EDITOR'S COLUMN: An experience better than Vegas

First there’s the sound of six light clinks to warm you up, because you know that soon there will follow a torrent of dollar coins pouring down the chute, rewarding you for your investment in the machine. There’s no feeling quite like it, because you knew from the first that you would be a winner. After all, you’re not in some Las Vegas casino. You’re in the Oak Harbor Post Office, buying postage stamps.

One of the best things about Oak Harbor is its deluxe postage machine. To my knowledge, it’s the finest on the island. There are lesser machines in Langley and Freeland that take only dollar bills and disgorge only a few coins in change. In Oak Harbor, the limit is $20 and the big payout is always guaranteed because they do a fine job of keeping the machine in tune and stocked with Sacajawea and Susan B. Anthony dollar coins.

I happen to like dollar coins, even though U.S. coins have been intrinsically worthless since they took the silver out back in the ‘60s. Our money, once backed by silver and gold, is now backed only by the faith we have in our government. Which is why a postage stamp that cost 3 real cents in the ‘60s now costs 37 phony cents. Regardless, I still like coins, because they at least feel like real money.

I always push D-3 on the Oak Harbor machine, which gets me a book of 20 U.S. flag stamps. Total cost is $7.40. I slip in the $20, and the machine daintily spits out six dimes in succession, before letting loose with a dozen dollar coins that crash into the coin bin. The process of delivering $12.60 in change always draws a stare from others in the post office lobby, envious that I somehow hit the jackpot in a U.S. government facility.

I visit the post office with a $20 bill roughly once every five months, because each month I have four bills to pay that require placing a stamp on an envelope. I’ve worked here for 30 months now, which means I have 60 dollar coins saved up (12 coins times 5 post office visits). I’ve refrained from spending any because I discovered it’s real nifty to put them in the glass Frodo drinking mug I got at Burger King when the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. It’s about half full of coins now, and will look spectacular when it’s full in another 30 months, especially when I flick on the secret switch that gives the mug a red glow.

Once the Frodo mug is filled, I’ll go back to spending the dollar coins. Nobody else does, or the U.S. government wouldn’t have to unload them at post offices. Treasury officials never figured out why people wouldn’t spend their silver colored Susan B. Anthonys in the late ‘70s, so they tried again with the gold colored Sacajaweas in 2000. People didn’t spend them, either. Everyone thinks they’re collector’s pieces, probably because of the historical faces. They should come out with the Bill Clinton dollar coin. People would find it likeable but know it’s worthless, so they’d spend it like crazy.

Little kids love dollar coins, so stop by the post office next birthday. Put in a $20, get a dozen coins in change and feel like a winner. You’ll walk out with a book of stamps, 10 coins for the birthday present and enough left over for a cheap cup of coffee. You can’t do that in Las Vegas.

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