Money Madness

And while I am crying in my beer, let me ask something. How do you like handling money? I do not mean rolling over your IRAs or selling your stocks and bonds. I am talking about making sense of what is in your wallet or even worse, wadded into a sculpture of ones, fives or tens, or if we are big spenders, even twenties. They can be shoved into any pocket with no plan for retrieving them and sorting out the money mess.
Now take your numb fingers and add diminished vision to your lack of manual dexterity. This is going to be good. You are sitting on the commuter train, heading into the city and day dreaming mile after mile, listening to the hypnotic rhythm of steel wheels on track. As your head nods, the conductor approaches from behind, yelling fares, please.
You drop off the ceiling and quickly (for you) grope your pockets for bills. You fumble and bills fall to the floor. You have trouble convincing your fingers to pick them up. The conductor begins to look impatient. Is that a one or a five? you wonder. Sorry, you mutter. The conductor turns to the passenger across the aisle, hoping he will have better luck there. When he turns back toward you, you meekly open a fist clutching crumpled bills bathed in sweat. You ask him to take what you owe. Why am I using the pronoun, you. I mean, I.
There are a hundred variations on this tired theme. Getting on a bus in bad weather with passengers snaked outside in the rain as I fumble like a football player is one. Then there is the movie theater down a long corridor only one minute before the film starts and a very impatient patron directly behind me. Gosh, I love finding myself in that situation.
I could go on and on.
The obvious solution is to keep one denomination of currency, say ones, in one place, say the left pocket of my trousers. Fives could go on the right. Tens and twenties can sleep in my wallet. If anyone has fifties and hundreds, hire someone to carry your money. Now that I have created this highly sophisticated system for keeping money straight, may I add one thing? I will never bother. Not going to happen. Too much work. I am lucky to find pants with or without pockets when I dress in the morning.
I was on the usual train the other day. I recognized the conductor as he walked by, looking away and not even bothering to collect my fare.

41 Responses to Money Madness

  1. Amy Corcoran-Hunt October 18, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Credit card. Swipe swipe.

    • Richard M. Cohen October 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

      I never use a card for anything under twenty bucks.


      • James! October 28, 2014 at 10:44 am #

        That shows courtesy to retailers !!!

  2. AJ October 18, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    I’ve always left heads up pennies for others, and if a penny isn’t heads up, I’ll flip it to heads. Figure I’m lucky already. Now if I drop coins, I leave them. Afraid the dizziness will knock me over. My mother (who has nearly been hit by a car trying to dig a nickel out of asphalt) would pitch a fit.

    • Richard M. Cohen October 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      I’m with you. Short of a silver dollars, finders keepers.


  3. Jack October 18, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

    My right hand is useless and handling money is often frustrating. I keep my bills folded in half in a money clip. When I plan to go somewhere where I will be paying in cash, I try to anticipate how much I will need and keep those bills folded together in the clip, — outside of the wad of other bills. This works fine for places like the barbershop, where I know what the price plus tip will be, but not so well for general shopping. I have frequently had to place my money on a counter and ask the cashier to take the correct amount of money. As far as I know, I have never been ripped off.

    Only once, about 18 years ago, did I encounter a store clerk who had no patience for my fumbling. At the time, my hand was not yet paralyzed; it was not fully functional either. I don’t think it was obvious that I had a disability. While I struggled to take out the correct bills to pay for my purchase, some shoppers in line behind me grew restless. I don’t remember her exact words, just that the clerk rudely complained about how I was inconveniencing other customers. To my rescue came my son, whose dexterity and mobility problems that stem from cerebral palsy are very obvious. He came up next to me, put his arm around my shoulder, looked the clerk square in the eyes and said, “You will have to excuse my father. He’s brain damaged.” Several seconds of stunned silence were broken by my and my son’s laughter. The pressure off and tension relieved, I paid the bill and left the store.

    Over the years, my son has provided me with invaluable guidance on how to address challenges with grace, dignity . . . and humor.

    • Richard M. Cohen October 19, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

      Fabulous anecdote.


  4. Christopher October 19, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    We all find ways of doing things in new ways as we go along, right? And it’s usually a big, fat pita. I carry most of my things in a Starbucks bag (the small kind) stuffed under the seat of my rollator, and it’s a complete mess of stuff, always. I don’t think I’ve used my pants pockets in like, five or six years (it’s like trying to grab loose change with boxing gloves on). I also have a huge problem at the neighborhood supermarket… there’s an automatic door, but people are impatient to get in to get shopping done and I am glacially slow. I get quite anxious that someone will bump me too hard (many close calls), and going from concrete to freshly waxed epoxy floors with my canes makes my hair stand on end.

    P.S. I like it better when you use second person pronouns; it feels more like a conversation.

    • Richard M. Cohen October 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      Got it.


  5. Linda Lazarus October 19, 2014 at 6:45 am #

    I thought I was the only person left in the country who still used cash!
    At the farmers’ market I have an apron that helps as it separates ones from fives and tens. But, continuing the previous cognitive thread, I often hear “no Linda, you do not owe me $14, I owe you $14. That confusion with figuring out which way the money is going happens. Sometimes I must look like that deer caught in your headlights and a customer will simply tell me what I owe in change. Northampton MA is a great place and customers have known me for years so the money thing is handled without a blip in the transaction.

    I used to feel so awkward, stupid really, and want to proclaim my ability to think, to assert that I had a brain but that it was overloaded. I have stopped doing that and often do what you did, put out my hand with bills in it and tell people to take their change and give me back the rest. I am aware enough to know that I could not do this at every market but Amherst and Northampton MA give us 2 places to keep on keeping on…..

    • Richard M. Cohen October 19, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

      Does that mean we have to move there to buy a paper or quart of milk? Those are great places but far away for most of us.


  6. Louise October 19, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    I know I keep responding to your posts with comments along the lines of ” these things happen to a lot of people”. But really I was always disorganized, distracted, and unprepared. But I was also considered super smart and attractive. People reacted more with a ” who does she think she is?” reaction, if they showed any irritation. Now people react with eye rolling or pity. BUT I honestly think part of the reason for that is that now I keep apologizing and feel embarrassed. Some people can be mean when they since vulnerability. I think that is a part of it. I mean if you are taking the bus on a rainy day, you may get a little wet for all different kinds of reasons. As for the conductor, maybe he is respecting your celebrity. Collecting the fares is his job. And he’s the one at work in this situation. You’re the one paying, or in this case not!

    • Richard M. Cohen October 19, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

      What celebrity? I excuse nobody, including me.


  7. Betty October 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    Not recommended for the train, but we could consider livestock, or sachels of grain.

  8. Yvonne October 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    Coins,how many hate the stupid denominations? Can’t tell nickels from quarters or pennies without looking and my looking ain’t that good 🙂 Anytime something cost $.xx I accumulate more change because it takes too long to try to figure out what is what so I just give bills. Great way to accidentally save money…a change jar! Eventually use one of those change machines and suddenly you got an extra $50. I try never to accept new bills. That’s another nightmare trying to separate them with numb fingers. I do try to organize my wallet so all 1s 5s 10s and 20s are separate. Makes it easier. My pet peeve: damn wallets seem to be smaller so the bills don’t lay flat. Got to scrunch them in there which makes it harder for my less than nimble fingers to dig them out. Never pockets for me because I would forget the money was in there and go nuts looking for it 🙂

    • Richard October 20, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

      You are as bad as I am. I feel better already.


  9. Jeff October 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Coins are my nemesis – trying to find them in my pocket. Usually I reach into my pocket, make a fist and then pull my hand out and see if I caught anything. I often have to try a few times before I “catch” any.

    These days I rarely use cash, almost everything is a swipe of the card. My wife asked me if I had any cash the other day and I honestly had no idea. I opened my wallet and I had $27, it must have been there for at least 3 weeks!

    • Richard October 20, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

      You are rich.


  10. MB October 20, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

    MS gifted this right-handed person an impaired right arm, right hand, and right leg. No sensory, vision, or cog problems to date.

    Regardless, I rarely if ever use money. I use a credit card for every purchase no matter how small. To me it’s just easier because I only have use of one hand.

    Maybe you can just carry tens, Richard. That way you will always expect change and you won’t have to worry about what denomination you hand over. (Think John Belushi’s Olympia Restaurant—cheeseburger cheeseburger cheeseburger—no mistakes when you narrow the choices down to one.)

    • Richard October 20, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

      Yeah, but tens have children throughout the day, fives and ones and those freaking coins. I should make Meredith pay for everything, and I will be rich.


  11. Hannah October 20, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    To “change” the subject … :/ ….

    Dear RMC, won’t you tweet us a Haiku? It’s been ages, darling.

    • Richard October 20, 2014 at 8:32 pm #



      • Betty October 21, 2014 at 11:28 am #


  12. Hannah October 20, 2014 at 8:50 pm #


    your next book should be poetry

    Wheeee all the way home!!!!

  13. Yvonne October 20, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    Debit cards were made for us!

  14. Sandy October 21, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    When we travel we use the prepaid visa cards and swipe for everything. Maybe that would work for you. You can punch a hole in the corner and attach it to a karabiner or key ring so you have more to grab in your pocket and less likely to lose your grip on it.

  15. Louise October 21, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    Apple is trying to make the IPHONE 6 the way everyone pays for everything. It has the added benefit of making you hip.

    • Richard October 21, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

      I use a plain cell p hone. Mo fri l ls. No vision.


      • MB October 22, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

        Sounds like it’s time for someone to introduce you to iPhone’s Siri.

  16. Aaron Fischman October 23, 2014 at 12:48 am #

    I can deal most of the time but grabbing coins is difficult – if I have a kid with me I ask for help.

    Whenever a medical form needs to be filled out – I ask the kids to fill it out for me.

    • Richard October 24, 2014 at 8:23 am #

      I’ve asked strangers.


  17. Laura October 23, 2014 at 4:08 am #

    Writing in public always exposes me. I get thru the store leaning on the shopping cart and seem almost normal. It unravels the. more I try to be normal. Hum, the old kind of normal where I never gave this any thought now holding a pen to write is a disaster. Oh well screw them if they can’t take a joke..

    • Jan October 24, 2014 at 12:07 am #

      Hey. Laura… I totally “get” the grocery cart trick. A little makeup, and strangers don’t think twice re my makeshift walker–handy (love the small/shorter versions). However, the kindly workers I know by first names at the store can tell if it’s a good or bad day. Or rather, lately, just how bad it may be.

      I’m in pain and stressed. Just noticed that I cracked my dental night guard.

      Swimming laps works; skating jumps in the pool and stretching bring a smile to my face; the locker room is fair; walking into/out of the rec is daunting. I’m determined to go 3x/week. (If not for MS, it would be 5-6x and various exercise).

      All of a sudden, my handwriting is labored and messy. Thankfully, thinking, writing, and typing are okay. I can talk about all of this; THINKING about it can be rather frightening. I just push on.

      • Jan October 24, 2014 at 12:13 am #

        My neurologist (haven’t seen one in two years for this) had said that 5 and 10 years are supposedly predictive “milestones.” Hmm, I thought that 9 yrs, 6 mon. is close enough to 10. But lately, what will happen in the few remaining months prior to 10, I wonder? (I push on and try not to “go there”). No MS meds, ever. No pain meds, except for Lidocaine patches for my burning feet.

    • Richard October 24, 2014 at 8:27 am #

      I can’t sign my name anymore. I hand the credit card to family or friends. If I am alo ne, I scrawl something that cannot be read. Nobody seems to care.


      • MB October 24, 2014 at 9:15 am #

        I do the same with the credit card.

        I’ve been teaching myself to write left handed using children’s handwriting books. I have to use a weight to hold the paper down. It’s quite a production.

      • Joan October 24, 2014 at 10:02 am #

        Signature does matter on a mail ballot. They told me I could put some other ‘mark’ on file for voting. As in ‘put your X here’. Depressing, but just another day with MS.

      • Jan October 24, 2014 at 10:49 am #

        Oops, sorry about that — distracted by a very bad health week, obviously.

        To be direct and answer your Q, I use my wallet as usual. Getting change out isn’t as easy as it used to be. But writing (credit/debit card signing, and even “Five Star notebook” notes are all rather messy–not liking that.

        My keyboard is best. (And I do mean “separate keyboard,” not a sleek laptop keyboard).

      • Jan October 24, 2014 at 10:51 am #

        Yep–but someone just may call you “Dr. Cohen,” as doctors have notoriously poor writing (just look at any script).

  18. Yvonne October 24, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    Why aren’t more neurologist using tablets instead of torturing us with 4 pages of forms? Only 2 doctors I go to have switched to either tablet or internet forms. It’s the 21st century already. Enough with the freakin paper forms.

    • Richard October 24, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

      I think many docs are still trying to find their way into the 20th century.