roll of pennies, three half-dollar coins, a Susan B. Anthony dollar, and a two dollar bill.  Just be prepared to duck when the roll of pennies comes hurling at your temple.

Two hundred years of not paying taxes for our afternoon tea casually replaced by the coffee-consuming-to-satisfy-the-shareholders that we are today is an interesting trade-off.  Don’t you think?

For more digression, click here.


Sidebar: My Modest Proposal

I read with dismay the article by Kenneth Justice who laments a coffee-induced conversation he had with a young mother about her child’s use of public restrooms. It’s not Justice’s article that put a hitch in my giddyup, it’s that the occasion to write it ever presented itself in the first place. How long will these distractions continue?

While online comments revealed some technical difficulties, those added (to date) contain Common Sense (see also Thomas Paine “These are the times that try men’s souls.”)

North Carolina passage of HB2 is merely the news-of-the-day place where common sense has gone the way of the dodo. There are larger issues at hand. There, governmental holier-than-thou types have lost all reason, so zealous are they who (for fear of child molestation, sexual impropriety, or LGBT-phobias) have legislated public bathroom protocol.

In effect, they took (under the umbrella of so-called privacy concerns) vastly different topics: elimination of waste, sexual preference, gender identity, perversion, privacy, solicitation and child endangerment and tossed them into a Cuisinart as if they’re all one in the same. This came from at best a place of misinformation, at worst bigotry, but the results in either case can be devastating if taken to the extreme.

Can’t we all just pee in peace?!?!?!?

Entertainers and corporations that find North Carolina’s HB2 offensive have boycotted and cancelled plans to do business in the state. The governor is considering modifying that legislation due to the backlash (and I question his motivation now that the dress has gone the way of Some Like it Hot.)

Consider the opinion of @LauraJaneGrace front (transgender) woman rocker of Against Me! whose band refused to cancel plans to play in NC. As a matter of protest against the law and in solidarity with North Carolina residents who must live with it, the show will go on.

If you believe what you read on BuzzFeed, Grace said, “I think the real danger with HB2 is that it creates a target on transgender people specifically.”

I agree. The threat to which Grace alludes here is far more likely to be one of violence directed squarely upon dysphoric individuals who do not identify with the pants or the dresses to which they have been internationally assigned.

Photo Courtesy:
Photo Courtesy:

The Washington Post cited North Carolina Governor McCrory as defending the bill saying, it “provided protection of our basic expectation of privacy in public restrooms and locker rooms.”

As far as I can tell, people have never had a “basic expectation of privacy” in public bathrooms. My experience has been quite the opposite. To wit I submit: wracked and dislocated doors and associated locking mechanisms, overstated gaps between stationary panels and stall doors with the requisite strategically placed mirrors, overused and under-repaired connecting hardware, the ever-disintegrating grout which renders cheesy little plastic wall mollies useless, and don’t even get me started on accidental intrusions.

I’d also add that at any large public event, when the lines to the restrooms are particularly long, I couldn’t care less who is in front of me so long as he or she gets in, gets out and moves on post haste!

Don’t even think it!

According to the party line, North Carolinians should have been concerned about THEIR privacy all along; that transgender individuals might somehow have had, until now, so much free time while answering nature’s call to concern themselves with everyone else’s genitals. PUH-leeez!

Doesn’t that defeat the whole “blending in” and presenting as one gender or another anyway?

North Carolinians take note of my Modest Proposal, which does not require the braising of even one child. (See Jonathan Swift)

I propose you use your tax dollars to fund the installation of cameras in all public restrooms. Enlist the help of the gurus (you know who you are) to provide live internet streaming with the promise of commercial sponsorship so the whole thing can become self-funded.

Oh follow me on this one!

We can all watch each other, the comings and goings, who has what and so on, forever available for all to observe, 24/7. With time, we’ll all become desensitized. I give it a week. The differences between us in answering nature’s call publicly will seem…well, silly so we can move on to address other pressing matters.


The Lunacy of the Sony Brouhaha

The recent brouhaha emanating from circumstances surrounding North Korea and the hack attack on Sony (which may or may not have changed the platform for the release of Seth Rogan’s “The Interview”) resulted in comments from President Barack Obama. He said, “Americans cannot change their patterns of behavior due to the possibility of a terrorist attack. That is not who we are, that’s not what America is about.”

I’ve given this some thought since the wide reporting of this particular sound bite. And you know what? On this point, the President is wrong—completely wrong.

There’s no doubt that America has its share of problems, though I’ll agree that Americans shouldn’t kowtow to every Looney Toon who threatens the country with annihilation (no offense to Bugs, Daffy, and Elmer.) We cannot continuously be intimidated by terrorists who appear to hate us for no other reason than that we exist. And let’s face it, North Korea keeps popping up on the radar like a Sesame Street game of “One of These Things is not like the Other.”

Photo Courtesy Warner Bros.

Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, Americans have changed their patterns of behavior—drastically. I can think of a half-dozen ways right off the top of my head, but there are a few that are obvious.

One that immediately springs to mind:

At various points in my life, I remember seeing off family and friends at the airport, watching as the plane detached itself from the boarding thruway and pulled away from the gate. I remember watching the plane taxi to its takeoff position at the end of a runway out of my view, and waiting with anticipation by the window to see the plane zip by all the while crying my eyes out and furiously waving goodbye as it lifted from the ground tucking its wheels into the belly. Today, not so much.

I have visions of days when entering a courthouse, arena, museum or other public place did not require a search of my bags, my person, or cause me any forethought about the metal or electronic objects with me that day.

Though I’m (as a general rule) not a chickenshit personality, I no longer feel comfortable in large crowds. That’s not to say I avoid them, or miss opportunities to participate in living among the masses when they arise, just that it can be unnerving in a way it was not before the attacks. These days, I own a Go Bag of sorts, something that never crossed my mind even at the height of the duck and cover era.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think the underlying current of the boomer generation and our attachment to our cells and handheld devices has very much to do with our collective fear of a terrorist attack. My theory is that we’re afraid to not  know where our loved ones are at all times. It may not be a debilitating fear, but it’s there bubbling under the surface. But no one is admitting to it or talking about it, at least I haven’t heard anyone. Oh, mind you I don’t think it’s the only reason we’re tethered, but a case can be made for it.

Nonetheless, it’s completely bizarre to me that the president made a statement saying that Sony “made a mistake” in failing to release the film to theaters for Christmas. Since when does the president make official statements about the business decisions of any publicly held company? It made me wonder when do media giants consult with the White House before making corporate decisions? Who stands to gain from it and where does the money trail lead?

I’m a reasonably intelligent adult, with a half century of experience at this thing called life, so I’m not so delusional as to believe that there are complex and covert things that happen in the upper echelons of government, business and media giants that may never be made public, but I do think the president should have left out his statement about who “we” are as Americans. Our patterns of behavior have changed due to the possibility of a terrorist attack and to suggest otherwise is in a word, wrong.