Chicken and Waffles
By Peter Stein, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, April 27, 2012
This is the story of loose change.
I have never understood the point of change. Like coins. I guess that makes me sound callous and elitist. I’m fine with that. I know that on occasion, the change that I give to homeless people gets put to good use, and that’s great. I still don’t get loose change.
I used to be social chair. We, of course, never purchased anything with cash. Ever. Had we, I’d imagine that we’d have generated a lot of loose change. Coins on coins on coins. Every stop at Stinson’s and the liquor store would have netted us a handful of coins. I’d have held it and thought, “What the hell am I supposed to do with nine cents?”
If you bother to look at a coin, you may notice that one side bears the imprint of some dead guy’s face, and the other has something random on it. Heads and tails. If you play with that coin for a while, you will notice that you can flip it and it’ll land either heads or tails face up. Flipping coins is great fun for the whole family. Mathematicians love it.
A coin flip is supposed to be perfectly random. There’s supposed to be an even chance that it lands heads or tails. It’s used as a model system for defining a bunch of probability things. It is supposed to be notionally perfect. It’s obvious that a coin flip is not perfectly random. That math just isn’t true. That probably owes less to the fact that it’s bad math and more to the fact that truth isn’t really a thing.
There are a bunch of things that can influence a coin flip. How hard you flick it, for example. The weather that day. How many weeks are left in the term. How drunk you are. What you’re doing next year. What you did last year. Your D-Plan. Your affiliation, or lack thereof. Your friends. Your family. What you think about the future. What you think about the past. What you think about the present. What he thinks. What she thinks.
“Are we going to have sex?”
“We’ll flip on it.”
Coin flips have been used to make all sorts of fascinating decisions. I think that probably has to do with the fact that people aren’t really great decision makers. Because people don’t really know what they want. I don’t know what I want. I wish I did because then I’d probably have it.
Getting things is easy.
“OK, heads, I have sex with you. Tails, you have sex with me.”
“It’s just a coin flip — what’s the worst that can happen?”
“I don’t know.”
I can only think of a few things that scare me. Mainly squids. They freak me out.
Trajectories scare me too. Firstly, because if you are on something’s trajectory, then it may hit you in the head, and that would hurt. Secondly, because if you are not on something’s trajectory, you may never see it. I am going to be in California next year. Almost everyone I know here will be on the East Coast. The flight paths between Hanover, Boston, New York and San Francisco don’t really intersect. And you can’t pay for a plane ticket with loose change.
When I sweep my room, I usually earn about $2.37. There’s loose change on the floor because the cup I used to keep it in broke. I sometimes think about where certain coins come from. Was this nickel change from that time at Molly’s? Was this dime change from that run to CVS when my friend got sick? Was this penny all I got back after that guy’s birthday at Salt Hill? I can sum up the experiences I’ve had off campus just by looking at a handful of loose change. All those memories are legal tender.
My grandfather is one of those people who collects change. He has a huge bucket of it in his basement. He told me that once it’s full, if I can lift it, then I can have it. I kind of wonder if I’d cash it in. Turn all those coins into crisp, green bills. Spend away. But then I realize that if I cash it in, then I’d have no coins to flip. I’d never know whether I would have gotten heads or tails. I wouldn’t have a coin to tell me what to do. Not knowing. That’s one of the other things that scares me. Death, too. And loneliness.