Exactly the Right Amount

Posted in: Thinking Big

It’s my new routine (I love routines):  Husband drops me off at work (we’ve been riding together since my In-laws, aka our life-saving live-in nannies, arrived two weeks ago to keep Lil Mil who is not yet in the daycare we thought she’d be in by August 1st), and I go into my building and down to the concourse level where there’s a Starbucks and a little takeaway cafe that sells hot breakfast food.  While I’m waiting for my coffee, I walk across to the cafe and order a small oatmeal with walnuts, almonds and brown sugar, a delectable concoction that costs $3.51.  Not exceptionally cheap, but not expensive enough to use a credit card  (the cafe has a $5 minimum).  Knowing this, I ’ve started carrying cash.  Today, however, I walked in knowing that I only had 2 one-dollar bills in my wallet, and thus was fully prepared to add a banana I wouldn’t eat or package of cookies I shouldn’t eat but totally would, just to meet the minimum.

As I was surveying my options, pretending there was a chance I’d pick something other than the cookies, I remembered that I had some change in my wallet, maybe even some quarters.  So I dumped all my coins onto the counter and counted it:

2 quarters

8 dimes

3 nickels

6 pennies

I had exactly $3.51 in my wallet.  Exactly the amount I needed.  Not a penny more.  Not a penny less.

“I have exactly the right amount!” I exclaimed, grinning at the guy behind the counter.  (The guy I love dearly because he doesn’t need to ask my order, but he doesn’t assume I want the same thing every morning.  “Oatmeal?” he’ll say as I walk up.  Giving me the option to order something else.  Not pigeonholing me.  Just remembering what I like.)

I handed him the 2 bills and opened my hand to show him the coins.  “That has to mean something, right?”

The man just smiled, taking the money and ringing me up.  “Exactly the right amount!” I said again, this time to the businessman behind me in line.  He looked past me, pointing at the counter.

“You missed one,” he said.

There, completely overlooked, was a single penny.

Not the right amount.  A penny more.

And just like that, the moment felt less shiny.  Somehow less true.

The guy behind the counter reached for it.  He set the coin on the lid to my oatmeal and handed both to me.

“Exactly the right amount,” he said with a smile.   ”For the oatmeal, and for good luck.”

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