How many coins do you have to find on floors and pavement to buy a small bottle of orange juice? Only Janet Gilmore knows the answer.

by Janet Gilmore

May 3, 2010

One hot day at the gym last year, I asked how much a bottle of orange juice cost.

“$4.50,” I was told.

“$4.50 for a little bottle of juice?”

“Ma’am, this IS L. A. Fitness,” she said.

I headed for the water fountain.

On the way to the fountain, I found a penny on the floor, bingo, an idea! True, it would take more than a year to find enough money on the floor for that bottle of juice, but heck, I’ve got time.

Within a week I’d accumulated 17 cents. Not bad. I put the coins in a bowl on my night table. The weather had turned warm. My fingers were swollen from the heat, and my wedding ring was digging into my finger and cutting off circulation to my brain. I wondered if that happened to other people. I wet my finger, wiggled the ring off and put it near the coin jar.

May 5: I found a dime in the Post Office parking lot. Now I was up to 27¢. My quest proceeded as follows:

May 12: A nickel, then a penny at Acme = 33¢.

Walking around without a wedding ring was  odd. I felt the imprint on my finger, but when I looked, there was no ring. How long would the impression last, I wondered? Feeling but not having?

May 13: Found a penny at the Farmer’s Market = 34¢.

May 15: A quarter at the pharmacy and a dime at the gym = 69¢.

May 16: Husband Hugh and son Andrew found three pennies at Seven-Eleven. Should I count them in my coffee fund? We had a family meeting near the Slurpee machine: Hugh and Andrew both said” Yes” because if I’d been alone, I would have seen the pennies. I said “No” because I didn’t actually find them. Majority ruled = 72¢.

May 19: Found a penny at the library = 73¢. Found a nickel in Acme parking lot. A gray-colored coin on a asphalt surface is tricky, but I prevailed = 78¢.

May 20: No coins for a few days. Bummer. Coincidentally, I can’t find my wedding ring, either. It’s not on the night table, behind the night table or in the vacuum cleaner bag. It’s just GONE. How could that happen?

May 22: My luck shifted. I found a dime at Seven-Eleven, a penny at the Post Office and a penny at the gym = 90¢. I’ll be drinking fresh bench-pressed orange juice before I know it.

May 23: Saw two pennies on the ground outside Acme. Both coins were close to a man collecting money for a charity. I picked up one penny and put it in my pocket on my way into Acme. The man watched me. I picked up the other penny on the way out of Acme. Should I put it in the collection can? I decided to be merciless. I’m on a crusade, too. Life is full of dilemmas. 92¢.

The sign I saw on Ridge Avenue made my decision for me.  This was the place.  I worked too hard to find my coins. I would never spend them on orange juice. I parked the car and walked into Natural Nails, and used my money for a pedicure.

I still can’t find my wedding ring. I’ll pretend my husband is my boyfriend. Cool!

May 24: Hugh, Andrew and I were at the gym. I spotted two dimes under the leg press machine, but the support bar was too low, and I couldn’t get them.  Hugh and Andrew drove home together.

A man spoke to me at the gym. “I see that your friends left,” he said.

“Friends?” I said, drawing a blank. “Oh, those guys? They’re not my friends; that’s my husband and my son!”

He said, “Oh,” and simply walked away.  Had I been hit on? Because I wasn’t wearing a ring?  I’d better get one.

May 25: Unbelievable bad luck today. I found a five-dollar bill near an empty storefront on Germantown Avenue.  I looked around; no one was nearby. The good news was that I had enough orange juice money. The bad news was that the chase was over.

I took all my found money with me to the gym but couldn’t bring myself to spend $4.50 on a thimbleful of orange juice. It was on the bicep curl machine that I thought, “I really should take that money and put it toward a wedding ring. Really. Even if it takes another year to find the money. That’s the right thing to do; isn’t it?”

There was a quarter on the floor under the sit-ups board. What to do? I picked it up.

Jan. 31 (eight months later): I took the “findings” to the bank this afternoon and had them counted. I had $12.18, which I put in an envelope and carried it around with me, just in case.

Memorial Day, 2011: Not much has changed in a year. After a workout, my muscles were sore, my feet hurt, and I still had no wedding ring.

The sign I saw on Ridge Avenue made my decision for me. This was the place. I worked too hard to find my coins. I would never spend them on orange juice. I parked the car and walked into Natural Nails, and used my money for a pedicure.

I’ll find a cheap ring on eBay.